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Published August 21st 2021
Find all the secret spots to go in Daylesford
Like most Victorians, I've been to Daylesford countless times. The places I normally recommend are well known. Such as the gorgeous walk around Daylesford Lake,, cocktails at Hotel Frangos for the vibe and the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens sited on top of an extinct volcano with its incredible cafe of baked delights decorated with flowers. I also recommend taking the well-signposted drive around these gardens because of the sensational views over Daylesford. Also head to The Mill Markets for all things vintage. And the Convent, of course, for art, a historical building, and more gorgeous gardens.
But due to travel restrictions, we are all retracing our steps to local places such as Daylesford as it's still tricky travelling further afield. And the trick is to find new things to do in places we have been to before so we can have a whole new adventure. So here's what I did during an overnight stay. Some places might also be new to you as well.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to an ABC history broadcast about three little boys who got lost were the bush in 1867 and never returned.
The story was so compelling, I pulled over so I could continue listening. Over 150 years ago, these little boys William Graham, 6 1/2, his brother Thomas, 4, and their friend Arthur Burman, 5, set off in search of some goats, crossing Wombat Creek and heading towards Muskvale.
What resonated with me was that my daughter and friend did something similar when they were aged 4. I called them and realised they somehow managed to climb a chair, open the front door, and go wandering. Luckily, I found them at my mother's house about 15 minutes walk away, but they had crossed roads and navigated Richmond's alleyways to get there. They said they had been puppy hunting. I wonder whether this obsession with animal hunting is a stage that a lot of kids go through.
When these Daylesford boys didn't return for lunch or dinner, their fathers and finally the whole community, some 700 people, were out searching for them. They searched for six weeks until it was obvious that the boys could no longer be alive given the freezing conditions. The boys' story gripped the colony and made newspaper headlines around the world.
About three months later, a dog brought a boot to his master - gruesomely, it still had a child's foot inside.
Eventually, they tracked down the bodies. The boys had tried to shelter from the cold in a hollow log. They were found with the older brother's arms wrapped around his younger siblings to keep him warm. And this is the way their parents buried them in each other's arms.
You can do a walk called The Three Lost Children's Walk . Or part of it as these little boys walked 15 km. There are also a couple of memorials to the boys in town. The one I drove to was in Musk, just outside town on a country track. There are signposts to it and it is close to where their bodies were found.
It is beautifully tended and surrounded by large pink-purposefully planted. Many people over the years have come to pay their respects and left messages, poems, and sadly, little toys.
From the monument, I decided to take the scenic route to return to Daylesford. You'll see it marked as the 'scenic route." For a few moments, I was alarmed when my phone lost its signal and therefore Google Maps, and I had no sense of where I was. I, too, was lost.
It's a charming country road, and I lost count of the animals I saw. A lumbering wombat, a darting rabbit, pink galahs, and to my shock, munching grass near the country railway, a small group of baby goats. Just what those little boys were looking for.
Sorry, if you already know about this one but it was new to me, so perhaps also new to others. Being a few minutes outside of Daylesford towards Musk, it is not something you stumble on when you visit Daylesford.
Firstly it is in a charming building and English-style tavern cellar-door set in amongst landscaped gardens with views up to the original orchard, planted in 2003. You can sit outside under umbrellas in a rustic courtyard during summer or cosey seating inside in the stunning interiors when it's cold.
The ciders are made from heritage apples - mostly English varieties.
Lunch is available from Friday to Monday.
I loved the cider paddles. These consist of 7 different cider samples, which change throughout the season.
The great thing is that the seven tastes only add up to around two standard drinks if you are driving.
I brought home a bottle of Sweet Coppin, my personal favorite.
Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt Cliffys Daylesford
You will know Cliffys if you are a foodie as it's written up in The Age Good Food. But as I saw lots of tourists in the main street of Daylesford reading menus on cafe windows and wondering where to go for brunch, then it's not known to most tourists.
Cliffys is at 30 Raglan Street, a 10-minute walk back from the main drag. There's a great vibe if you love rustic charm. Back in the 1950s, it was a general store famous for an extraordinary range of produce, groceries and farm supplies crammed into a rustic timber and corrugated iron building.
They've left that rustic appearance with the old BushellsTea signage, biscuit boxes, and quaint but not particularly comfortable outside iron seating. Worth it for the wonderful blues music they have in the background. And I am sure the seats are more comfortable inside.
The coffee is incredible and the dishes are all made from local produce. Plus, there are many goodies you can stock up on to bring home, such as local cheese, meat, eggs, olive oil, honey, and house-baked bread. I had an omelette, which doesn't sound much, until I tell you it came with three cheese, confit garlic, an array of wonderful green herbs including fresh dill, and the bread was sourdough.
Farmers Arms Art Suites
Dining room - Farmers Arms Hotel - photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
I stayed at one of the Farmers Arms Art Suites as there was a good deal on Luxury Escapes. The accommodation looked amazing, plus I knew the 1857 pub was famous for its meals. And this deal offered a glass of wine or beer, canapes, and $15 off the meal per person.
Dining room - Farmers Arms Hotel - photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
And yes, the meal was excellent. However, you need to book a dinner spot before arriving as they get really busy. They don't book it for you just because you have a voucher.
The accommodation was fine and in a good-sized room with a modern bathroom and well decorated. Lots of plush velvet and gold furniture. Nice to have snacks included and a free mini-bar with a few basics items such as a beer, soft drink, and water. There was also pod coffee, Twinings tea, Netflix, and L'Occitane toiletries.
Ask not to be put in Room 10, as it is too close to the road noise, although it dies down between 10 pm and 6 am.
Be aware these are motel rooms not suites but the additions and furnishings lift their profile. However, what surprised me was that the paintings and the furniture were not as in the photos. When I walked in, it felt like walking into a doll's house as the couches were totally out of proportion with the size and height of the mighty king-sized bed. The couches would be perfect for hobbits.
I put the couch next to the bed to show the relative sizes. Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
Pancho was a new-to-me spot for breakfast. At the quieter end of Daylesford's main drag, I doubt whether it is known to all. Serving coffee by Wide Open Road and inventive dishes such as golden syrup cinnamon porridge with roast pear, quince yoghurt, linseed, and Anzac biscuit crumb. 117 Vincent Street, Daylesford.
My Pancho breakfast -APPLE & BUCKWHEAT FRITTERS fried apple dumplings with roasted rhubarb, honey & rosemary syrup, vanilla bean ice cream and pecan crumb
Down the road in Hepburn Springs is Hotel Bellinzona. I'd read it was a good place for cake and coffee and it certainly was! The revamped and reopened Virgin Cafe has a pastry chef making all the gorgeous cakes and slices. A lovely outside courtyard where you sit. Inside it is a cafe, also a art gallery with lots of culinary delights from regional Victoria.
*The Greater City of Bendigo, the area of which stretches down to Daylesford, became a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2019. This is reflected in all the great food in the region.