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Lucire: Volante
australia


Victoria state The Lake House offers a comforting view in the Australian countryside, while the Crown Towers’ glitz signals the lucky country’s cosmopolitanism.

A state of contrast

Victoria state, Australia, is a contrast between the vibrant metropolitan city of Melbourne and its surrounding countryside and spas only found a few short hours away, writes Samantha Hannah

 

IMMERSED IN AN AROMATIC, warm mineral bath at Hepburn Spa in Hepburn Springs, Victoria, Australia, I’m feeling decidedly more relaxed than I did a short time ago. Stress-relieving fragrances mixed with soft meditative music fill my cerebral cortex and I have drifted away somewhere magical.

Only five short hours ago the scene was remarkably different. Sitting groggily next to my husband, I couldn’t believe that in the same time it usually took me to get ready for work, drop the kids at school and race across town, I’d be in the resort area of Daylesford–Hepburn Springs having a spa treatment.

Located 111 km northwest of Melbourne on a ridge over 600 m above sea level is the quirky township of Daylesford. Originally founded in 1852 with the discovery of alluvial gold, the area is now unique in that it did not wither away like many others did when the gold ran out. Due to some clever entrepreneurial skills, sawmills were established to supply mines thus creating alternative employment. Plus the Land Act in the 1860s enabled cheap land to be taken up, allowing many miners to become farmers. It’s hard not to feel the effects of farming life in Daylesford–Hepburn Springs; everything moves slowly and the locals are laid-back in their approach.

 


Lake-side dining at the Lake House.

 

The air has the clean alpine smell reminiscent of higher altitudes, which along with the incredible calming energy, are the first things I notice when we arrive. I must admit this did surprise me as all we saw driving into the area were fire-damaged trees lining the roads. I later discovered that although the notorious 2009 bush fires hit the Daylesford region, what we were seeing was the result of controlled fires. The mountain scenery, forestry and recreation parks in surrounding parts are what contribute to the towns relaxing air, along with the town’s location atop rock strata and volcanic basins. The waters trapped in these basins have leached minerals from 450-million-year-old rocks. These minerals are believed to have curative effects and are now the basis of the town’s existence: Daylesford and Hepburn Springs is known as the ‘spa centre of Australia’. Not only can you bathe in the waters, you can drink them, too. Throughout the area you will find drinking taps bringing various types of water—some still and some naturally carbonated—straight from the underground springs.

Unwinding is easy in this township. It is filled with leisure activities that take you beyond the indoor bathhouses and spa resorts. Bush walks, garden strolls and water activities on Lake Daylesford allow you to get your nature fix. While a sublime range of restaurants and cafés set your taste buds alight; some, like the famous Lake House restaurant with its exceptional service and wine list, create a romantic ambience befitting of a day spent emersed in the splendour of this historic gold mine.

 

Must-do

Both Feet Walking Tour: hiking trips that make sure you enjoy and remember the scenery, not the hiking. Hiking gear supplied and pick up from Melbourne airport, plus spa treatments, gourmet food, wine, history and shopping all at walking pace.

Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa: book a treatment or simply bathe in the mineral waters at the historic Hepburn Bathhouse and melt away your stresses.

 

Must-visit

Lavandula: absorb the incredible history of one Swiss–Italian family, who came to the gold fields and stayed to farm. This beautiful lavender farm has a restaurant, tranquil gardens to wander, accommodation and sell a range of their own lavender products.

The Convent: nestled at the back of the Wombat Hill botanical gardens is Daylesford’s stunning convent, which overlooks the township. Enjoy a fascinating tour of the building that is home of to a multi award winning art gallery, finishing with a wine at the Bad Habits café, and perhaps a bite to eat. It’ll be a magical experience.

 

Must-stay

65 Main Hepburn Springs: a special place run by a fabulous woman who is passionate about food, wine, relaxation and fun. You will feel the love at 65 Main, the B&B with TLC.

Lake House: this luxury lakeside destination deserves the reputation is has built in becoming one of regional Victoria’s best. Stunning accommodation, restaurant and location, it really is a special place.

 

 

Melbourne City

WINDING DOWN gives you the renewed energy to take on the world again and there’s no better way than driving 1 hour from Daylesford back into Australia’s culture capital—Melbourne.

‘Melbourne is a serendipitous city. One of the best things you can do here is simply wander the CBD. Get lost!’ says Andy Mac, artist and curator.

It’s the “getting lost” that allows the discovery of the most amazing arcane treasures. If I hadn’t felt brave enough to venture out into Melbourne’s CBD without a map I wouldn’t have found the best shoes of my trip or had my palms read. Lane after arcade after street, the shopping is endless, as are the café, bars and restaurants that fill the streets with enchanting smells and sounds day and night.

This pulsating city never sleeps, which is exactly the way you’ll want it. Intrigue takes over, leaving you wanting to see more. All you need to do is jump on a tram and it will take you somewhere new. Explore beyond the CBD in the surrounding suburbs like Brunswick Street, Fitzroy—quirky, boho and market-filled—or Bridge Road and Swan Street in Richmond for designer outlet stores.

Melbourne is known to have an impressively large Greek population, around one in four people, so it makes sense to mention probably its best Greek restaurant Piraeus Blues (310 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy). It is in the boho-chic area of Fitzroy, and provides very down-to-earth traditional Greek cuisine along with very friendly service. Be sure to make a booking, as it’s popular with locals. Definitely try the stuffed zucchini flowers if they're on the specials board, and the home made halva ice-cream is a must for dessert along with warm lukumades (Greek doughnuts dipped in honey).

If fine Italian cuisine is what you’re looking for, then look no further than Grossi Florentino (80 Bourke Street). Tucked neatly in Bourke Hill, this restaurant boasts a lavish interior complete with murlas and a history that spans over a century. Quality, fresh ingredients and impeccable service can be found in either the formal Restaurant upstairs, the stylish Grill on the lower level or at the Cellar Bar. And if you like the food so much, you can always purchase the cook-book, and practise making these dishes at home.

Other than Chapel Street and Collins Street for high-end shopping, High Street, Armadale, is another inner-city district that the experienced shopper would appreciate. This one stretch of road is filled with antique shops, art galleries, jewellers, fashion boutiques, salons, chic cafés and restaurants.

There is also an abundance of bridal boutiques, if you so happen to need a bridal gown and any other accessories. The top end but beautiful selection of antiques at Capocchi (941 High Street) and Armadale Antique Centre (1147 High Street) transport you into a bygone era, with a varied selection of art-déco, Victorian and Edwardian pieces from all over the world. These are the perfect places to pick up something rare and special for your home.

If antiques aren’t your thing, then there are plenty of other treasures to indulge in, such as the beautifully crafted jewelry found at Fazo Fine Jewellers (1198 High Street). This small boutique is run by a lovely young Italian couple who have a great selection of modern and classic pieces at a reasonable price.

Our conversation is reflective as we meander along the River Yarra back to the glorious Crown Towers, our home for the past two days. Tomorrow this trip will be a distant memory as we fall quickly back into normality so tonight we’re taking our time, stopping in at Nobu for one last cocktail.

 

Must-do

Hidden Secrets tours: an absolute must for all fashionistas. The tour takes you around all the hidden shopping lanes and arcades where you find the most gorgeous treasures. It’s three hours of shopping heaven with lunch included.

Art-to-walk: is a walking tour that travels to the hidden commercial galleries in the deep dark lanes of Melbourne; to the artists’ studios in unnamed buildings and artist-run unnamed initiative spaces. This is an informative, culture filled delight!

Deck of Secrets—Bar Secrets: Get yourself a pack of cards or download the iph app and delve into Melbourne’s diverse inner city precincts, uncovering 52 bar gems scattered along the CBD border. Fun for all occasions: hens’ parties, Saturday night out with friends or boys trips. You’ll become acquainted with Melbourne’s vibrant night-life.

 

Must-stay

Crown Towers: Australian tourism awarded this spacious, modern and lavish accommodation one of its highest honours—Australian Tourism Award for Luxury Accommodation. With its impeccable standards, oversized rooms and beautiful views of the city, it’s easy to see why. The Crown Towers are located in the heart of Melbourne’s vivacious Southbank precinct and is part of the Crown Entertainment Complex. This dream facility includes the magnificent Crown Spa, gymnasium, tennis courts, indoor heated pool, over 40 restaurants and bars, a stylish shopping arcade, a 24-hour world-class casino and a 14-screen cinema.

 

Must-visit

Queen Victoria Markets: the largest open-aired market in the Southern Hemisphere. Corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets in Melbourne.

National Gallery of Victoria: Australia’s oldest art gallery at 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. •

 


Lake House accommodation.


A view of the lake from Lake House.


The air has the clean alpine smell reminiscent of higher altitudes, which along with the incredible calming energy, are the first things I notice when we arrive




Explore the beautiful gardens at Lavandula.


Enjoy being amongst nature at Hepburn Bathhouse and spa.


A view of Melbourne city and the Crown Towers by night.


A deluxe room at Crown Towers.

Scallops at No. 8 Restaurant in the Crown Towers complex.


The bar at Nobu, part of Crown Towers

 

 


Samantha Hannah is the former fashion editor of Lucire.
Vicki Matias contributed to this story.

 

 

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