I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published February 2nd 2020
Victoria's Mineral Springs Capital
Daylesford in Central Victoria is perhaps best known for the regions natural mineral springs, roughly 80 % of all the mineral springs to be found in Victoria.
Magnificent Lake Daylesford and the Boathouse Cafe attract visitors from far and wide. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Wombat Flat as it was then was founded in 1852 with the discovery of gold. Although the early 'rush' returned poor yields shallow alluvial mining continued into the late 1850s and supported several thousand miners in the surrounding district.
Once the alluvial gold petered out a move was made to quartz-reef mining, which continued to provide reasonable returns until the early 1930s.
Hidden treasures abound in Daylesford's antique and second-hand stores. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Today, Daylesford and nearby Hepburn Springs are a magnet for visitors from all walks of life on day trips or weekend getaways, many seeking the relaxing and therapeutic properties of the mineral springs - the "taking of the waters".
The twin towns form the cornerstone of a life-style industry which centres on the spa and bathhouses but also features first-class accommodation and some outstanding cafes and restaurants. Indeed, Daylesford is home to one of Australia's truly great restaurants, the acclaimed Lake House. With its multiple Chefs Hats and fabulous reviews, the Lake House provides an amazing dining experience.
Hepburn General Store - just one of the buildings that give Daylesford/Hepburn Springs its olde-world charm. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Daylesford also enjoys a reputation as a centre for alternative living, a fact reflected in the number of tarot readers, psychics, massage therapists and exponents of all manner of rejuvenating processes, including aromatherapy, acupuncture, reflexology and shiatsu to be found in the district.
One of Daylesford's major attractions these days is the magnificent Lake Daylesford. The idea of creating a lake in Daylesford was considered several times from the late 1890s, the original intention being to provide the town with hydro-electric power, but 30-years passed before construction actually commenced. It's located right on the edge of town, on the site of the original 1851 gold diggings. When the diggers moved on the Chinese moved in creating extensive market gardens and building a Joss House, only to have them removed when the excavation of the lake commenced in 1929.
Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve is a family-fun favourite and home to many of the mineral springs that make the district famous. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Popular with canoeists and swimmers the lake is circumnavigated by the 2.9-Kilometre long 'Peace Mile' walking trail and the Boathouse Café, right on the water's edge, is a great spot for a snack or light lunch.
A recognised festival centre Daylesford hosts the Lavendula Harvest Festival each January, CHILLOUT, Australia's longest-running and largest LGBTI gay pride celebration over the March Labour Day long-weekend, Harvest Festival Week in May and the Hepburn Springs Swiss-Italian Festival, returning in October 2020 after a two-year absence.
Train enthusiasts will love the Daylesford Spa Country Railway operating from the towns 1882 heritage-listed station and running 1-hour return trips to nearby Musk and Bullarto each Sunday, as well as the Silver Streak dinner service on the first Saturday of each month.
Seventy-seven winding steps will get you to the top of the Pioneers Memorial Tower on Daylesford's Wombat Hill. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
There's plenty of shopping to be had at places like the Mill Markets, Artdeco in Vincent Street, the Daylesford Apothecary in Howe Street and the Chocolate Mill at Nearby Mt Franklin.
A must-see attraction is the Convent Gallery on Daly Street. Originally an 1860's private residence it served as the Holy Cross Convent from 1891 to 1905 when a boarding school for girls was added. Today it comprises a gallery, café, bar, museum, a restored chapel, wedding venue and gardens that attract more than 200,000 visitors a year.
Daylesford Railway Station, Circa 1880, is home to the Daylesford Spa Country tourist railway. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Just a 5-minute drive from the centre of town Jubilee Lake offers great swimming, boating & fishing and golfers will find a couple of challenging courses at Hepburn Springs and nearby Trentham.
If it's a walk in the park you're after head to the heritage-listed Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. Set atop an extinct volcano, the garden's attractions include spectacular views from the Pioneers Memorial Tower, shaded paths, picnic areas and the Wombat Hill House Café.
The Convent Gallery was built in the 1860's, originally the home of the districts Gold Commissioner and named Blarney Castle. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Daylesford is a classic gold-fields town and really does lend itself to a very relaxed and enjoyable getaway with its unique alternative lifestyle appeal, great scenery, historic buildings and a host of local attractions.
Getting There …..
Daylesford is 120-Kilometres west of Melbourne, just over a 90-minute drive via Bacchus Marsh and Ballan or about the same via the Calder Freeway, Woodend and Tylden.
You'll find Daylesford in the heart of Victoria's Central Goldfields Region. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Why? Take time out to enjoy all the wonders of Daylesford from the reviatlising therapies of the mineral springs to the magnificent lake, fine dining, goldfields history and a host of alternative lifestyle options.
When:Anytime is a great time to visit Daylesford but be mindful of the weather. The region experiences extremes at both ends of the spectrum, very cold in winter with frequent snow falls and red hot summers often accompanied by extreme fire danger.
Phone:Daylesford Regional Visitor Information Centre 1800 454 891