When I lived in Melbourne, Daylesford was one of my favourite weekend getaways. The region is famous for its hot springs at Hepburn and the beautiful surrounding land. The town of Daylesford is super cute – filled with antique shops and delicious cafes and restaurants. There are many walks in the region and lots of interesting areas to explore.
Located just over a one hour drive from Melbourne, it is the perfect spot for a Daylesford Spa weekend! The last time I went it was July and it was rather cold!!!! However, most things were still open and there were still loads to do making it a great spot to visit year-round.
Daylesford Spa – How to Get There and Get Around
The nearest main airport for Daylesford Victoria is Melbourne Airport.
The best option for travelling from Melbourne to Daylesford is to hire a car. The area is best explored by car.
There are buses available but do check how direct they are. Daylesford and Hepburn do not have a train station. The closest main station is Ballarat.
Looking for another great weekend away from Melbourne? Check out this post on Driving the Ocean Road.
1. Daylesford Victoria – Where to Stay
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 Hotel Frangos had a room and what a warm and cosy room it was! Sure it is not the biggest room but it did have a huge bathroom. The room at Hotel Frangos Daylesford 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. Cafe Koukla 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 at Hotel Frangos – the first morning was a very tasty omelet with giant hunks of bocconcini. The second morning was poached eggs, bacon and avocado on sourdough. The bacon was delicious and the eggs tasted very fresh. There was also fresh orange juice and a fantastic coffee.
Cafe Koukla is known for their woodfire pizzas. It was 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 upstairs in Hotel Frangos. 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 amazing meat falling off the bone lamb shoulder with a gravy/sauce that was heaven.
For a really special experience check in to The Lake House. This stunning property was one of the original boutique hotels and continues to be an outstanding accommodation experience. Its also very well known for its excellent restaurant. If you’re not staying at The Lakehouse do try to have a meal there.
For a great value option in the middle of town check out the Central Springs Inn.
The town of Hepburn Springs is a five-minute drive from Daylesford – and home of the Hepburn Springs Spa. Try The Dudley for a quintessential boutique hotel experience
For something different go Japanese and stay at the Shizuka Ryokan Japanese Country Spa Retreat.
2. Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend – Breakfast at Gourmet Larder
Although 2 of my 3 Daylesford brekkies were at Koukla I hit Gourmet Larder my first morning in town. It was number one on Yelp and with good reason. Gourmet Larder Daylesford has a great atmosphere and I enjoyed the veggie beans on toast with poached eggs. Great coffee too!
⇒ Love brunch? Check out my post on the Best Brunch Places in Melbourne.
3. Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend – Go Walking
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 nearby.
Mount Franklin is very well signed on the road towards Castlemaine. Follow the turn-off and you’ll soon get to a camping ground where you can park your car. The car park for Mount Franklin was very empty when I arrived – possibly because it was July.
There are beautiful fir trees all over the place begging for Xmas decorations. Again the walk to Mount Franklin is signed and the guide is given of 0.5km and 20 minutes. The walk is quite steep, particularly initially, but it is very beautiful. Mount Franklin Daylesford is actually an old volcano.
I was a bit unsure as to whether or not I had reached the top of Mount Franklin. I actually had to google it whilst I was there! The “top” of the mountain 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 Mount Franklin and it is always good to climb a well-known brand!
Next up was heading back into the town of Daylesford and hitting Wombat Hill and the Pioneer Memorial Tower. I do 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 to the botanical gardens (see attached). It did end up a rather windy exploratory path to find the Tower.
However, it turned out that the Pioneer Memorial Tower actually has a car park and that I could have come in directly from Wombat hill House. Oh well, it was a pretty walk, good for the glutes and there are some great views from the top of the Pioneer Memorial Tower.
I then decided to do a “proper” Daylesford walk eg one that had a brochure from the tourist info office. I chose 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.
⇒ Planning to visit Queensland? Check out my post on 15 Fantastic Brisbane Boutique Hotels.
Anyway, it is a nice kickoff from Lake Daylesford – park near the Boathouse Café. The walk to Tipperary Springs 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 the mineral spring pumps are quite 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 Tipperary Springs. And I was really starting to feel like a glass of 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…..
4. Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend – 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 Chocolate Mill is about a 5-minute drive out of the town of Daylesford heading towards Castlemaine. It is quite a big place. There is a lot going on outside the Chocolate Mill 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 at the Chocolate Mill 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 at the Chocolate Mill to make a few new friends – shortlived but tasty friendships. I then ordered the hot chocolate – milk flavour. The Chocolate Mill 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 of my hot chocolate. 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!
5. Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend – the Spa!
I don’t think you can come to Daylesford and not have some kind of spa treatment. There are many on offer but I decided to go with the classic – Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa. This is actually the first spa I ever went to circa 20 years ago and I was entranced. Where had spas been all my life? Since that critical visit, I have visited many spas of different forms and shapes in many places. I was quite excited at heading back to the place where it all started…..
My first piece of advice is to make sure you book Hepburn Bathhouse and book a good couple of weeks ahead. I had remembered this from those long-ago visits so booked my Day Retreat package. This gave me two hours in the bathhouse and sanctuary mineral water pools and rooms, a one hour massage or facial, a lunch platter and a take-home gift. At $AUD235 for a Tuesday this was great value. Whilst I was there I heard a few people turn up at Hepburn Springs without bookings and there was a considerable wait.
As I have already mentioned it was school holidays when I visited the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa which wasn’t ideal. It was busy in the bathhouse and sanctuary! A complete first world problem but there is something about busy baths – it is so much nicer when they aren’t so busy. I also had recollections of lounge chairs for easy reading but there weren’t any of these. Well, there were a couple outside in the 7-degree weather but as you may have expected they were quite empty.
Onwards and upwards I made sure I visited everything on offer at Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. Steam room, salt pool (this was my favourite – so nice and warm and not super salty), hammam room, spa couch (kind of weird metal contraption in a big spa pool that was actually very comfortable) and different temperature pools. I was then keen on a rest before doing the same thing again and managed to figure out I could head to the treatment area where they did have cushions etc and read my kindle for a water break.
Water break over I hit a couple more rooms and then into the slightly odd mixed-sex change rooms. Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa have organized this well considering it is mixed sense but you wouldn’t want to be a body-conscious 14-year-old girl in here. Every facility you could need is on offer but the combined thing is a bit odd.
Warm and dry I then headed down to the Pavillion restaurant at the Hepburn Bathhouse. Lunch was part of my deal and I had a very tasty platter with meats, cheeses, and dips. My free beverage was an exciting lemon squash. Then it was back to Hepburn Bathhouse and time for the treatment rooms.
Wow did I have a great massage! I had said that I had neck and shoulder issues and my guy (dreadful but I didn’t catch his name) was brilliant! It was wonderfully painful – not so painful I screamed but that good pain where you know you are going to feel like jelly afterward.
I was then escorted back to the relaxation area at Hepburn for tea and my parting gift – a sort of potpourri for the bath thing. Quite nice but I’m not much of a bath girl. Anyway, I had arrived at 11 and was leaving at nearly 4 pm ridiculously clean so it was a very enjoyable and fantastic value day.
6. Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend – Visit the Convent Gallery
The Convent Gallery is a mix of a Gallery, shop, and café. It is located up the hill in the main part of Daylesford and it is very well signed. The building and the grounds of the Convent Gallery are beautiful. Once inside the gallery, the first thing you will see is the café. This is a stunning space. I came for lunch and enjoyed roasted mushrooms and saganaki cheese.
My eyes were then, unfortunately, larger than my stomach so I ordered the scones at the Convent Gallery cafe I had seen brought out to others. They were sensational! Warm, fluffy, tall! I made it through one and a bit and then felt rather full for about 24 hours.
Next up was a wander through the lovely gallery and a quick visit to the shop.
⇒ Heading to Perth? Check out my post on how to have the best Rottnest Island Day Trip – and capture the perfect Quokka selfie!
7. Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend – Get in the car
The area around Daylesford is stunning. Sweeping views, gorgeous landscapes – it is a lovely place to get in the car and just drive in whichever direction you feel like going. I popped into Castlemaine. I was surprised to find it is quite a large town – and the place to go if you feel like DIY, a bakery or Asian food. I think these three types of retailers make up about 60% of the main Castletown real estate!
Castlemaine is a charming town with lots of lovely old for Australia architecture. I also drove up the hill to the Old Castlemaine Jail. I had read they did not do tours so I just stopped and took a few photos. However, on my return to Melbourne, I was informed that they do actually do tours you just need to give them a call.
After Castlemaine, I headed to Hepburn and past one of my favourite places in the area and perhaps the one best suited to Instagram Lavendula. This is a stunning lavender farm with a café and activities. Unfortunately, in winter Lavendula is only open on weekends and I was there during the week. This is definitely a place you want to visit if it is open.
A Hepburn Springs Spa Weekend is definitely one of the best weekends away that Melbourne has on offer. It is not a long drive (90 minutes depending on traffic) but you will feel much further away. It is a fantastic spot to visit all year round and perfect for both a romantic weekend or a girl’s weekend.
8. Take a Wine Tour
Some Useful Websites
⇒ Local site Daylesford Delights.
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Also published on Medium.