There are many reasons to visit County Victoria – should you even need one. But, when it comes to romantic getaways, a country inspired adventure or just a spa retreat – Daylesford and Hepburn Springs has you covered on all fronts.
Located right within reach of some of Victoria’s most historic Gold Rush towns, including the townships of Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Clunes and Creswick; Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are truly wonderful places to explore no matter what your age or reasons for visiting.
The Daylesford Township
Daylesford was first established in 1852 following the discovery of gold within the nearby Clunes region by a veteran of the Californian gold rush, James Esmond in 1850. It wasn’t until 1851 when gold was officially found in what we now know as Ballarat, which resulted in the Victorian gold rush boom. This boom established many gold mining towns within the region, as miners arrived in their droves to try their luck at striking it rich.
In more recent times however, Daylesford has been known as the site of Australia’s largest natural mineral springs, which lay a few kilometers away in Hepburn Springs – and for primarily being one of the LGBT’s biggest communities within Australia.
Daylesford is a charming town. It has a bustling but historic main street filled with specialty stores, locally made products and quality eats for those not traveling here to visit the springs. Compared to other country towns in the area, Daylesford has really made itself known to visitors and locals alike over the past decade and it’s only continuing to grow in popularity as a result.
A great time of year to head this way is during the festive season and new year period – when this town really goes all out to celebrate. I was there to ring in the new year, which saw a smorgasbord of food options, countless activities for the kids – including a blow up slide and castle, old fashioned games, hay bales and a petting zoo. The real highlight for all however was the wood chopping competition which saw many a man chopping his way through a log in as little amount of swings as possible. It was very Aussie indeed.
In the later PM hours, there was a new years parade through the main street; a screening of the Aussie film “The Dressmaker” which stars Kate Winslet; and of course fireworks to ring in midnight over the Daylesford Lake. For a small country town, they really made the Daylesford new year celebrations an interesting one for all which was fantastic.
On new years eve, I ate dinner at one of the restaurants located in the Daylesford main street called Koukla. It was a rustic pizzeria with outdoor seating and lovely hanging vines which added to the European vibe. I ordered a ham and pineapple pizza and lemon lime and bitters (a typical Aussie soft drink) which were both really good.
I also stopped by the Daylesford Bakery for a meat pie before I got back on the road and it was one of the most delicious pies I have ever eaten. There are a few bakeries here, so be sure to stop at the right one (which is sort of opposite the Town Hall part of the street.) A meat pie in all it’s mince meat, gravy and pastry is a must from any bakery in Australia, but here in particular. Just delicious.
Accommodation In Hepburn Springs
Being in spa country, it is really worth staying somewhere nice with charm. Upon researching places, its hard to overlook the stunning Grange Bellinzona. This Edwardian country retreat is a highlight for a weekend or a more elaborate affair with conferences and weddings held here year round.
The price of the Bellinzona was very much value for money for what you receive – even more if you can find availability on discounted booking sites as well. I scored a great deal for $178 which included a full breakfast and full use of the grounds and amenities including the gym and indoor pool. The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable. I was lucky enough to have a view of the road and trees the hotel front faces onto; which was really lovely seeing the shadows of the leaves moving onto the outdoor balcony walkways.
Taking a stroll around the grounds makes this a very relaxing escape to immerse yourself in, with secret gardens, plenty of outdoor seating and ‘nature framing’ viewpoints of the building from the back garden area. The views of the Wombat Forest from the second level looking out, makes you feel like you’re in your own little hideaway too. This place is lovely from every angle.
Bellinzona has a pool room with billiards and indoor seating for those wanting to relax inside, as well as wine tastings starting from 1pm Thursday-Sunday (currently) which feature locally grown wines from places including Macedon and Bendigo. For 6 tastings, it is only $5, or free if you purchase a bottle to drink.
Bellinzona’s included breakfast was full of variety and quite good quality. I was really impressed with all the options. I am a sucker for hashbrowns though – and was sure to eat more than a few with my meal. (Don’t judge!)
I will most definitely return here for another stay. Having a place like this to come home to no matter what brings you to Daylesford and the Hepburn Springs just makes it all that much more enjoyable.
Hepburn Springs Bathhouse & Spa
A trip to Daylesford for most visitors does entail a detour to the Hepburn Springs Bathhouse and Spa. When looking into the options that the spa has, it is not hard to want to take part in it all. The Hepburn Springs Bathhouse is an indoor spa, with some outdoor areas in the Sanctuary, with a variety of mineral and temperature bathing options.
Needing to begin 2018 on a relaxed foot, I opted for the Sanctuary Mineral Bathing ticket, which gave me access into the private sanctuary baths as well as the public bathhouse, which had two pools. My ticket also included free locker hire, a towel and a bathrobe to use during my visit.
Considering the price of the public bathhouse for adults ranges from $37-$47 depending on the day you visit, (Tuesday to Thursday are the cheaper options); the full access Sanctuary ticket is only $99 (or $79 if you choose to take an Early Bird or Twilight visit on applicable days.) I wanted to really enjoy myself and knew that the Sanctuary looked too good to pass up and I am so glad I did.
Hepburn Springs Bathhouse Sanctuary
The Hepburn Springs Sanctuary ticket is valid for anyone aged 16 years and older. During my visit on new years day, it wasn’t very busy at around 10am when I arrived which ensured that myself and the 15-20 or so other people inside this area were able to really enjoy and relax without being crowded.
The Sanctuary gave me access to a number of spas including a salt water pool which was good for all your stiff joints or aches and pains; a colder temperature cool down pool; a steam room; a spa pool with hydro jets, and an outdoor creekside bathing pool.
The spa pool and the outdoor creekside bathing pools were my favourite; and highlighted to me just how incredible The Sanctuary really is.
Daylesford has so much on offer as you can see.
Whether it is a spa weekend, or a historic walk through Victoria – one really can’t go wrong here. I can’t wait to return to do it all again soon.