Need a change of pace? With natural mineral springs and excellent farm-to-table fare, Daylesford has plenty to offer those looking to spend a weekend in low gear.
Once you’ve dipped your toe in the waters of Spa Country, it’s easy to see why the region draws so many tree-changers.
A strong cohort of Swiss-Italians migrated here during the 1852 gold rush, and a smattering of their architectural and gastronomic influences still remain. In the 150 years since, the idyllic landscape has inspired many potters, painters and producers.
The rich earth – Wombat Hill and Mt Franklin are both extinct volcanoes – is ideal for farming, and encourages a focus on local produce. Many menus have vegetarian and gluten-free options, and there’s plenty of local wine to test your palate. When asked, always say yes to sparkling water – 80 per cent of Australia’s mineral springs are situated here.
Welcome to Daylesford
NEAREST CAPITAL CITY
From farm gates and cellar doors, to country cafes and fine-dining restaurants, this region is ripe with opportunities to sample the red soil’s bounty.
Known for cool-climate wines, the Daylesford area is also home to locally brewed beers and clever cocktails. The best places to drink usually deliver good food options, too.
Explore the natural terrain from the sky, or wander about on foot. There is also excellent shopping in town, or hop between the day spas – a wellness version of a pub-crawl.
Bromley & Co
Bromley & Co is a cavernous gallery showcasing art, interiors, homewares and lifestyle products. The store is by David and Yuge Bromley, and it’s brimming with colour and curated chaos. David’s paintings and bronze sculptures sit alongside antique Japanese vases and mid-century furniture. The works of up to 15 artists also line the walls. Yuge’s clothing label and selected ceramics are also available.
Bokeh Handmade Gallery
This shop stocks a range of ceramics, jewellery, textiles and objects from small, independent Australian makers. Pottery by Wingnut & Co, Clay Canoe, Sophie Moran and Kim Wallace sits alongside hand-blown glass oil pourers from Adelaide’s JamFactory, prints by Beth Emily and indigo linens from Bind and Fold. Sonja Rolton runs the shop, and her partner, Warwick Howland, makes the beautiful custom timber furniture that props up the store’s wares.
Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
Between the scent of calming oils, the warm towels folded around your limbs and the practiced kneading of tight muscles, you’ll soon start to understand why it’s called “spa country”. A visit to Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa begins with a cup of herbal tea in a room that housed the original 1895 mineral spa. You can indulge in a massage, try a steamer that looks like a cocoon, take a dip in the salt-therapy pool or opt for the private pure-mineral-water baths. The bathhouse taps into an underground natural spring, with waters high in iron, calcium and magnesium. There’s an outdoor hammam [Turkish bath] coming soon, and the unisex bathrooms have been awarded for their mixed-gender approach – a conscious act of support for anyone who is excluded by traditional binary definitions of gender.
A picturesque spot for a stroll or a picnic anytime of the year, Daylesford Lake was built in 1929 on a former gold-rush site. City worries fade away among the bright yellows, oranges and reds of the autumnal trees, and during winter mornings there’s an eerie fog above the lake’s surface. It’s a 30-minute walk around the perimeter. Start at Wombat Flat Mineral Spring, and follow the path across the Bleakley Street divide to continue around. There are jetties to pause at and barbeques for lunching.
Picture This Ballooning
Early risers are rewarded with nature’s best show. Picture This Ballooning operates hot-air balloon flights over the region – possibly the best way to take in the lush rolling hills and rich volcanic soil. You’ll meet before sunrise and spend an hour in the sky catching the first rays of the day, rising fog and forests and waterways as they reveal themselves below. Reward your early start with a champagne breakfast after the flight.
From historic dwellings to modern villas, there is luxury and comfort in this pocket of the state.
A day of relaxation in the Daylesford area
From a soak in a historic bathhouse, to a private sauna at your hotel, this region is for relaxing and indulging. Punctuate soothing spa treatments and lazy nature strolls with nourishing meals and local wine.
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The menu at Mercato is inspired by the fruits of the surrounding terroir. Save room for dessert. Perhaps the whole poached pear in spiced mulled wine with saffron custard, lemon balm and candied citrus peel, or a deconstructed lemon meringue pie.