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Published November 28th 2012
Daylesford's hidden wonderland
Mineral springs and luxurious day spas are just a few things Daylesford is noted for. With a population of 3,000, the central Victorian town boasts a cosy community, but numbers swell as tourists flock to the area. Gourmet restaurants and quirky cafes line the streets. However, just a ten minute walk from the town centre is a natural wonderland that goes commonly unnoticed
The Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens contain over ten hectares of wildlife. The hill is an extinct volcano, its bumpy terrain giving the site a natural and wild feel. A lovely place to visit any time of year, the gardens are at their peak in Spring. At this stage visitors can see the cherry-blossoms in full bloom as well as numerous flowerbeds of hydrangeas, petunias and pansies.
The gardens are also home to a thriving fernery. The lush green leaves tower over, blocking out the rest of the gardens. Walking the curved path through this maze of tropical plants gives the illusion of a rainforest. Especially in winter, when the ferns glisten with rain; however, it's the perfect place for a walk at any time of year.
A scenic drive follows the perimeter of the gardens, with breathtaking views of the countryside. It winds its way around the old volcano before making its way to the top of the hill. Here sits the Pioneer's Memorial Tower, once an aircraft observation station, it now serves as a place for tourists to survey the surrounding wildlife. It's well worth making the 100-step climb in summer, when the local ladybirds retreat to the tower for aestivation.
Further down the hill is the Alf Headland Conservatory which holds the annual begonia display. Surrounding the conservatory is a sublime picnic area, however, if it's not picnic weather the Wombat Hill Cafe is only a brief walk away.
The cafe includes both inside and outside dining areas, Inside provides communal tables and lounge spaces, the wooden floors and antique furniture creating a fresh and earthy feel. The outside area is situated inside a greenhouse-like room, The glass walls and roof create stunning views of the surrounding wildlife.
Heavenly mashed potato with meatballs at Wombat Hill Cafe
As well as the delightful atmosphere, the Wombat Hill cafe prides itself on an impressive and affordable menu. From $15 to $30 a meal, each dish tastes of fresh and local produce. Drinks include the locally owned Hepburn Springs flavored mineral water, and staff are happy to talk to you about vegan and gluten-free options.
Josefine enjoys a toastie from the kid's menu at Wombat Hill Cafe
The Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens are a listed heritage site and by far one of the most beautiful areas in central Victoria. It's the perfect place for a nature lover, or a picnic with the kids. If you're planning a trip to Daylesford over the summer break be sure to visit this magical place.