There are a lot of things to do in Daylesford. Some of the best things are free… Here are a few suggestions for you depending on how much time you have.
Ideas for one single day in Daylesford
Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. Walk or drive. The entry is just around the corner. It won’t take you long but it is a must in any weather and season. Wombat Hill is an old volcano which gives us amazing soil as well as views. It was initially the police paddock (the old lock-up is just below still, you can peer in through the bars) but was planted approx 150 years ago. My heart lifts whenever I am there. Below you can see one of the most famous views in Daylesford, the red roof of Tina Banitzka’s Convent appearing through the greenery. Bare in winter, colourful in autumn, rich and heady in summer. If you miss the Botanic you only have yourself to blame, don’t say I didn’t tell you.
Lake Daylesford and the Bookbarn
Drive or walk down to our most well-known lake, have coffee at the Bookbarn and browse the collection of books. Don’t like books? Have coffee. Don’t like coffee? Hire a boat. The lake was initially a goldfield, then Chinese market gardens, and in 1929 the lake was created as a hydro electric power scheme. It does not give us any power but a lot of pleasure. Walk around one lake or two. You can bathe in parts of it, but it has cold currents due to the goldmines. Be careful, watch the locals.
Vincent Street and beyond
Amongst other offerings, there is a truly lovely book shop on several floors with old and new goods ( it might actually BE Paradise), a hand made chocolate shop, some excellent style evident in the Frangos and Frangos building, several clothing and interior shops and more coffee than you can possibly drink. Don’t forget that Daylesford has more than just the main street. Around the corner is always more, Raglan Street, Duke Street (which is where Sister George is, along with an op shop or two and the start of the church precinct), Howe Street and on.
Unusual shops and studios
Naturally I think you have to visit Sister George on Duke Street. We make virtually everything we sell. Picture below is Sister George as seen from the laneway. There are also places such as Clayspace East Street, Paradiso Arts in Sailor’s Falls, Overwrought on Central Springs Road, Stony Creek Gallery, Clayfire Gallery and more. Daylesford is rich in art and artists. Many are hiding, tucked away, but emerge for exhibitions. There is an open studios event every year too, in early November I think.
Sister George Studio, as seen from the connecting laneway to Vincent Street.
Hats and steamer trunks at Sister George. We make virtually everything we sell, it is a bit random.
This is a stunning building, built as a private residence during the goldrush in the 1860s. It eventually became a convent, the Presentation Sisters, and a girl school. You can still visit a cell or two, the infirmary at the top is well worth the climb. The rest of the building is now gallery space and function centre complete with cafe, shop, small luxury accommodation, bar and chapel. Go. The Presentation Sisters still live in Daylesford in a much smaller building near St Peter’s Church. Very popular with weddings, understandably. Regular exhibitions.
Food and coffee
You would have to stay a LONG time to eat your way through all that is offered around here. If you are interested in food, I mean as a serious pastime rather than just as fuel, you are definitely in the right place. There are also farmdoor sales, blueberries, venison, potatos, vegies, things in jars, trout… Get excited.
Take the waters
The area surrounding Daylesford has nearly all the mineral springs in Victoria. If you have never before drunk sparkling water straight from the ground, do not miss this chance. Anywhere you see the mineral springs sign, follow it. Sometimes it is by the road, sometimes a short hike is needed. Sometimes there will be a little building, sometimes a seat, most often nothing much at all. There is usually a mineral analysis plaque by the spring. All the water tastes different and is more or less bubbly. Some of it is truly horrid (but good for you) and some delicious. One of my favourites is Tipperary Springs, just as you leave Daylesford driving towards Ballarat. Just remember as you go tasting to run the pump for a little bit first as the water needs to travel from some depths and loses its sparkle when it sits still in the top catcher of the old fashioned pumps. After the goldrush had finished people started flocking here to ‘take the waters’ for their health. After this your day is probably all over. Have dinner, sleep well and stay longer… Head into day 2 and beyond.
Sulphur! Yum! Please don’t worry, some are amazing.
Several days in Daylesford
Massage and treatments
Daylesford is awash with every treatment centre imaginable. Massage of every kind, mineral baths, facials, energy healings, yoga, readings, reiki, so much. Spend half an hour or all day.
Does the area have any? Yes. Apart from rampant animal wildlife provided by hissing possums and the like, there are live music venus offering a range from open mic nights to well known names. See current listings. There are also restaurants of all sorts. Local’s nights are popular as some of our best reataurants offer a reduced menu at a welcome price. Mercato on Monday, Sault on Wednesday. The Daylesford Hotel. Some others too, it comes and goes a bit. Can’t always keep track sorry, but they are all listed in The Local paper. Can be read online. I don’t go out a lot myself, but I really love an occasional live set in various places, or a cider on a balmy summer’s night on the balcony of the Daylesford Hotel (or a groove in the courtyard at Chillout), or for a short drive the truly remarkable Radio Springs Hotel. I am loath to send you out of Daylesford when we have so much here, but it is worth a look if you have seen all we have to offer here and are spreading your wings. We also have several opportunites for movies with a small cinema at the Rex, I believe the Grande are doing occasional screenings too, as are some of the country properties. They all advertise in the local paper, the Advocate, or in the local local paper, The Local.
Jubilee is much wilder than Lake Daylesford and is a short 30 minutes to walk around. It is exceedingly pretty, especially towards the mineral spring at one end, and even more especially in autumn as the large stand of trees there turn an impossible orange gold. The old bridge is the underside of the old train tracks built in the gold rush. You can follow the disused rail all the way into town. There is a lot of animal life around the lake. I have never been there without coming eye to eye with something or other. You can also fish in Lake Jubilee as it is a premium stocked lake. A licence is necessary, cheap and easy to buy. At dusk you can see the fish jump… There might be yabbies around our waterways too, yabbie net and bucket provided at the Pip, I will show you. You can hire a boat here too. If you are travelling with a child, being on the water is a great lesson in peacefulness. You can’t catch anything unless you have peace! Drift in silence, trail a warm hand in cool water… Paddle boats available too.
Yes, there are black swans. There are also an incredible amount of waterlillies in parts. If you are casting a line, do all you can to stay out if the lillies or it is the last you see of your hook. Avoid the swans too. If you want to swim in a chlorinated pool rather than in the wild, we have an outdoor pool open during the warmer months.
The Bathhouse is a wonderful place to visit, and also the grounds surrounding it. Bring bathers if you intend to spend some time in the water. Many treatments available, or get a basic pass. Or not. Walk the trail across the back hanging bridge into Hepburn, loop back by the memorial. Short and easy, do it.
There are a couple of close options available. Hepburn has 18 holes with plenty of kangaroos to make it more exciting and Trentham (15-20 mins away) has a very good one without kangaroos. Much. Stay an extra night and try both.
Aboriginal History – Hepburn Pool
Hepburn Pool is on the Victorian Heritage Register as a pre-Olympic pool. The pool which has aboriginal significance was created from its original basin into a drystone walled swimming pool in the 1930s. A gorgeous spot. Follow the poolway and discover this treasure. It was used for swimming competitions, and the Victorian Aboriginal Embassy laid claim to the site in 2006.
Spa Country Railway
The Heritage train leaves every Sunday from the market at the railway station. It costs around $10 per adult (priced 2014), takes 35 minutes return to Musk and is a gorgeous experience. Slightly more and longer to Bullarto. I love the dressed up conductors. Sometimes there are also special events, train dinners etc.
Sunday Market at railway station 8am -4pm, Farmer’s Market first Sat of every month 8am-1pm, Mill Market which is a fantastic permanent indoor antiques and vintage market. There are plenty of more markets in the surrounding district, including the fab Castlemaine Artists market first Sunday of every month. We have sometimes a handmade market at the Town Hall, but you have to look it up online as details are prone to changing.
Hepburn Springs is so close to Daylesford it is virtually connected though quite different in many ways. There is a bike track to connect us and is an easy 3 kilometre walk. There are many great bushwalks around Hepburn and if you have around 3 hours I can strongly recommend a hike through the bush between Hepburn and Daylesford. It runs along the old disused goldfields and gives a little insight into the lives of the early gold diggers. Stick to the paths – there are mine shafts everywhere.
Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm
Lavandula is a lavender farm, built from stone which is rare for the region. It is stunning and sometimes has events such as the Harvest Festival in January every year. Gardens, farm animals such as a lovely donkey, beautiful buildings, cafe. Lots of lavender of course. 10 minutes out of Hepburn. The local sculptors exhibit in May/June.
Wombat State Forest
Bushwalking in the region is great. I do it in the cooler months and can point you to some good tracks. When walking, do not leave the tracks as there are open mineshafts left over from the gold rush everywhere. The remnants on the landscape from the miners are sometimes subtle (piles of dug up rock) and sometimes not so (a great big deep hole in the ground). People still pan for gold. Wildlife is abundant, nature is rich. You can easily spend a whole day walking, or pick a short loop. Either way, you will feel very virtuous at having taken some exercise. My neighbour, a keen hiker, constantly tells me of the wombats and koalas he meets almost every day. “You should have seen it! Paws the size of plates! Body like a truck!”. I mainly see the bouncing tail of kangaroos fleeing away from me. This is of course because I walk with my panting and snorting dog. For best wildlife spotting results, go in silence and dog-less. Want company on your walk? A very friendly and welcoming group meet every Friday morning, you are welcome to tag along. For this kind of thing, the local paper is good, they advertise under Community News. Also the Neighbourhood Centre keeps this kind of info. Personally I wouldn’t walk alone unless someone knows the route I am planning, so if you are travelling on your own, let me know where you are for safety in case you get lost.
if you don’t want to head into the forest by yourself, you can walk with David of Daylesford Forest Strolls. He has been walking for his own interest in this forest for over 14 years, I think, and knows everything about every little path which makes for a great walk. You won’t get lost. Regardless of if it is just one of you or a group, he charges $50 flat rate for the walk. Usually 1,5-2 hours, but he can tailor to anything you want. I have myself been walking with David for a couple of years and I love it, I have seen so many places I would never have been otherwise. 0428112378 to enquire.
Lavandula Lavender Harvest in January, Boite Singer’s Festival and The Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival in January, the Australian Body Art Awards in February, ChillOut Gay and Lesbian Festival in March, Lavandula Autumn Harvest in May, The Yandoit Lesbian Wool Festival in August, Words in Winter in September, Swiss Italian Festa in October/November, Daylesford Highland Gathering in December. There are probably more that I have missed. Yes, for instance a potato festival (!) in Trentham, amazing art and music festivals in Castlemaine and Woodend, and events put on by our Dharma School here in Daylesford. Festivals or not, every day is a lovely day.
This is me giving an Argentinean Tango workshop (though I look more as if I am doing the chicken dance, full marks for elegance) during the ChillOut festival. If you wish, I can do a one hour private lesson for my guests as a beginner’s try. At the end of an hour, I promise that you will indeed be dancing. Just ask when booking. Nothing special required, apart from shoes which do not slip off. Sandals are out. Note the girl in the background? She is not dancing. This is because she is wearing thongs… Below is a ChillOut picture. Floats welcome! Do one yourselves for an unusual holiday!
The locals love parades, and for NYE every year you can see a mixture of gorgeous floats go round Vincent Street, twice. Here is a shiny car, a small sample of the line up of things like a Tardis, a giant hog, Hepburn Wildlife Shelter, the firies and rescues, Di Alysis in a lovely frock and so on. If you are here for New Years, please go and cheer them on. You will love our tradition.
Captain’s Creek, Barcaldine House, Big Shed, Passing Clouds, Peros Wine, Daylesford Cider Company, Herbal Lore, Dulcinea, Ellender Estate and Sailor’s Falls Estate all have cellar doors for you to visit. You can also go on driven tasting tours, look online. No driving, expert knowledge. Great! Since I used to live in the Barossa, I became very good at smelling the wine only, and perhaps spitting. All to avoid getting sozzled in the afternoon. A great way to become competent at spitting like a wine maker is to practise in the shower. Work out your technique, watch the experts. Never show off when wine tasting, I did once and had a coughing fit so bad I had to leave the building as I inhaled the wine. Immediate punishment for vanity.
Horse trail rides
Boomerang Ranch offer bush trail rides for anyone over 6. Bookings essential, rides from 1 hour. Never ridden before? No problem, the horses are as friendly as the staff. This is a wonderful way to see the landscape. Do it, you will not regret it.
For those of you who want your horsepower to come from a mechanical source, Victorian Quad Bike Tours offer bush adventures on quad bikes. Something very different! We have a lot of wild nature around here, you might as well dive straight in and enjoy it. I believe the rides start from 1 hour and up, you just need a driving licence.
This needs more than a few lines but I’ll be brief. Gold rush, mineral water, health retreat. That is it in a concise way. Explore the town on foot and learn as you go with the historical walk pamphlet, visit the museum if it is open. Or not. Take a ghost tour. The gold rush remains with us with all the architecture, the miner’s cottages, the general feel.
I am a house fanatic and always enjoy looking at them. If you feel the same or simply look for renovation ideas there are some stunning buildings here. Most houses are timber frame and there are quite a few early surviving buildings. There are also a lot of significant gardens and the Open Gardens Weekends are very popular. A wonderful thing to see is also the Community Gardens which are created and maintained by locals as a food source. Working bees held all the time, if you want to see how it is done here see the notice board next to the library. The gardens themselves are in several locations, map provided at the cottage. You can also go on a guided walk of edible weeds and wild foods, held once a fortnight usually (enquire at the Neighbourhood Centre or check online).
The region is full of towns and villages, all offering their own mix of history, culture, festivals, shopping and nature. A favourite is Hanging Rock. Solve the mystery and I might just share a creepy theory… It is a meandering drive away, perfect for a day’s outing. Trentham, 20 mins away, has a beautiful waterfall and a very attractive main street. Do not miss Red Beard Bakery. Great bread. Beard. Bread. One of those. Whatever you get up to, I hope you will enjoy our wonderful region.
When you try to capture the Australian bush in photos, it is really hard to convey the feeling of being there. The bush is best live. You need the smells and sounds, the air. The feeling you get as you trek, perhaps alone, over rocks and roots. Maybe it is a wet winter, maybe spring is blossoming. Maybe the shimmering haze of summer iz lazily wrapping around you. Perhaps there are steep gorges, maybe a vista opens up around the next corner. Maybe you are even a little lost. Unlike the european forests I grew up with, the bush seems twiggy, brutal almost, hard to get to know. But you can, you just have to put on some good boots and get out there. Every time I do I emerge a little happier than when I went in.
I want to move to Daylesford
This happens sometimes. You come for a holiday and simply forget where you parked the car and so you are here for good. There are several real estate agents who can help you if this has happened to you too. Living in Daylesford… Wellies, jumpers, wood fires and the smell of trees saturating the oxygen rich air. Walks, hot chocolate, friendly locals. Stunning views, autumn leaves. Live music at some small venue. A dip in the lake. Fresh produce. Reasonably short trip to get to Melbourne. It’s a winner, I say.
Lying down, watching a summer sky…