48 perfect hours in Hepburn Springs Victoria
In central Victoria there is the popular tourist retreat Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. A country town built and popularised by its natural mineral water springs. People have flocked here for almost a century to bathe and drink the waters that have been claimed to aid in recovery, relaxation and general wellbeing.
The area has grown and flourished with this influx of regular tourists, and a quaint township has emerged to cater for their needs, with there now being plenty of luxury/B&B accommodation, gourmet food and entertainment available.
Luckily for me this area is my second home. I’ve spent many happy holidays here and now my family have a permanent residence here so I can enjoy the area all year round.
Let me share with you a perfect itinerary for exploring the area.
48 hours to go…
Make the quick 70-minute drive from Melbourne to Daylesford in the early evening. The freeway has made this an easy and comfortable drive with lots of optional stopover points- i.e. Ballan, Woodend.
Arrive in time for a leisurely counter dinner at the Daylesford Hotel. This local pub has renovated and rejuvenated its menu for visitors and locals wanting delicious fresh meal with an excellent wine menu. Comfy leather chairs, wooden furniture and coloured headlight windows all add to the ambience of this place. The menu is more extensive than your tradition pub fare, with a range of burgers and grazing platters in addition to the usual suspects you’d expect to find- fish and chips, steak and chicken parmigiana. The fish and chips are particularly delicious- lightly battered white flesh fish, crispy potato chips, creamy tangy tartare sauce, lettuce with dill dressing and my personal favourite a pickled onion!
45 hours to go…
The area has a bountiful supply of sweet B&Bs or lux resorts to choose from. Personally I’m a fan of the quaint cottages on offer in the B&B category, as this location is perfect for snuggling up in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine. Other great options include the indulgent Peppers resort where the rooms are charmingly decorated and look out over the ornate gardens. They have an in-house mineral spa retreat, and for large groups you can stay in the four bedroom Tuscan styled heritage listed Villa Parma. Other usual options include the Shizuka Ryokan for a taste of traditional Japanese hospitality in the heart of the minerals district.
32 hours to go…
Spend the morning wandering the shopping area of Vincent Street, which is lined with art galleries, clothes and nick-knack shops. There are many cafes and restaurants along this strip; therefore it makes a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely breakfast
Larder is a top spot to grab a newspaper and relax over a cup of artisan coffee. They take their coffee seriously here and you can tell- the coffee is excellent. Their breakfast menu includes items such as Spanish baked eggs, vegetarian beans and eggs with sides. I selected the Larder B.L.A.T, which was the perfect combo of crispy bacon, crunchy lettuce, smashed avocado, tomato and lots of mayonnaise. It was filling and delicious! My partner had perfectly cooked scrambled eggs with smashed avocado and bacon and he was very satisfied with his choice.
After a filling breakfast head to Hepburn Springs Bath house area for a walk along the springs. Every few hundred meters there is a different spring with a pump where you can taste the mineral water. Each spring will taste slightly different according to the minerals in it. It’s a fun and relaxing way to wander along the track.
Once you’ve had enough of walking the best to stop is the Hepburn Springs Bathhouse and Spa. Visitors for the past hundred years have flocked to the region to sample and bathe in these magical waters. The bathhouse was renovated in the past few years and is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. For those serious bathers you can select to enter the Sanctuary area (not included in the general Bathhouse admission) for access to a relaxation pool, an Aroma steam room and spa couched (reclining frames which suspend in the pool to get the jets from the perfect angles). Both areas have large windows looking out over the local landscape.
26 hours to go…
In the late afternoon venture in search of afternoon tea. The Lavendula Lavender Farm on the outskirts of town is a perfect selection. Its buildings are constructed in a classic Italian style and the farm is filled with acres of lavender. It’s a lovely spot to wonder the property in any weather condition.
The cafe/La Trattoria is open to serve lunches and local wines, but it is the lavender scones with raspberry jam and cream that are the perfect selection. Now just a hint that the servings are huge so one plate will happily fill two. You can sit underneath the trees looking out of the fields with a cup of tea or a glass of sparkling. It’s the ideal chill-out spot to continue your relaxing afternoon.
Later in the evening hit up Jimmy’s Bar on Vincent Street. Located in the famous Frango and Frango building this is one of the chic new additions to the Daylesford cuisine market. Sitting around large wooden or marble tables surrounded with giant mirrors this is one of the classiest places to eat. The grazing plate features the best in locally sourced produce and perfectly accompanies the impressive local and international wine list. (Note: the staff here are passionate about their produce and will happily chat to you about the wine list to find a perfect pairing) The lamb shank with mashed potato and greens for the main meals was delicious, although I was tempted by the ricotta gnocchi.
After such a relaxing day filled with great food you should happily drift of to sleep.
10 hours to go…
If you a visiting on the weekend you’ll be able to catch the famous local market on the Sunday (on til 2pm). Held in the area around the old train station you will find amazing produce from handmade sweets, home grown veggies, bread and pastries. Amongst all the food you’ll also find an eclectic mix of bric-a-brac, clothing, makeup and candles. My personal favorite stalls here are the Hungarian strudel stall (make sure to pick up a raspberry and cheese one), the TrueLoveandCandles stall which make the most fragrant and long lasting soy candles you’ll find, and then a jar of the best honey I’ve ever tasted from Des O’Toole.
There are plenty of food options at the market including fresh juices, gourmet hot dogs and mini pancakes. However I would suggest walking down the road to Cliffys. This place is a food institution where people come to enjoy delicious snacks at any time of day. You want to relax with a wine and cheese board? Come here. You want coffee and cake? Come here! Their breakfast and lunch menu are basic and wholesome- their bacon and eggs with a perfect coffee will hit the spot nicely!
6 hours to go…
To continue the wandering vibe of the day drive down to Lake Daylesford where you can enjoy a wonder around the lake and then lose yourself in the Book Barn. This amazing second hand bookstore is a great place to spend time flicking through old books. If you wish to continue the market tour then the Market Mill in Hepburn is a huge indoor market that is open daily. Things here will be on the pricier side but there are many hidden treasures to be found.
1 hour to go…
Before heading back to Melbourne you must visit Gallery Diner. This is a very recent addition to the Vincent street shops. This American style diner specialised in burgers and sticky ribs. Although it was the smell of the ribs that brought us in here, my partner and I both enjoyed hamburgers. My burger ‘The big Kahuna’ was gigantic and filled with beetroot, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon and a beef patty! All washed down with a cold beer, a bowl of perfect fries and a summer slaw salad- it couldn’t get much better. The menu here also has flavoured moonshines, chocolate sundaes and milkshakes that I would have had if I weren’t so full!
The Daylesford and Hepburn Springs area is a wonderful weekend away spot where you can rest, relax and eat amazing food. Considering how close it is to Melbourne it really is a must visit place. Your stomach will thank you!