A small cooler bag might seem an unusual travel accessory but when planning a visit to the Victorian town of Daylesford, it’s a travel essential. Surrounded by thousands of hectares of State Forest, Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs have long been recognized as Australia’s twin wellness hubs but you can also stop by farm gates and do the weekly shopping while you’re there. Handy.
“People care about sustainable agriculture in Daylesford. Carla Meurs and Ann Marie Monda’s organic goat herd are producing award-winning Holy Goat cheeses. There’s bio-dynamic lamb and Wagyu beef and marvelous seasonal organic vegies,” enthused long-time resident Alla Wolf-Tasker, managing director of the renowned Lake House hotel, restaurant and spa.
Soaking it up in a hot water mineral tub amongst the treetops, something of an award-winning specialty at Lake House’s Salus spa, it’s a neat fit in a place that nourishes both body and soul. Organic growers produce herbs that add healing aromatics to scrubs and oils to buff and polish the personal bodywork while during vintage, grape skins are employed in anti-oxidant treatments. Amongst Daylesford’s welter of wellness temples, you can get your chakras balanced, immerse yourself at an authentic Japanese country spa or float in a toastie-warm salt pool – nurturing escapes during Melbourne’s chilly winter months.
But it’s the region’s mineral springs that are the lubricant of choice for restorative health and tucked into a deep creek gully, seventy springs bubble beneath Wombat State Forest’s dense bush land.
“My father was a Russian migrant. He and other Europeans would enjoy the therapeutic value of the rusty, old Hepburn Springs Bathhouse,” said Alla Wolf-Tasker recalling her father returning home clattering a dozen bottles of natural mineral water filled from the pump. Now with its sleek $10.6 million makeover, Australia’s only century plus continuously operating bathhouse has itself been revitalized and more than thirty wet and dry treatment rooms have transformed ‘taking the waters’ into a luxurious 21st century day spa sanctuary.
Immersing ourselves in the Sanctuary’s bubbling pool at Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, vast angled floor-to-ceiling windows overlook straggly acacias where a wallaby is lunching on grassland. It’s a Friday, the weekend visitors are yet to descend, and we have it almost to ourselves before heading off to be exfoliated, wrapped, massaged and moisturized into oblivion. What a way to go!
Browsing through Daylesford’s tasty little pocket guide reveals a pristine rural environment that’s home to enough farm gates to fill the said cooler bag. There are local weekend markets, organic berries at Trewhella Farm, just-picked vegies at Fernleigh Farms and bio-dynamically farmed lamb at Powlett Hill and Tuki Springs where they also smoke a mean trout. Every local butcher’s recipe for bull boar sausages is a closely guarded secret while near the tiny hamlet of Musk, traditional European hams, proscuitto, salamis and sausages have become a second generation Jurcan family business.
Lined with health food stores and lifestyle boutiques, Daylesford’s Vincent Street is filled with tempting diversions including hand-made chocolates 2die4 at the Viennese-style coffee house Sweet Decadence. And if strolling around the lake, farm gate shopping and soaking it up in a spa doesn’t leave time to tour the wineries, just sit back in your restaurant of choice and tuck into a local gastronomic tour-de-force with matching wines.
Daylesford is an easy 90 minute drive from Melbourne or 60 minutes from Melbourne Airport.
Lake House is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World: www.lakehouse.com.au
Saltus Luxury Accommodation, 3 sublime villas set in natural bush land at 119 Main Road, Hepburn Springs. www.saltus.com.au
Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa: www.hepburnbathhouse.com
For information on farm gates, markets and Daylesford Macedon produce: www.dmproduce.com.au
For general tourism information go to www.visitvictoria.com
Please look above at In The Picture and get a pictorial flavour of this month’s edition.