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
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
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.
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.
and Spa: book a treatment or simply bathe in the mineral
waters at the historic Hepburn Bathhouse and melt away your stresses.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 its 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 youre 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
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 arent 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.
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
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
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.
Queen Victoria Markets: the largest open-aired market in
the Southern Hemisphere. Corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets
National Gallery of Victoria: Australia’s oldest art gallery
at 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.