Hanging Rock shrouded in cloud with kangaroos in the foreground.
Photograph: Supplied | Hanging Rock

Things you can only do in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges

From soul-stirring landscapes to rejuvenating mineral springs, discover the many charms of this regional gem

By Time Out in association with Visit Victoria

Set among the verdant, rolling hills of central Victoria, the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region is the place to go when you want to slow down, take stock and enjoy the nice things in life. The former gold rush town of Daylesford is a particularly popular destination in winter, when fireplaces roar to life and day spas offer a warm escape from the cold. While over in the Macedon Ranges you'll find heritage gardens, cool climate wineries and hiking trails. Award-winning restaurants, breathtaking natural attractions and delightful boutiques are also all waiting on your next trip to this small but mighty region.

Think you know everything there is to see and do in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges? We've teamed up with Daylesford Macedon Tourism and Visit Victoria for their 'Stay close, go further' campaign to bring you a fresh take on what makes this region so special. Here are the experiences that drive visitors to return year after year, and have cemented Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges as a must-visit destination.

Natural wonders

Head to the township of Trentham to see one of the longest single drop waterfalls in Victoria, where water plunges 32 metres over ancient basalt columns. The moss-covered Trentham Falls are located in the Coliban River Scenic Reserve, a sanctuary of thriving bushland, eucalyptus and spring wildflowers. The Blowhole in Hepburn, meanwhile, is an illusion – it may look like a natural formation, but is in fact a diversion tunnel built by miners in the 19th century. Visit after rainfall, when Sailors Creek is full, to see it in its full glory as water rushes out over the rockface and into the pool below. Or discover 100 hectares of peaceful woodland teeming with local wildlife and flowers at Black Hill Reserve, five minutes north of Kyneton. Various walks reward you with brilliant views of the countryside and impressive rock formations like the Monolith, one of Victoria’s biggest granite formations.

Signature dishes

Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges' dining scene leads the way with true farm-to-table restaurants, special occasion fine diners and cosy country bistros that punch well above their weight. Bistro Terroir chef Matthew Carnell translates his experience cooking in French Michelin-starred restaurants seamlessly into a relaxed, neighbourhood bistro format. Standout dishes include the Murray cod with clams, heirloom tomato and green olive, and the silky Parisienne gnocchi in goat's cheese sauce, paired with fulsome wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Meanwhile, fine diner Kadota is winning hearts with luxurious yet restorative food, using the highest quality seasonal produce to recreate Japanese flavours. The calming, timber-filled restaurant shares an ever-changing tasting menu, but you can always expect a beautiful sashimi arrangement to start. For a different speed Fook Shing in Kyneton is serving modern southeast Asian cuisine in a historic, gold rush era pub. Opt for the banquet menu to experience the restaurant’s best dishes which include sticky pork belly and Burmese-style beef curry, with vegetarian options to match.

Boutique shops

Rifle through the many bazaars and boutiques of Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges to bring home a slice of the region’s distinctive luxe-country aesthetic. The beautifully bright and ethically made homewares at Woodend General will add a dash of energy to any room, with carefully curated basketware, ceramics, home fragrances and textiles selling not just an item but a lifestyle. Hop over to The Farmer’s Wife in Creswick and Daylesford for relaxed linen shirts and soft cashmere knits that transcend seasonal trends. Meanwhile, new store Slow Lane Daylesford deals exclusively in ethical, sustainable and Australian clothing, skincare and homewares – think natural fibres, organic face creams and locally made herbal teas.

Memorable accommodation

With so many lush, rolling hills and impressive natural vistas, Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges are rife with stunning places to stay. Rug up with a lover at Fellcroft Farmstay's secluded barn-style retreats in Cobaw that offer captivating views of Mount Macedon and Hanging Rock. Built and furnished with contemporary and antique pieces from the property’s long history, French doors open up from every room (bathtime is a truly magical experience here) while an outdoor fire pit lights up evenings. If the idea of waking up to the aroma of roses tickles your fancy, stay at Acre of Roses in Trentham, an old miner's cottage set on a working flower farm. The cottage has been tastefully revamped in “Hamptons-meets-country” style, with a hot tub and theatre room to boot. Alternatively, go glamping with Cosy Tents in Yandoit, where every creature comfort is provided so all you have to do is switch off and reconnect with nature.

Country bakeries

Hot pies, fluffy cakes and moreish pastries are the hallmark of any road trip worth taking, and Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges boast a line-up of country bakeries that would make any lover of baked goods swoon. Bourkies Bakehouse is a popular pit stop for visitors to Woodend, and is famed for its thick, wobbly vanilla slice. Over in Trentham, Red Beard Bakery is making traditional sourdough out of a historic wood-fired oven. These master bakers are using a 30-year-old starter made from wild yeast and potato skins, and you can learn to make your own at workshops that’ll have you leaving with armfuls of fresh loaves. Fanging for a croissant? Le Péché Gourmand in Creswick is a French boulangerie-patisserie doing classic bread and pastries, using local organic ingredients in macarons, eclairs and opera cakes that will elevate tea time.

Historical artefact or landmark

The most alluring attractions in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges are also steeped in history. Hepburn Springs is famed for having 80 per cent of Australia’s effervescent mineral springs, and the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa has been providing therapeutic soaks since 1896. Drop by for a dip in the communal springs or book in for indulgent magnesium salt baths, saunas and outdoor pools with a view. The unforgettable volcanic formations at Hanging Rock may be commonly known for their role in Picnic at Hanging Rock, but their Aboriginal history extends far beyond that. The area has been a sacred place for ceremonies, meditations and initiations for at least 26,000 years, and archaeologists have unearthed stone tools dating back at least 10,000 years. Over at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm the original homestead dates back to 1860, growing into the flourishing lavender farm, trattoria and grounds you see today. Drop by for a lavender scone or a BYO picnic in the lovely gardens.

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