Spoil Yourself

2 February 2011

Daylesford is an easy 90-minute drive from Melbourne, offering village charm and cosmopolitan dining

Daylesford’s main streetscape is dotted with veranda-clad buildings selling everything from antiques and art to delicious handmade chocolates and meat pies. With day spas, forest walking tracks, cosy cafés, delightful cottages, friendly holiday parks, award-winning restaurants and colourful markets, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a moment to curl up with a good book.


Instead, browse quaint bookshops, treat yourself to a massage or relax in mineral baths. You could begin to wonder if your wallet has a large gaping hole after a few days in Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs, but there are ways to tour the area on a budget. Or you could always splurge on a 60-minute $135 aromatherapy massage!


But, let’s stick with the more affordable attractions of the region.




With the highest concentration of natural mineral springs in Australia, it’s no wonder the region is known as our spa capital. Many mineral springs were threatened during Daylesford’s gold rush period. Swiss Italian residents and other locals banded together to save the springs so we can enjoy them today.


Take a wander about Hepburn’s Mineral Springs Reserve. Learn all the health benefits of the minerals from signposts placed around the mineral hand pumps, from liver-purifying sulphate to silica for healthy skin, hair and bones. Visitors can fill up empty water bottles with the mineral water, free of charge.


There are many walks around the region. I chose the 2km walk to Jacksons Lookout from the Mineral Springs Reserve. Watch your footing for rocks and uprooted tree trunks. The lookout is via a tower, perching you above the tree line of Hepburn Regional Park.


Those even more keen can take the 16km Tipperary Walking Track, from Lake Daylesford to the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve (five to six hours duration, mostly level to gently undulating track). Also in Hepburn Regional Park is the Blowhole, created around the 1850s by gold miners to form a diversion tunnel, allowing them to sluice for gold in Sailors Creek’s dry bed.


After a walk, relax in mineral baths. Since 1895 Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa has been drawing mineral waters directly from the springs and recently enjoyed a $13 million refurbishment.


If you have money to burn, blow a lazy $255 on a 90-minute body mask and wrap with ‘Oceanic Elements’. I just opted for a two-hour dip in the relaxation pool and spa, and convinced hubby to partake in a shoulder massage.


Prices for the Bathhouse communal mineral mixed relaxation pool and spa are cheaper from Tuesday to Friday (adults $23/$18.50 seniors). Saturdays to Monday prices are $33 adults, $30 seniors. For a real treat, gain entry to the Sanctuary. This includes use of spa couches, the relaxation deck, the saltwater therapy pool, monsoon showers and steam room plus access to the Bathhouse. The extra indulgence does come at a price, though.




For a mega brekkie to start off the touring day, dine at the Royal Hotel. Sausages, eggs, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, spinach, a hash brown and thick toast come topped on a large plate for only $16.50. The feed is large enough to share and the service is friendly. Best of all, breakfast is available until midday. The Royal Hotel also has $12 lunch specials Monday to Friday. Choices include a 250g scotch fillet served with mash and steamed veggies or a chicken parmigiana with chips and salad.


There are plenty of top restaurants whipping up culinary delights. I was after a little indulgence and I found it at Sault restaurant.


Named after a lavender-producing town north of Marseille, France, Sault is located just outside of Daylesford, in Sailors Falls, set in a beautiful French provincial house overlooking beds of lavender, manicured gardens, and a lake. Not just a pretty face, Sault has won many food awards for their modern Australian cuisine.


Take advantage of the Wednesday local’s night from 6pm: $22.50 for the main meal and a glass of house red, white or sparkling. The menu changes each week and you may get the choice of twice-cooked pork belly with taro puree and sour plum sauce, baby barramundi fillet with fennel puree, pinenut and cress salad, or something else completely surprising.


Sault also have a Friday lunch special – $40 for an entree and main or main and dessert plus a glass of regional wine. If that still hasn’t tempted you, go for brunch. It’s cheaper than the dinner menu, but no doubt still scrumptious! (03) 5348 6555.


The Lake House restaurant in Daylesford has been awarded Two Chefs Hats by The Age Good Food Guide. Enjoy their cuisine at a fraction of the normal price with their Express Lunch menu (not available public holidays and Sunday). For $39 enjoy a gastronomic delight: two courses and a glass of wine (03) 5348 3329.


Are your taste buds salivating yet? If you prefer to BYO lunch, there are many picnic spots with BBQ facilities overlooking man-made Lake Daylesford.


Afterwards, see to hiring paddleboats, rowboats or canoes at Lukey’s Boat Hire, operating by the Boat House Café.




Daylesford hosts a swag of monthly markets including their farmers market. Some 40 stalls sell fresh and organic produce while the Daylesford Makers Market showcases handmade craft, jewellery and clothing. I strolled about the weekly Sunday markets, browsing the many stalls offering books and collectables. Held next to Daylesford railway station, dragging hubby along was easy with the lure of trains on view.


A red and white train drew quite a crowd. The train departs from Daylesford’s Heritage-listed station every Sunday. Once, the tourist train travelled a one-hour return journey from Daylesford to Bullarto, the highest operational railway in Victoria at 2500ft above sea level. The February Victorian bushfires put a stop to that.


On February 23, the fires came within 5km of Daylesford and the blackened trunks in Wombat Forest Reserve are a chilling reminder of how real the threat was. The fire ravaged almost 3000ha of nearby bushland, injuring two fire fighters, destroying a house and part of the Daylesford Tourist Railway. Some 2000 sleepers were destroyed in the blaze, along with pit logs.


Now, instead of travelling to Bullarto, the heritage train tours on a 15-minute restricted ride from Daylesford station to the edge of the burnt Wombat State Forest. At the time of writing, the train ride was still on its restricted run.


After riding past green paddocks and blackened forest, I left the railway and headed to the 19th century mansion dominating Daylesford’s skyline – The Convent. The imposing building is set amongst six acres of gardens, while inside eight individual art galleries display traditional and contemporary paintings, prints, ceramics, pottery and sculptures.


It was originally built as a home for the Gold Commissioner during the 1860s (gold was discovered at Daylesford in 1851) before becoming the property of the Catholic Church.


Maintenance issues forced the nuns to find accommodation elsewhere in 1973. In 1988, artist Tina Banitska bought the impressive building, renovating it into what it is today.


Enjoy a coffee in the Bad Havits Café, or sign up for a ghost tour. The next one is on August 28 and October 20 (Halloween).


A stone’s throw from The Convent rests Daylesford’s Botanic Gardens. I ambled amongst the established gardens (1863), well known for its collection of conifers, many recorded as rare or interesting specimens. Climb the stairs of the Pioneer Lookout Tower within the Botanic Gardens and be rewarded with views of volcanos and farmland in the distance. I ventured 10km out of town to visit the extinct volcano, Mt Franklin.


Short-term basic camping is suitable for caravans and motorhomes, and I spotted a couple of RVers taking advantage of the peaceful surrounds. Toilets, fireplaces and washing water are provided. Be aware, there is a steep access to the grounds and no pets are allowed. Mt Franklin offers picturesque views from the crater’s rim as well as being a pretty picnic spot.


Before the day ended, I enjoyed lavender scones at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm’s La Trattoria café. Help it down with lavender lemonade – definitely worth a try! Not just a café, this working farm is such a beautiful place to explore with its charming 1860s rural Italian architecture, cobbled paths, petanque pistes (playing surfaces), and gardens. Adding to the atmosphere are farm animals such as donkeys, chooks, and llamas. Lavandula is about 15km from Daylesford in Shepherds Flat.


After an eventful day soaking in minerals, eating, shopping and sightseeing, I wandered back to my pleasant site at Daylesford Victoria Caravan Park to partake in some happy-hour drinks and reflect on my Daylesford/Hepburn Springs mini-adventure.




Daylesford is approximately 113km from Melbourne: Take the Western Hwy to Ballan Daylesford Rd.




Hepburn Regional Park
11km north of Daylesford Short-term basic camping suitable for caravans and motorhomes. Toilets, fireplaces and washing water provided.
Steep access, No pets.
Parks Victoria Information Centre: 13 1963




Ballan Rd, Daylesford, 3460
(03) 5348 3821
E: [email protected]
Pets allowed for site bookings only and must be on a leash.




9km north of Daylesford via Midland Hwy.
Great for a picnic, or a scenic walk track along the crater’s rim. Picturesque views from the summit.


Daylesford Station
18 Raglan Street
From 8am. (03) 53483503


Daylesford Town Hall
Vincent St, Daylesford
Usually held first Saturday of the month.
10am to 3pm.


Daylesford Primary School
Vincent St, Daylesford
9am to 1pm. (03) 5664 0096


Pioneer Lookout Tower, Daylesford




$5 adults, $3 children
Departing Sundays at: 10.15, 11.00, 11.30,
12.00, 12.30, 13.00, 13.45 and 14.30.
(03) 5348 1759


$3.50 entry
10 minutes north of Daylesford
350 Hepburn-Newstead Rd
Shepherds Flat
Open 10.30am–5.30pm
(The lavender fields look their best around Christmas time).


$5.00 entry
Corner Hill and Daly Streets, Daylesford
Open 7 Days 10am–4pm
(03) 5348 3211


The Relaxation Pool & Spa
Tuesday to Friday $23
Seniors $18.50
Daylesford Royal Hotel
27 Vincent Street, Daylesford
(03) 5348 3225


Weekends, school holidays and public holidays, depending on weather.
$10 per head for 20 minutes
0418 358 380




98 Vincent St, Daylesford. (03) 5321 6123

By Kylie Dapiran