AROUNd daylesford region
Daylesford is the kind of place you go when you want to slow down and enjoy the good things in life.
Nestled into the picturesque hills and forests of central Victoria, this rural town just 90-minutes from Melbourne found fame first as a wealthy gold-rush town in the 1850s, and not long after as a fashionable hub for the nearby Hepburn mineral springs.
Over the past few decades, it has enticed many a Melbournian to make the move from the big smoke to the sticks, and these days it’s home to a thriving mix of eclectic art galleries, bougie boutiques, farmers markets, and more.
Its cultural history — the region attracted Swiss-Italian migrants in the 1850s who brought unique architecture and gastronomic influences with them that still exist today — and position in the gourmet Central Highlands means that some of Victoria’s best eateries and cafes can be found here in the old-timey stone and red brick cottages of Vincent St, the main thoroughfare through town.
Basically, it’s a dream destination for foodies, culture vultures, and outdoor lovers alike, the perfect escape from Melbourne
Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend away with your other half, a cheeky girls getaway, or a relaxing break to unwind after a stressful week of work, this rural gem has so much to offer.
Wandering Daylesford's eclectic main street, Vincent St, and its surrounds is, in many ways, like strolling through a living museum.
Plenty of history, both pre-colonial, colonial and more modern has played out here, and simply taking the time to soak up the vibe of the main road, with its historic buildings and trendy cafes and galleries is a worthwhile endeavour while you’re here.
For those interested in a bit of history, there are many historic buildings including the Town Hall and the Post Office, both of which were built in the late 1800s during the prosperous gold rush.
If you're keen on a little shopping (and who isn't), there's an amazing range of boutique shops offering the latest artisan homewares, trendy threads, and quality goods. Check out Buster McGee (menswear), Harry and Me (gifts) and eCasa (beautiful European-inspired homewares), and Manteau Noir (womenswear).
Around 30 minutes north of Daylesford is Hepburn Springs, famous for the largest concentration of mineral springs in Australia, and the place to be for one of the best things to do in Daylesford and surrounds: a good pamper sesh!
At the centre of all the action is the famous The Hepburn Bathhouse. Originally built in the late 1800s with just a timber building and a couple of baths, the bathhouse has since become a state of the art bathhouse and spa facility.
The facility is split into two areas; the historic Bathhouse with a mineral bath and spa bath. The second area is the newly built Sanctuary, which offers up a truly rejuvenating spa experience, with a steam room, hammam, spa couches, and an outdoor bathing area where you can let your troubles float away while relaxing in the lush Aussie bush setting.
Most treatments last about 2 hours, and a visit here is perfect for those who want to relax, be pampered, and leave rejuvenated (don't we all?!).
Daylesford and surrounds is the perfect place to stimulate the senses and reconnect with the land in a region that takes the concept of paddock to plate dining to another level. Sample seasonal dishes, fill your baskets at local farm gates and markets, enjoy a myriad of wine and cider offerings at cellar doors and savour amazing hatted restaurants.
First planted in the 1860s using rare and unusual plants, the scenic Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens are a popular place to visit in Daylesford no matter the season.
Occupying the top of the ubiquitous Wombat Hill, an extinct volcano that can be seen from pretty much every corner of Daylesford, the gardens span 10-acres and are a lovely spot for a relaxed stroll, to take in the views of Daylesford, or to enjoy a romantic picnic in pretty natural surrounds.
Visitors can also climb the Pioneers Memorial Lookout Tower for the best views of the surroundings, and walk or drive around the scenic drive track (originally built for horse and carts, and now open to our more modern ‘steeds’).
art & CULTURE
No trip to a rural gourmet hub is complete without spending an afternoon amongst the vineyards, and just a few minutes from Daylesford centre, Passing Clouds Winery is a great place to do just that.
A second-generation winery, Passing Clouds is a family affair and this rings true throughout their offerings, especially in the dining room where the idea of sharing a rustic communal meal with loved ones comes to life with their spit-roasted meats and fresh veggies, bread, and salads.
With a small, mostly handcrafted approach to their winemaking, Passing Clouds is all about preserving the flavours of the landscapes around them — the fruits of which you can taste during a wine tasting at their Cellar Door!
Daylesford is a hub for art and design in Australia, and the Convent Gallery is where some of its finest displays can be found.
Nestled on a hill overlooking Daylesford and the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, the Convent was once a 19th-century private mansion during the Gold Rush era and has since seen lives as a convent and boarding school for girls, before its 1988 purchase and conversion into the current gallery, cafe, store, and museum.
Described as ‘the most beautiful gallery in Australia’, The Convent houses eight different exhibition spaces and features local and international artists producing art in a variety of mediums and styles. The program changes every six - eight weeks, so there’s always something new and fun to explore there.
DAYLESFORD SUNDAY MARKET
There’s nothing like a proper Australian country market, and the Daylesford Sunday Market definitely doesn’t disappoint in this regard.
Under the shade of huge elm trees, the collection of stalls display everything from tasty homemade treats, to quirky knick-knacks and trash-to-treasure, plus all the little handicrafts you didn’t know you needed. Have a wander, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy this insight into rural Victorian life.
For locomotive lovers, the market is operated next to the heritage railway, and every Sunday there are heritage trains that run from the market to the town of Bullarto.
The market operates 8 am - midday every Sunday of the year, rain, hail, or shine with just two exceptions: Christmas Day or a Code Red Fire Danger Day (the most extreme fire warning day).
There’s also the Farmers Market, which showcases exceptional local produce and products from the surrounding farms and valleys.
From artisanal bread to local apple cider with plenty of tasty morsels in between, everything has been harvested or produced fresh by suppliers — most of whom are within 15km of the market, which means low food mileage and far fewer emissions than food transported cross-country for supermarkets! Shop local, save the planet. Simples.