Many Melburnians love Daylesford and the nearby Hepburn Springs for a very simple reason: thanks to natural mineral springs, the area is the perfect destination for a relaxing escape in nature. Beautiful hot springs and colourful markets are the draw cards, but there are also contemplative art galleries, heritage train rides and a museum that tells the stories of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, who are the traditional owners of the land. At only 90 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, it’s probably the most relaxing summer vacay you can have this close to the city.
Frank and Connie’s is the place to go eat in Hepburn Springs. While there are no printed menus, the crew here are keen on using only the freshest produce to create Greek-inspired fare that draws out even more flavours from neighbouring Mediterranean countries.
For some great Japanese fare, try Sakana Restaurant, the sister restaurant to Carlton’s Kazuki’s).
The oldest hotel in Daylesford, the Farmers Arms, ticks two key boxes: it’s a delightful local boozer and a destination pub worthy of a short drive. Wine shop and bar Wine and the Country is also a good time, serving up a range of cheese and charcuterie to enjoy with your booze.
Make a beeline for the Mill Markets, a massive permanent market that fans of Australiana will love (think vintage tea towels, postcards, kitsch tableware and plenty of clothes to rummage through). Go to the Convent and explore the touring exhibitions and old artefacts, then take a five-minute drive over to the spa town of Hepburn Springs. Take a stroll through the bush or splash out on a massage from one of the many day spas that are littered about.
If the lure of staying overnight is too good, we suggest the Lake House. They do tranquillity exceptionally well here, boasting private balconies, secluded courtyards and plenty of gardens to explore. Those who want to relax will find solace in the Salus Spa, surrounded by waterfall-fed streams, while the more active will enjoy a hit on the tennis courts (and then a drink in the pavilion).
If you do just one thing... get a relaxing massage at Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat. Fair warning: it'll be hard to return to your regular life after this level of pampering.