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A Weekender's Guide to Daylesford

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Spend a few days wrapped in nature, natural mineral springs and a blanket of good food and wine.

There's plenty to see and do in and around Daylesford, whether you're up for adventure or just want to spend your whole weekend blissing out. Located in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria's northwest, this cute country township is close enough for you to make an afternoon, a day or a whole afternoon of it.

Take your time exploring this lush spot and be sure to pick up some local produce to ferry back home to Melbourne — a tasty reminder of a delightful weekend away.

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The Lake House

The Lake House

STAY

There is a veritable plethora of bed and breakfasts here – Daylesford is that sort of place. But if you want something charming in the centre of town you can't go past the Central Springs Inn. Basic but cosy, be sure to request a room with a fireplace to maximise those winter feels. It can't be beaten on location either, with this central spot only a five-minute walk to the Convent Gallery and many other local sights.

If you want to treat yourself to the finer things in life, then head directly to the Lake House Hotel — this place has all of them. Check in and take a turn about your tastefully decorated room before heading out to the Salus Spa for a private treetop spa treatment before dinner. Later, sink into your it's-so-fluffy-I'm-gonna-die bed before drifting off to sleep tucked into what feels like one million thread count sheets.

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Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, s13n1 via Flickr

Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, s13n1 via Flickr

SEE AND DO

Kick things off with a walk through the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens. Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, you can wander the paths of the gardens and enjoy the towering trees, lush greenery, and calm of this special spot. Once you've had a good ramble, maybe grab a coffee at Wombat Hill House. Afterwards, you can get your art on with a visit to the Convent Gallery and adjoining gardens. Tread the old floorboards and enjoy local and international art hung and displayed in what is arguably one of the prettiest galleries around. Once you've soaked up all the culture, head out for a wander around the grounds and admire the range of bronze sculptures seamlessly interspersed with the stunning gardens and native plants.

Insert obligatory TLC joke about chasing waterfalls, and then head out to see this one. Right near Daylesford is Trentham Falls, one of the longest single drop falls in Victoria. Plunging a respectable 32 metres over basalt columns, these falls were forged by volcanoes five million years ago and are now a great spot for a walk and a few pics.

Hepburn Bathhouse

Hepburn Bathhouse

Haven't had enough nature? Good! Head to Lavandula, a pretty special spot just north of Daylesford. Wander the stunning European-style gardens and perhaps take a tour of the original 1850s stone farmhouse. Afterwards, nibble on a lavender scone and enjoy a glass of lavender lemonade for a fragrant sweet treat.

After all that exploring you need to take some time for yourself. This is pretty much expected in a region where the focus is on the revitalising mineral waters of the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve. Slip into a fluffy robe at the Hepburn Bathhouse and settle in for a day of utter bliss. A popular spot since 1895, it's pretty safe to say that the Hepburn Bathhouse has got this whole relaxation thing down pat. Choose from a range of spa therapies including facials, wraps and scrubs, or simply recline on an underwater spa couch and enjoy a hydro massage like it's something you do every day (we wish). And if you just don't want to leave, you don't have to. The spa offers some luxe accommodation too.   

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Cliffy's Emporium

Cliffy's Emporium

EAT

Hungry? You're in the right place. Start the day off with a relaxed breakfast at former general store, Cliffy's Emporium. Order anything else but the famous hash brown at your own peril (and very great risk of menu envy). Not that the whole breakfast offering isn't spectacular, but there's something very special about crispy hash lovingly crafted from local spuds and topped with Ballarat bacon, free-range eggs, and chipotle hollandaise. Breakfast here is just the thing to set you up for a day of rambling. Larder is also a great option for breakfast, brunch or lunch. You might enjoy quinoa potato cakes layered with house-cured gravlax, topped with a perfectly poached egg and labne, or maybe stop in for lunch and grab the Larder sharing plate piled high with all manner of house-made produce. 

After breakfast take a wander through the store and stock up on treats for a picnic lunch later on. Choose smallgoods from local salami legends Istra and load up on dips and cheeses while you're at it. And if you're the kind of person who plans your next meal while you're eating your current one then we could be friends. Also, it means that you can start thinking about dinner now. For fantastic food and wonderful wine, wedding-venue-favourites Lake House or Sault are your go-to options.

The Lake House

Lake House

This region boasts some truly magnificent produce, and you'll find it heavily and beautifully on show at Lake House. This twice-hatted spot under the direction of culinary legend Alla Wolf Tasker has been on the radar of Melbourne foodies for years — and it's not hard to see why. Enjoy the elegance of the venue, perched on the shores of Lake Daylesford, as you settle at your table, perhaps taking a seat at one of the spots against the expansive windows. If you have any restraint then you can try not to fill up on out of this world, crusty fresh-baked sourdough before your main meal arrives. Good luck.

Impressive is one word that might spring to mind as you approach Sault, a 100-acre property which comes complete with lake, manicured gardens and lavender fields. The restaurant is headed up by executive chef Santiago Nine-Fernandez, and offers a stunning array of tapas and mains crafted with excellent local fare. Enjoy the earnestness of sautéed mushroom, winter veg and Mahón cheese spheres bathed in a mushroom and bergamot consommé, or dive into tender Mt. Beckworth suckling pig served in perfect balance with an apple cider and chamomile jus. Sault is a member of the Daylesford Macedon Produce group, and use local products wherever possible so you can be assured that the food miles are minimal here.

Sault

Sault

If you're into classic French farmhouse cooking with a real honest vibe (and who isn't?) then Annie Smithers is your go-to. She's doing amazing things at du Fermier with her ethos of fresh, locally-sourced food. There's no set menu, it's simply Annie crafting an offering each week, which showcases the spoils of her garden and the finest meats and poultry from the region. You have to call to book and lunch runs Friday to Monday each week.

But if you're just after a good old pub meal then head for the red brick charm of The Farmers Arms. Grab a seat at the long wooden bar or one of the tables, order a drink and choose a meal from the kitchen of executive chef, Gav Anders. Plump for crispy roast pork belly or a tender steak and mash, or perhaps a warming mushroom risotto.

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Belvedere Social

Belvedere Social

DRINK

Passing Clouds is the winery to visit if you want to sample the drops that have turned the heads of sommeliers and wine lovers everywhere. Graeme Leith and Sue Mackinnon, friends and partners, started the winery in 1983 with a humble goal: to create the best wine in the world. And after winning gold at the Melbourne Wine Show with their 1982 Shiraz, they didn't look back. Passing Clouds wines are on the lists at Attica and Rockpool, and remain a firm quaffing and cellaring favourite among their loyal fanbase. Enjoy fragrant, cherry-red Pinot Noir and fine, crisp, citrusy Chardonnay at the cellar door before enjoying a relaxed lunch from the kitchen of head chef Cameron McKenzie. You might sample locally farmed meats paired with garden-fresh greens, or keep it simple with a wedge of cheese paired to perfection with their robust shiraz.

For a nice drink in town head for a warming cocktail at Belvedere Social. Perhaps you'll sample an Aphrodisiac espresso martini, or get amongst it with a FIGJAM, which sees applejack and Frangelico spiked with the eponymous preserve. Enjoy attentive and personable service from the staff who are happy to chat about their back bar or menu.

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Convent Gallery

Convent Gallery

ALRIGHT, LET'S DO THIS

Daylesford is 70-minute drive from Melbourne CBD travelling by car and just under an hour from Tullamarine Airport. The Hume, Calder and Western highways, and the Tullamarine Freeway, all lead to the region.

V/Line operates several services daily to Daylesford, via train to Woodend, Ballarat or Castlemaine, with a connecting coach service to Daylesford.

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Top image: Lake House. 

Published on August 01, 2016 by Laura Dawson

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