Why Daylesford should be your next Australian adventure
While the silver screen good looks of Sydney and the Gold Coast’s magnetic energy grab the attention of most who visit Australia, there’s a little corner of Victoria making a big impression on those in the know. Just north of Melbourne, Daylesford has a wonderfully sleepy, small town feel along with some of the state’s most beautiful open spaces in its back yard. Add to the mix a vibrant art scene, farm-to-table food culture and some of the finest luxury hotels you’ll find in all of Australia, and you have a recipe for an inspiring escape. Here are five things not to miss.
1. THE HOT SPRINGS
There’s something in the water in Daylesford. It’s part of one of Australia’s richest areas for natural springs, and the Victorian-era Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa is at the centre of it all. The mineral-rich waters here come straight from the source and are said to have health-boosting properties. Whether true or not, the beautiful setting, private baths, series of pools and tempting menu of spa therapies combine to leave you feeling rested and restored.
The Bathhouse is part of the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve, a sublime spot for a picnic or barbecue. You can even wash down your food with the freshest mineral water from the springs that pop up here.
Top tip: pack a refillable water bottle in your picnic hamper, ready to sample the spring water.
2. THE BOUTIQUE HOTELS
From Perth to Adelaide, Australia is peppered with luxury hotels as individual as the states they belong to. And one of the country’s award-winning finest is in Hepburn Springs. The Dudley Boutique Hotel is a turn-of-the-century beauty reimagined as a modern escape. This is an every-creature-comfort kind of place for modern-day travellers, but with a good old-fashioned, welcoming sense of hospitality. The staff will pop a bottle of Champagne, blanket and frisbee in a picnic hamper for your lunch, and there’s even a ‘tuck shop’ in The Library full of gourmet chocolates and nuts – for midnight snacks.
3. THE FOOD (GLORIOUS FOOD)
Those with an appetite for exploring homegrown Australian food will be well served in Daylesford. And there’s no need to count food miles with weekly markets and open-door (or stable) farms, restaurants celebrating locally-produced ingredients and regional winemakers offering tastings.
Start as you mean to go on with what’s arguably Daylesford’s most talked about breakfast. The Dudley Boutique Hotel has a reputation for serving up a feast for the first meal of the day. Almost everything is sourced from local growers and producers: fresh fruits, yoghurt parfait, buttery eggs on straight-from-the-bakery bread. Tea comes in Royal Doulton pots and crystal platters lend the whole experience a wonderfully vintage air.
If you have room for lunch, Sundays in Daylesford tend to be market day. As well as fresh-from-the-harvest goodies for a picnic, you can pick up chutneys and preserves for suitcases.
Top tip: bring a tote bag to the farmers’ markets – many are trying to move away from single-use plastics.
4. THE FINE ART
There’s a thriving artist community dotted around Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges. See works by local artists and designers displayed in striking creative spaces at Stony Creek Gallery and Bromley & Co. Or, if a mix of fine and contemporary art is more to your palette, make time for The Convent. This award-winning series of galleries exhibits an incredible variety of art from local, regional and international creators, all within a grand 19th-century mansion on the crest of Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens.
5. THE GREAT OUTDOORS
This is a region known for its natural beauty, so you can’t help but get out and about when Down Under. Lace up your hiking boots and follow the Great Dividing Trail through towering forests and some of the region’s best, breath-snatching landscapes. If you’re more of a stroller than a serious hiker, there’s a web of beautiful walks around Hepburn Spring Reserve and Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens. While The Lavender Farm, Lavandula, brings a touch of the South of France to Southern Australia, with beautifully scented gardens laid out in European style.
Top tip: time your visit to Lavandula so you’re here for lunch in the excellent café. Produce from the Farm’s own kitchen gardens inspire the menus, including the one-of-a-kind lavender champagne.