The flotation pool is part of a superb retreat at The Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa.
It was leaving Daylesford at 7am (junior football commitments) that we realised what a stunning part of the world it was in which we’d spent two nights. We drove along the Daylesford-Woodend road, a swirl of fog, sunshine, paddocks crunchy with ice, cows huddling under ghost gums and a ribbon of country road winding through it all.
After a two-hour drive (Friday traffic), we arrived in Daylesford about five o’clock with just enough light to get the key from Daylesford Getaway in the main street and settle into our accommodation.
It’s a beautiful town, its grand buildings and wide main street strongly reminiscent of the great days of gold discovery.
Now there’s different types of gold to discover …
We checked in at Oak House, a superbly presented three-bedroom historic house in Hepburn Springs, just three kilometres from Daylesford. Its large bedrooms are stylish and beautifully appointed. The living area has a large dining table, a good kitchen and comfortable couches in front of the television. There is everything you need in the kitchen, including coffee plungers, ground coffee, a toaster and some good bread awaiting us. The operators happily understand how important a good breakfast is. We settle in, looking forward to exploring the area the next day, and, to ensure we didn’t slip into too relaxed a mood, we slipped Peter Jackson’s King Kong into the DVD player. That’s one angry monkey, but he’s in touch with his tender side, and would have been more so if he’d had the day we were about to enjoy in Daylesford. (Prices for a two-night weekend stay for six people is $1040. There are two studios behind the house, which can accommodate four more people.)
122 Main Road, 5348 4422
Oak House is stylish and beautifully appointed.
One of the great pleasures of any trip is a great meal with your family, and we had ours at the Farmers Arms, an increasingly well-known and well-credentialled regional gastro pub. The atmosphere is elegant and relaxing, with a cheerful community feeling about it. Children are made very welcome.
1 East Street, 5348 2091
We enjoyed a buffet breakfast at Peppers Springs Retreat and Mineral Spa and were happy to be shown around by Peppers hotel manager, Bern Barry, the beautiful gardens surrounding the historic mansion, as well as some of the rooms available.
124 Main Road, Hepburn Springs, 5348 2202
It would be wrong to go to Daylesford and not experience some aspect of the spa culture that permeates the town. At the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa (three minutes from Daylesford at the Mineral Springs Reserve in Hepburn Springs) the kids enjoyed a swim in the natural springs and the hot spa adjacent (there are other facilities at the retreat called Sanctuary, where it is adults only). Elsewhere in the facility, which was superbly renovated in 2008, great use is made of the natural mineral waters for which the area is famous, including a private mineral “bath” (rimmed with authentic brown residue) and a personal treatments, including massage, facials, body scrubs and wraps and “spa rituals”. There are also spa couches, an aroma steam room and a salt therapy pool.
After all this activity you’re hungry, so it’s time to check in at a Daylesford icon Cliffy’s Emporium. Cliffy’s is extraordinary. Part-delicatessen, part-café, it offers produce brought in by local farmers, locally made jams and condiments, great freshly baked bread and a hugely tempting range of cakes and desserts. In an adjoining room is the café, where lunch is offered in a dark, inviting space. You would pray for some foul weather just so you could hide in here with a bowl of soup and a glass of local pinot.
30 Raglan Street, 5348 3279
Scallops at the Farmers Arms hotel are one of the many great dishes available.
At Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, we could not resist a game of petanque on an excellent little pitch overlooking this superb property. Petanque’s a great game, made even better by being one of the few where you can drink while playing. It’s always more fun holding a glass of something. After we’d worked off some energy, it was time for an al fresco lunch at one of La Trattoria’s big wooden tables in an ash grove. It’s a great vantage point to either watch the kids continue the petanque or admire the rolling paddocks or the various fields of lavender, which explode into purple in summer. The kids patted some donkeys, checked out a little boathouse and had a look at the 1860s stone buildings, which were constructed by Italian-speaking Swiss who came to the goldfields and stayed to farm. Lavandula now grows lavender laid out as crop art, which, in summer when it’s in bloom, is a purple haze for the senses. A range of body products is available. Recommended.
Town favourites are Frangos & Frangos and its second restaurant, Koukla, a few doors up in Vincent Street. Both are warm and welcoming and attract couples, small groups and families. We ate at Koukla with its wood-fired oven churning out a good list of pizzas. It has an open fireplace and a shabby-chic style that suits the laid-back mood. Casual and fun. Recommended.