So gosh Daylesford gets cold! I hadn’t been for years and had very fond memories. The opportunity came up for a visit in July. Friends told me how cold it would be but I thought hey I lived in London for 13 years I know cold. But gosh 7 degrees in Daylesford feels like the equivalent of 0 degrees in London! And despite years of being told there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing I have not brought the right clothing. And it is school holidays. I do wonder what the deal is with school holidays is in Australia. It appears that it is always school holidays somewhere as the states all have different dates. Anytime I go away it is school holidays. Ok I have fully moved into first world problems here so shall now focus on the positive and the best things to do in Daylesford!
- Stay at Hotel Frangos
So I had a bit of an ill fated attempt to stay at a friend of a friend’s place in Daylesford but it turned out there were some major heating issues – combined with my lack of brownies training and very limited experience in making fires – that meant I needed to find an alternative asap. I remembered I had googled Hotel Frangos before deciding on the friend’s place as I had been to the restaurant years ago. Luckily they had a room and what a warm and cosy room it is! Sure it is not the biggest room but it did have a huge bathroom. The room also has a lot of furry soft furnishings – they are even on the walls! I couldn’t think of anything better in cold weather! Best of all they have a fantastic café downstairs – Café Koukla – which is where breakfast is served. It is also one of the only places to have wifi so it has also been a lovely place to sit and blog.
I had two brilliant breakfasts here – first morning was a very tasty omelette with giant hunks of boconcinni. Second morning was poached eggs, bacon and avocado on sourdough. Excellent bacon and the eggs tasted very fresh. As well as fresh oj and a fantastic coffee.
They are known for their woodfire pizzas. It has been far too cold to consider leaving the nice warm café in the evenings so night one I had a delicious pumpkin, feta, spinach and pine nut pizza delivered to my room. It took all of about 5 minutes to arrive and you could taste it was fresh from the oven. As this worked so well I did the same thing the second night and enjoyed an amazing meat falling off the bone lamb shoulder with a gravy/sauce that was heaven.
- Breakfast at Gourmet Larder
Although 2 of my 3 daylesford brekkies were at Koukla I hit this place my first morning in town after my very cold night! It was number one on yelp and with good reason. Great atmosphere and I enjoyed the veggie beans on toast with poached eggs. Great coffee too!
- Go for a few walks – but get some guidance
I love an exploratory walk but sometimes I really don’t pay the attention that I should when heading out. I did three “walks” over one afternoon. First up was Mount Franklin. I have drunk their water for so long it seemed rude not to visit when I was neaby. It is very well signed on the road towards Castlemaine. Follow the turn off and drive a ways up and you’ll get to a camping ground where you can park your car. It was very empty when I arrived – again reference the weather. There are beautiful fir trees all over the place begging for xmas decorations. Again the walk is signed and the guide is given of 0.5km and 20 minutes. It is quite steep particularly initially. But it is very beautiful. The mountain is actually an old volcano. I was a bit unsure as to whether or not I had reached the top. I actually had to google it whilst I was there! The “top” is actually a flat area covered in stones. It is not much of a view once you arrive – very much covered by trees. But it is a nice stroll up and it is always good to climb a well known brand!
Next up was heading back into Daylesford and hitting Wombat Hill and the Pioneer Memorial Tower. I love a view! I really should have paid more attention as I walked up Wombat Road. In my defence there was a very clear sign that I was heading up Wombat Hill and botanical gardens (see attached). It did end up a rather windy exploratory path to find the Tower. Which was of course located next to a car park! I should have come in from Wombat Hill House. Well at least I covered some extra ground and it was up hill so all good for the glutes! It is quite pretty and there is a decent view from the top of the tower.
I then decided to do a “proper” walk eg one that had a brochure from the tourist info office. This was walk #7 – Lake Daylesford to Tipperary Springs. I’m going to admit up front I didn’t actually get to Tipperary Springs. Not through lack of trying and not because I gave up – I actually think I walked further than the walk suggested. Anyway it is a nice kick off from Lake Daylesford – park near the Boathouse Café. It is then a very pleasant stroll along the lake passing mineral spring pumps which are currently out of action due to ecoli (which didn’t make me feel great about my visit to the springs the next day but all was fine).
Luckily it was cold enough that I wasn’t reliant on their water and they are kind of photogenic.
It was quite easy (eg no one could get lost) to get to the highway and cross over to the Twin Bridges picnic area. I then thought I was on the right track until I hit a t junction. From here I went up, down and around and finally decided to give in as it was starting to get dark and I couldn’t figure out any other options to get to the Tiperrary Springs. And I was really starting to feel like a wine.
I headed back on the other side of the lake as guided by my tourist office brochure. I checked my phone once back at the car and between the 3 walks and a few other small meanders I had managed to clock up 12km for the day and get a few nice pics. I therefore decided to focus on the journey rather than the destination of the springs I never actually reached…..
- Have a chocolate indulgence
I drove past the sign to the Chocolate Mill about 3 times before I headed in. It wasn’t my fault – no one could reasonably be expected to pass by a sign that elicits memories of the classic Gene Wilder Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chocolate river more than 3 times without turning right.
The Mill is about a 5 minute drive out of Daylesford heading towards Castlemaine. It is quite a big place. There is a lot going on outside which was not being used due to the cold weather – many tables and kid friendly playgrounds etc.
Inside is a store, tables, a café of sorts and the manufacturing facility which you can clearly see through the glass. Something about people in white coats dipping items into big vats of warm chocolate tends to make me hungry. There was a lot of product on display for purchase – bars, slabs, different formats – although you were advised not to touch any of them as the chocolate would apparently melt quite quickly in your warm hands.
I hit the chocolate counter to make a few new friends – shortlived but tasty friendships. I then ordered the hot chocolate – milk flavour. They are quite rightly best known for their hot chocolate. It was a sensation. I enjoyed being advised that I would need to use my spoon a lot to scoop up the chocolate from the bottom. I then learnt that getting a good portion of this chocolate on my spoon and then adding a dash of warm milk was the best way to enjoy the hot chocolate. This made for a high sugar, low volume, very tasty lunch!
Click here to Read Part Two of the Seven Must Dos in Daylesford
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Also published on Medium.