We’re holidaying a little closer to home these days. Which is perhaps fortuitous, because one weekend is by no means enough to explore Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges properly – follow up trips are inevitable. The region has become a hotbed of farmers, wine growers, chefs, distillers, sommeliers and baristas, lured in by the volcanic soils, old-growth forests, undulating hills and community spirit.
You’re guaranteed to drive in a few loops – from Lancefield up to Kyneton, south through Woodend and Macedon, and then east and north again to Trentham, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. But don’t be dissuaded. When your sat-nav offers, always take the longer back roads. They’re delightfully scenic in all seasons.
Here’s our guide on what to eat, where to drink, walks to do and where to stay overnight.
Lancefield Providore, Lancefield
It’s a little over an hour’s drive from Melbourne to Lancefield – just enough time to work up a hankering to stretch your legs, and a strong need for coffee. Start your weekend at this family-run greengrocer, which is beloved for its excellent fresh produce. Fuel up for the day with a freshly blitzed juice or smoothie. The organic coffee is roasted by Just Planet Coffee in nearby Sunbury. Make quick work of replenishing your home pantry for the week ahead by stocking up on the region’s finest – from honey, eggs, olive oil and whole pumpkins to natural cleaning products, kimchi and granola. The team can help you gather up locally made cheeses, charcuterie, fruit and accoutrements so you’re ready for a picnic at Mount Macedon or over in Malmsbury with a view of the 1860s aqueduct.
Cobaw Ridge, Pastoria East
From here it’s a 30-minute meander to this quiet achiever of a vineyard. Alan and Nelly Cooper first planted vines here in 1985 and their winery Cobaw Ridge has been certified biodynamic since 2011. The sandy granite soil yields flinty chardonnay and savoury lagrein (a grape native to the South Tyrol region of Italy) among elegant cool-climate syrah and pinot noir. The grapes are pruned, picked and plunged by hand, vinified in small open fermenters, and aged in oak barriques for 12 to 24 months. Minimal-handling winemaking translates each year’s unique dance between grape, soil and weather into the glass. The cellar door is a serene spot to take in a view – it backs onto the Cobaw State Forest and with 610 metres in elevation, overlooks distant rolling hills.
Hotel Frangos, Daylesford
Housing a bank, a drapery and then a bar, the historic walls of Hotel Frangos first shrugged on their part-restaurant, part-guest house persona in 1888. Today, each the boutique hotel’s 15 rooms are opulently dressed with individual personalities – some intimate and brooding, others vibrant and eccentric. The suites are kitted out with plush beds in crisp white linens and a spa bath in the private bathroom. Deep club sofas, vintage daybeds or neoclassical chairs extend the decadence, with chandeliers overhead and artworks lining the walls. One room features a mural by acclaimed local artist David Bromley and a luxe round bed. Behind the vine-clad verandah downstairs, the restaurant keeps the cellar well-stocked with regional wines to match its Mediterranean-leaning eats.
Murmuring Walk, Mount Macedon
There’s an abundance of trails to trace at Mount Macedon, from an easy 25-minute stroll to a seven-hour 30-kilometre loop. A mix of old-growth and post-fire regrowth, the forest here is dense with tall eucalypts, fern gullies, grasses, fungi, lichens and mosses. Artists Ria Soemardjo, Charlotte Roberts, and Sandra Fiona Long created Murmuring Walk, a multi-layered audio-guided walk to experience along the Sanatorium Lake Eco-Trail. Download the two audio files and the map to your device before heading to the lake (internet can be sketchy). The project prompts deep connection with nature through heightened listening and contemplation. Carve out an hour to amble along the 2.5-kilometre walk, which reflects the environment, birdlife, and rhythms of the surroundings – Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung, and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country.
Animus Distillery, Kyneton
This boutique distillery might have started out as a garage project in Fitzroy North, but it’s become well-rooted in the Kyneton community since opening in 2015. The team distils on-site, so you can watch the process from start to finish while working your way through a tasting paddle of mini G&Ts, replete with garnishes and Strange Love tonic waters. They triple-filter grain spirit using a gravity-fed carbon-filter system, before infusing with international, native and homegrown ingredients. Once extracted, these botanicals return to the team's garden as fertiliser. The herbaceous Arboretum gin uses strawberry gum leaf, lemon thyme, rosemary, oranges and bush tomato from said garden. Pair a grazing plate of local cheese, free-range charcuterie, terrines, parfait and olives with the house Martini. There’s also local wines; craft beers; and a solid selection of whiskies from Japan, Taiwan, Scotland and North America.
Round out the weekend at this Italian bistro from the Cliffy’s Emporium team. The space (and menu) extends a nod of thanks to the Italian (and all) migrant communities of the Daylesford and Hepburn region, historic and present. The tin-roofed, wood-clad establishment started life as the Athens Hotel in the 1860s, run by a Greek-Cypriot migrant. Today, it’s a charming trattoria serving woodfired pizza and a mix of local and Italian wines. All pasta, bread and pizza dough is made in-house. Think squid-ink tagliolini with clams, and blistered pizzas topped with produce from lauded tomato wizard Florian Hofinger at Mt Franklin Organics. Sit outside when the trees are lit in their autumn finery, or cosy up inside with a plate of Venetian doughnuts for company. There’s Campari, Aperol and vermouth to start, and cannoli and tiramisu to close.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with American Express and its Shop Small program, encouraging Australians to support small business while travelling domestically. Learn more about Shop Small here.