At the edge of Victoria’s Macedon Mountain Ranges, the pretty little alpine town of Daylesford offers concrete-weary city folk, and interstate and international travellers a taste of tranquility. More specifically, here are 7 things to expect from this beautiful part of the country.
Only 75 minutes from Melbourne Airport and tugging at the tail of the Great Dividing Range, Daylesford and the Hepburn Shire area seems to be a bit of an open secret.
With everything from amazing crisp wines from cool-climate vineyards and sumptuous meals at hatted restaurants to its famed natural springs and onsen-style Japanese hotel retreats, the region is set for romance and relaxation.
But in spite of all these assets that everyone seems to know about, the Daylesford area isn’t the tourist superhighway you’d expect. It’s peaceful, friendly and surrounded by nature.
7 things that make Daylesford so special
The healing properties of the underground springs here are highly regarded. There are around 100 naturally occurring mineral-rich springs in Australia. The Daylesford region has 82 of them.
This means there are dozens of spas you can visit to purify, detox and indulge. The oldest and probably most impressive is Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa in Hepburn Springs.
There are a number of different types of baths you can experience here, all with different water types and healing properties. The original spa, which opened in 1895, has been cleverly incorporated into the new, modern development.
There’s so much to amazing food in the Daylesford area you’ll wish there’s more time in the day and space in your stomach. There’s everything here from highly-rated restaurants to the rustic sublime.
For an incredible yet still welcoming and relaxed gastronomic experience, the hatted Argus Dining Room is a must. Extraordinary cuisine from a food institution that’s been in the region since the 1930s.
*Please check The Argus’ opening hours as they have remained closed during the Covid-19 outbreak.*
We’d also be back in a flash to have dinner in our hotel. The food at Shizuka Ryokan is excellent. It’s a great example of a high-quality authentic Japanese omakase meal.
We’ve also heard extremely good things about the two-hatted Lake House Restaurant and Spa.
For cafés, it’s hard to go past the RedBeard Historic Bakery in Trentham. This place has been turning out top-quality bread since 1892 and is still using the same enormous oven.
If you like your reuben sandwich, you’ll need to save space for this place.
Most places around these parts will have something amazing to keep comfort your sweet tooth appeased, but The Chocolate Mill has everywhere else licked.
Husband-and-wife team Nicki and Adrian use enormous blocks of Belgian chocolate to mould, fill and polish beautiful rich choccies that will make you cry with delight.
3. Where to stay – Shizuka Ryokan
There are so many places to lay your head in this part of the world, but if you’re looking for somewhere truly unique and honestly excellent, try Shizuka Ryokan in Hepburn Springs.
It’s the attention to detail in this hotel that makes it such an authentically Japanese experience. Instead of just staying in some generic hotel, it was really refreshing to spend time here.
Complete with shoji rice paper screen walls, tatami matting and a complete ornamental kimono hanging on the wall, our room was perfectly Japanese. You’re provided with slippers at the door, which you wear throughout the hotel.
You can even wear the traditional robes around the place if you like (we did!), and as we mentioned, the food here is exceptional.
We were also treated to a couples spa treatment at Shizuka Ryokan – highly recommended!
The undulating terrain, high altitude and the cool climate make for some excellent wine here. It goes glass-in-hand with the foodie territory the region has developed.
If you get the chance, hop on a wine tour of the area to make the most of these beautiful vineyards and their cellar doors. If you don’t have time though, here are a couple we’d recommend.
Attwood Wines in Glenlyon has a Pinot Noir and Rosé that are terrifyingly drinkable.
And make sure you take the quick stroll down to the lake and the little boat house there. It’s 100% romance. Just make sure you’re not interrupting a wedding proposal – it’s a pretty popular spot for them and I’m not surprised.
Passing Clouds Winery in Musk is a lovely cellar door to visit. If you’re lucky, the winery’s founder Graeme Leith will be there. He’s a bit of a local legend and was busy writing his biography when we met him.
It doesn’t take much to get him talking and his stories make for quite a read, I can tell you!
5. The water
Strange as it might seem, the water here tastes unbelievable. The famed (though sadly underwhelming) Mount Franklin is in this area, and the water that comes naturally out of the ground here is delicious.
Funnily enough, we found it hard to buy bottled water from any shop for less than $4 in Daylesford town. Perhaps it’s because the tap water’s so good, it’s just kind of insulting to pay for it.
Look out for signs to waterfalls that plunge and flow from the mountain streams and alpine rivers in the area. They often have little boardwalks and offer beautiful views.
For some reason, the homewares, antiques and boutiques in Daylesford and Kyneton are awesome. Jen from The Interiors Addict pointed us in the direction of a few and she wasn’t wrong.
Shame we didn’t have extra luggage allowance on our flight!
7. Perfect for a short weekender
Above all, the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges Region is just so close to Melbourne. If you live in the city, it really is close enough to drive out for a night’s stay or even a day trip.
Otherwise, if you’re on the east coast or South Australia, it’s not a long flight into Tullamarine Airport, and the drive after that’s a cinch.
Not only that, you’ll leave feeling recharged, relaxed and utterly replenished.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you should also check out these other articles we’ve written about travelling in Victoria: