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Daylesford & Hepburn: Spa Country Attractions

Whether you are travelling by car or public transport, the charismatic town of Daylesford is an easy hour and a half journey north west of Melbourne.

The town is situated in Jaara country and was founded by gold miners in the 1850s. These days Daylesford is better known for its alternative therapies, for its mineral springs and bubbling mineral water.

Due to its location in the mountains, which were formed by volcanic activity five million years ago, the region boasts nearly 80% of all mineral springs in Victoria, making the area a magnet for health and wellbeing enthusiasts.

There is a thriving industry built around physical and spiritual wellness including spa treatments, bushwalking, massage, reiki, shiatsu, kinesiology, acupuncture, yoga, bowen therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chakra clearing, spiritual healing, meditation and tarot reading.

Lake Daylesford is one of the best known attractions of the district. The lake, which now covers the land where gold was first discovered in the region, offers picturesque picnic spots, a children’s playground, cafés, walking tracks, mineral water pumps, fishing and swimming spots, and is home to an array of wild birds and turtles. Another beautiful watering hole is Lake Jubilee, which is located a couple of kilometres south east of Daylesford.

Another major attraction of the town is the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens, which were established in 1863. They are situated on an extinct volcano and offer fabulous views of the surrounding countryside and the township. The gardens are of botanic significance for the extensive conifer collection and cool climate plants and feature a memorial tower, conservatory, café, rotunda and fernery.

The Wombat State Forest is another drawcard of the region, with its many walking tracks, mineral springs and disused gold mines. It shelters a wide variety of eucalypt species and wildlife, such as the Greater Glider possum, and birds, such as the Powerful Owl and the Red-browed Treecreeper. Prior to European settlement the forest extended to a much larger area than the 70,000 hectares it covers today.

If you are into the great outdoors, Daylesford sits at the junction of three walking tracks that are part of the Great Dividing Trail: the Lerderderg Track, the Dry Diggings Track and the Wallaby Track. If you fancy a guided group, the local bushwalking club meets every Friday morning at 9am opposite the Police Station.

Getting hungry and thirsty after all your exploring? The commercial precinct of Daylesford, located along Albert and Vincent Streets, features dozens of historic buildings including the post office (built in 1867), town hall (1882) and a great many shops and cafés that specialise in locally grown produce.

Two kilometres west of the main drag is the Mill Market; a huge warehouse of trash, treasure, vintage goodies and collectibles. The Daylesford Sunday Market operates every Sunday from 8am to 3pm from the Daylesford Tourist Railway station. It features a wide variety of stalls selling anything from books, plants, fresh produce, clothing, collectables, handmade candles, bread and soaps. The monthly farmers market is held at the Daylesford Primary School oval on the first Saturday of each month.

Three kilometres to the north of Daylesford is the historic village of Hepburn Springs, which was established during the gold rush of the 1850s when Swiss Italian migrants moved to the area. Surrounded by dense forests, gullies, and a number of mineral springs, Hepburn Springs is an attractive and scenic destination for visitors and features cafés, shops, a historic post office and country pubs.

Hepburn Springs has seven sites on the Victorian Heritage Register: Hepburn Pool, Villa Parma, the Blowhole, the former Macaroni Factory, Jim Crow Creek Gold Mining Diversion Sluice, Breakneck Gorge and Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve including the iconic bathhouse and pavilion. The Mineral Springs Reserve has a collection of springs where you can freely bottle your own carbonated mineral water; so don’t forget to bring some bottles when you visit.

Just north of Hepburn Springs is Lalgambook, as it was called by the Jaara people, but which these days is known as Mount Franklin. This extinct volcano features a shady picnic and camping area and wonderful views from its summit.

Within a short distance of Hepburn Spring are other interesting sights including the historic Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm, where lavender fields bloom from November to February, and Cricket Willow, where cricket bats are still made, games are played and where a wide range of sporting memorabilia is displayed.

Just south of Daylesford, in the township of Leonard’s Hill, is Australia’s first community-owned wind farm. One of the turbines has a giant mural painted on it by Melbourne artist Ghost Patrol.

Year round, there is always much to do in Daylesford and Hepburn and the region hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, including Chill Out, Words in Winter, the Highland Gathering and the Swiss Italian Festa. Although there are a large number of places to stay in the region, at some events such as Chill Out, (Australia’s largest regional queer pride festival), the population of Daylesford and Hepburn can increase by more than 20,000!! So best book your accommodation early.

The region is home to many artists who work with an array of materials including local timbers and clay. Wearable art and decorative pieces are created in the studios of jewellery makers, silversmiths, glass blowers and ceramists. Sculptors, painters, printmakers, mural painters, textile artists and potters add colour and texture to the region. Galleries such as the Convent Gallery and the community-run Door 3 are definitely worth exploring if you have an artistic bent.

Whatever your interests, whether they’re wineries, bushwalking, mineral water, dining out, having a massage, a spiritual healing or your tarot cards read, there is definitely something for everyone in Daylesford and the surrounding areas.

We look forward to seeing you soon!