From roaming around sweetly scented lavender farms, to taking scenic walks, wine tasting, and hitting the local day spas, these are the best things to do in Daylesford and its surrounds.
This bohemian yet refined spa town at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range has a lot to offer. Not only is its food and wine scene (especially its cafe offering) well-established, and up there with the best of regional Australia, but it offers holidaymakers and weekend breakers plenty of scenic countryside, quaint boutiques, and even bathhouses. Read on for details of how to plan your next break in spa country.
Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
Take a trip to this rustic 1860s homestead, surrounded by more than 40 hectares of leafy, lavender-strewn, cypress tree-dotted grounds, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d waltzed right into the European countryside.
Located ten minutes north of Daylesford, this farm is home to a trattoria/bar, which serves everything from woodfired pizzas to lavender-infused scones, and a small barn boutique that sells house-distilled aromatherapy products; plus, there are farm animals to meet too.
Spend a while wandering through the gardens, or even take a history tour of the property’s storied stone buildings. If you’re pencilling in a visit around the gardens, bear in mind that lavender is at its peak come late summer.
The hills that surround Daylesford are thick with boutique cool-climate wineries – and the odd distillery and cider house to boot. You could easily while away an entire day (or two) exploring the region’s many cellar doors, of which some 27 are routinely open to the public for tastings. More than 20 different varietals are grown here, but the top regional drops are riesling, chardonnay, sparkling, shiraz and pinot noir.
Some of the region’s frontrunners include the multi-award winning Hanging Rock Winery, established in 1982. Gorge on the bucolic views, including the craggy peaks of Hanging Rock and the forested summit of Mount Macedon, from its cellar door. The winery also hosts an annual outdoor art exhibition that’s worth a peep.
In tiny Musk, just a 10-minute drive from Daylesford, you’ll happen upon Passing Clouds, which has a strong focus on sustainable farming, with only natural fertilisers used and solar panels providing much of the winery’s energy. It also has a beautiful deck, made from recycled wood, which overlooks the lake and vineyards that’s perfect for an al fresco lunch, served ‘la famiglia’ style.
Paramoor Winery boasts an impossibly cosy cellar door with a fireplace and comfy armchairs, that’s perfect to hole up in during the cooler months, housed within converted old stables.
This prehistoric, volcanic rock formation might be best known as the starring figure in Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel Picnic at Hanging Rock (and the subsequent eponymous Peter Weir film, released in 1975), but the landmark’s draws go well beyond popular culture. Not only is Hanging Rock considered one of the best examples of a volcanic plug, or ‘mamelon’, in the world, but it has long been a sacred site for the Wurundjeri people.
Take one of the reserve’s three walks: the Base Walk takes 30 minutes, the Creek Walk 40 minutes, and the Summit Walk almost an hour, the latter offering panoramic views from the rock’s 105-metre crest. You may even chance upon koalas, kangaroos or sugar gliders within the reserve, as well as some 40 species of birds.
Visitors can also make use of the undercover picnic shelters, available for exclusive-use hire, and visit the Hanging Rock Discovery Centre to learn more about the region’s history and geology.
Like all good country towns, Daylesford has a few markets up its sleeve. On the fourth Saturday of each month, Daylesford Primary School plays host to the town’s farmers’ market, where you’ll find fresh local produce and ready-to-eat food, plus coffee, wine, and arts and crafts.
And every Sunday, you’ll find the Daylesford Sunday Market, which holds up to 110 stalls every week – there’s free parking, it’s dog-friendly and you can even take off on a little heritage train ride from the station where the market is held.
Here, you can stock up on all the usual suspects, from freshly baked sourdough to local honey, free-range meat, fresh produce, and plenty more. And if you’re on the hunt for vintage furniture, clothing or other curios, then pay a visit to The Amazing Mill Markets.
Parks and gardens
Daylesford and its surrounds are not short on manicured gardens and parks. Go for a stroll around the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, perched on the summit of an extinct volcano, where you can grab great views over town and the surrounding countryside from the Pioneers Lookout Tower, or indulge in some killer pastries at Wombat Hill House cafe. Or soak up the serenity at Lake Daylesford, a wonderfully scenic spot with a playground, picnicking areas and even paddle boats for hire.
Hot springs and day spas
The twin spa towns of Hepburn Springs and Daylesford hold plenty of promise for those looking to unwind. Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa not only draws mineral-rich waters directly from the (natural) source, but its vast, considered complex is the picture of serenity and integrates beautifully with the surrounding bushland.
Soak away the day in one of the bathhouse’s pools, or treat yourself to a spa treatment. For something a little different, try the Shizuka Ryokan Japanese Country Spa Retreat, an impossibly zen spot that offers Japanese-inspired treatments amid manicured grounds.
Daylesford is also awash with highly-rated boutique day spas fit for every taste and need. One tried-and-tested outfit that’s well worth your time is Daylesford Healing Massage and The Mineral Spa is one of the most acclaimed and awarded natural mineral spas in Australia. Enjoy the steam room, lavender sauna, detox box, outdoor sun deck, two mineral water spas and a plunge pool.
There’s a number of galleries to explore in Daylesford, many attached to working studios. Don’t leave without checking out The Convent Gallery. Established in 1991, it exhibits both contemporary and traditional artwork. See also Stony Creek, Black Gallery and Clayfire.