VIC Weekender: Where To Eat, Stay And Play In Daylesford
Just a 75-minute drive from Tullamarine Airport, the pretty country town of Daylesford may be one of the best luxury weekend getaway destinations in Australia.
This is where the city meets the country with great coffee and gourmet delights on offer, but where the locals still have time to greet you with a smile.
With natural hot springs, top-notch restaurants, wineries, great shopping, lovely lakes and delightful country accommodation, not to mention hamlets like Kyneton, Trentham and Woodend nearby, it’s easy to spend a few days exploring.
Here are some highlights not to be missed:
What to do in Daylesford
Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are alive with top-notch pubs and cafés, but there are lots of other options when it comes to having fun – including a trip out to the nearby village of Musk, where visitors can taste a range of artisan drinks made with English heritage cider apples at Daylesford Cider or enjoy a wine tasting at Passing Clouds, where the long lunches feasting on meats cooked over hot coals are legendary.
Visitors can sample wines from most of the local producers including boutique producers Latta Vino and North, at Wine and the Country, a chic little wine bar in the centre of Daylesford.
The Convent Gallery, housed in a historic 19th century mansion, features three levels of local, national and international art as well as an arts and sculpture park.
Shoppers will enjoy browsing several stores with arty collectables and homewares, while The Amazing Mill Markets lease space to hundreds of small dealers and are an ideal spot to spend a couple of hours. Chances are you’ll come away with an antique LP or some interesting jewellery.
There is a good day to be spent exploring the neighbouring wineries of the Macedon Ranges, including Cobaw Ridge, Hanging Rock, Knight’s Granite Hills and Curly Flat.
Where to eat and drink in Daylesford
Daylesford’s emergence on Australia’s gourmet radar is largely thanks to Alla Wolf-Tasker and her artist husband Allan. The couple stumbled upon a piece of unused, rubbish-strewn land overlooking an underutilised lake and saw immense potential.
That overgrown tip soon emerged as The Lake House, one of Australia’s first country chic hotels. Wolf-Tasker quickly built a reputation as a formidable cook and promoter of rural produce. The accommodation earned two hats from the Good Food Guide 2019 but is just one of several superb dining destinations.
The Argus Dining Room at Peppers Hepburn Springs, long-time gastro pub favourite the Farmers Arms and country chic Mercato are three long-time favourites, but it is also worth going on a voyage of discovery.
More recent gourmet arrivals include Bistro Terroir, where talented young chef Matt Carnell is turning out French classics in a stylish setting, the adventurous food of chef Caliopi Buck at Frank and Connie’s at Hepburn Springs and the casual Japanese at Sakana, which replaced local hotspotKazuki’s.
Here you’ll find modern and innovative Japanese dishes along with a range of sakes and a serious wine list left from its previous incarnation.
Where to stay in Daylesford
The Lake House boasts 33 beautiful rooms and suites in either a waterfront or garden lodge setting. Six acres of country gardens extend down to the waters of Lake Daylesford and provide guests with immediate access to the lake shore and the Wombat State Forest beyond. There’s an infinity pool and fabulous lake views.
There are also dozens of country cottages and B&Bs to choose from, but it pays to book in advance to secure the best rooms as Daylesford can be hugely popular at weekends.
Clifftop at Hepburn is ideal for those looking for self-contained accommodation. It has magnificent views, super-comfortable beds, luxe furnishings and a range of gourmet treats, including local chocolates.
Choose your room carefully. You may prefer having your own full-sized pinball machine, a two-person day bed that doubles as a swing, or an in-house Spotify system. Four new villas built in former shipping containers are known as Solitude and comprise Paris, Vienna, Venice and Rome, all dramatic and stylistically different.
If you’re after a unique experience, the award-winning Shizuka Ryokan Japanese Country Spa and Wellness Retreat in Hepburn Springs offers traditional accommodation, gourmet cuisine, spa treatments, as well as holistic wellness and health treatments.
For those looking for stylish older-style comfort should consider Wentworth House, a local cottage beautifully restored by local designer Jessica Holmes, who along with her husband is working to create the Daylesford Brewing facility in town.
More traditional hotel accommodation can be found at Peppers at Hepburn Springs, which has a laidback ambience, while Hotel Frangos in the centre of Daylesford has rooms with a funky European bordello vibe.
The Daylesford Hotel in town has upmarket country-style rooms, a selection of local wines and beers (even a local gin and tonic combo) and good-value pub grub. It is a terrific budget option for those who’d rather spend their money on wine and food.
(Lead image: Passing Clouds / supplied)
Published 31 July, 2019