BVRT: Wulkuraka to Esk
This is the first of two stories about my 2-day ride along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) from Wulkuraka to Linville. In this post, we ride 67 kilometres from Wulkuraka to Esk.
Unless you know the outer Western tendrils of Brisbane’s rail network, then you possibly haven’t heard of Wulkuraka. Sporting bright orange Queensland Rail signage and pedestrian-friendly overpasses, Wulkuraka Station is 25 stops from Brisbane’s Central Station and serves the community of this Ipswich suburb. Time ago Wulkuraka Station marked the turning point where trains left the main line to travel up the Brisbane Valley. Now, Wulkuraka Station is a starting point for bicycle riders travelling along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT).
Our 2-day ride along the BVRT would see us start at Wulkuraka, lunch at Lowood and finish the day at Esk. After an overnight stay at Esk, we ride on to Linville. Another place you might not know and clearly others haven’t either with the Linville Hotel signature t-shirt emblazoned with “Where the bloody hell is Linville?”
For our 2-day ride, we used the Linville Hotel as our gathering point, stayed overnight, left our cars there and caught the Out There Cycling shuttle to Wulkuraka to begin our ride. The shuttle drive between Linville and Wulkuraka chewed a couple of hours out of our day but knowing that for the next 48 hours we’d be simply pedalling our bikes, the shuttle was time well spent. Plus the crew at Out There Cycling run a good service – on time, friendly, careful with loading and unloading our bikes – making it easy to make the most of the rail trail.
For me, riding the BVRT is not a race. I clock a slow average and stop often. I stop to take in the landscape, snap a photo, navigate the gullies where the old bridges can’t be used, read the information signs about the area’s history and soak in the space offered by acres of sky and paddock.
How was the ride?
The Wulkuraka to Esk section of the BVRT begins in a suburban setting on a well-signed concrete pathway, with the occasional street crossing. After thirty minutes though, the trail becomes less manicured and we’re enjoying sandy tracks lined with wild grasses and bushland.
Twenty kilometres into the ride we arrive in Fernvale, and being Sunday, the place is particularly busy with people in cars taking a Sunday drive and motorbike riders doing the same. Crossing the road was all about timing and the queue for coffee or food was long. Both removed us from our rail trail bubble, where we’d been free of fast traffic and crowds of people. In hindsight, we all agreed that riding the extra eight kilometres to Lowood would have been a better choice for our ride that day.
About six kilometres on from Fernvale, the rail trail is elevated above the nearby asphalt road. The elevation delivers a pleasant view of the upper reaches of the Brisbane River. From here, Lowood and lunch is only two kilometres away.
…the old railway line leads us to the centre of Lowood
Lowood greets us with a stretch of the old railway track to admire. Weathered timber sleepers topped with heavy gauge steel tracks give a glimpse into what once was. A gravel trail beside the old railway line leads us to the centre of Lowood where the old railway station and Clock Park makes a good lunch stop. With little open on Sunday, the Lowood Bakery wins the lottery as the place for refuelling with a gaggle of bicycle riders flocking to feed.
…the steady ongoing climb to Mt. Hallen doesn’t go unnoticed
Gullies, grasses and gravel, winter sunlight softening the edges of everything and a kangaroo bounding across the trail only metres ahead, entertain us for the remaining kilometres. The real signature feature of the section between Lowood and Esk is, undoubtedly, the slow but sure climb. The trail gains some 150 metres in elevation between these townships. Nothing is ever too steep (leaving aside the climbs out of the creek gullies) but after a long day of riding, the steady ongoing climb to Mt. Hallen doesn’t go unnoticed. And that’s why riding south from Esk to Fernvale is a more popular choice (and was my first BVRT ride back in 2016).
Nonetheless, we arrived safely in Esk, checked into the Esk Caravan Park and soothed a few tired muscles in their heated pool. What to do in Esk on a Sunday night? We walked to the Club Hotel for a post-ride drink by the fireplace and enjoyed an excellent meal at Esk Thai with cooking by the Lin Family.
Like every section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, riding Wulkuraka to Esk has its own appeal. With links to the Brisbane train network, some riders access the BVRT by bringing their bike on the train. The slow climb up to Mt Hallen is satisfying and arriving in Esk set beneath the stunning Glen Rock Mountain is a pleasant place to stay.
For us, that stay would be overnight. The next day we ride Esk to Linville. I know, I know where the bloody hell is Linville?
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