Three decades ago, Daylesford was a quiet country town in regional Victoria, probably best-known for producing its high-quality potatoes.
Fast forward to today: Daylesford and the neighbouring Macedon Ranges wine region are gourmet getaways for Melbourne’s movers and shakers.
Just one hour’s drive from Melbourne, Daylesford and the next-door village of Hepburn Springs are alive with top-notch restaurants, vibrant country pubs, wine bars and upmarket accommodation.
The area is known for its natural spring mineral spas and is home to 80 per cent of Australia’s effervescent mineral water reserves. Standouts include the Mineral Spa at Peppers Springs Retreat and Salus Spa.
Daylesford has a definite chilled-out vibe; relaxed but blessed with myriad coffee and food options, and extremely popular with same-sex couples.
Best hotels in Daylesford
The Lake House
Daylesford’s emergence on Australia’s gourmet radar is largely thanks to Alla Wolf-Tasker and her artist husband Allan. The couple stumbled upon a piece of unused, gorse-infested land overlooking a lake and saw immense potential, despite it being strewn with rubbish and rusted car parts.
That overgrown land soon emerged as The Lake House, one of Australia’s first country-chic hotels. Wolf-Tasker quickly built a reputation as a formidable cook and promoter of rural produce, championing local seasonal cuisine long before it became a mantra for the industry.
It’s the pinnacle of regional destination dining, but also boasts 33 beautiful rooms and suites in either a waterfront or garden lodge setting. Six acres of country gardens extend down to the waters of Lake Daylesford and provide guests with immediate access to the lake shore and the Wombat State Forest beyond. A new infinity pool with spotted gum relaxation terraces is the latest arrival, with uninterrupted views to the lake shores and pool service available throughout the day.
Find the best rate for your stay at The Lake House here.
Clifftop at Hepburn
There are dozens of country cottages and B&Bs to choose from around town, but it pays to book in advance to secure the best rooms – Daylesford can be hugely popular on weekends.
Clifftop at Hepburn is ideal if you’re looking for self-contained accommodation. It has magnificent views, super comfortable beds, luxe furnishings and a range of gourmet treats on-hand including local chocolates.
Shizuka Ryokan Japanese Country Spa & Wellness Retreat
If you’re after a unique experience, this award-winning establishment in Hepburn Springs could be just what you need. Choose from traditional accommodation, gourmet cuisine and spa treatments, as well as holistic wellness and health treatments. You can find a great deal for your stay here.
Hepburn at Hepburn
This is a peaceful sanctuary where you can lounge around in your private villa set within the natural surrounds of gardens and bushland located directly opposite the renowned Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa.
The Dudley Boutique Hotel
Another popular luxury accommodation choice, The Dudley Boutique Hotel was built in 1908. It’s the perfect location for a romantic weekend or mid-week getaway, where you can experience true luxury.
Top restaurants in region
Frank & Connie’s Kitchen
Make sure you add this quirky kitchen in Hepburn Springs to your dining out list, where chef Caliopi Buck serves up delicious small plates and share dishes from an ever-changing blackboard menu.
Passing Clouds Winery
Lunch at this winery, just out of town in Musk, is a must-do. Sample some pinot and shiraz before sitting down to a rustic feast of local meats grilled over coals, served with herbs and vegetables from the adjacent potager.
Boathouse Restaurant @ Lake Daylesford
Delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner choices are served at this restaurant overlooking Lake Daylesford. Its relaxed, professional service makes for a great environment to enjoy a glass of wine and enjoy beautiful year-round views.
Koukla Daylesford Café
Located on Vincent Street, this café is known for its friendly welcome and excellent casual dining throughout the day, as well as its open fireplace on days when the mercury drops.
Cliffy’s Emporium Daylesford
Known as one of the region’s best cafés, it’s not uncommon for locals to stop in here more than once a day. They serve exceptional coffee and local produce including cheese, meat, eggs, honey and a charcuterie plate. Breakfast and lunch are served alongside housemade cakes and biscuits throughout the day.
This superb delicatessen stocks some of the region’s, and the world’s, best cheese and smallgoods producers. With catering, coffee, toasties, pastries and more, this place has a lot going for it. It’s also located next to the owners first establishment, a wine shop and bar.
Bars and cafes in Daylesford
Wine and The Country
For a pre-dinner drink, pop into this local bottle shop and wine bar where the list features local boutique bottlings like Eastern Peake and Latta Vino (both made by the owner Jenny Latta’s husband Owen), alongside an impressive selection of minimal intervention wines and imports.
Right in the centre of town, this hotel serves a great selection of local wines and beers (even a local gin and tonic combo) alongside good value pub grub.
Located atop the stunning boulder strewn hills of the Great Dividing Range, Granite Hills overlooks the vineyard and gives quite the impression right away. The winery has won over 500 awards in Australia and International competitions. They have a variety of wines such as a 2017 tempranillo, 2013 shiraz, 2015 late harvest riesling, as well as handmade wines which utilise traditional winemaking techniques.
Housed in a 19th-century red brick hotel, this brewhouse offers tastings paddles of classic beers using just four ingredients – malt, hops, yeast and Macedon Ranges water.
Daylesford Cider Co
This tavern produces traditional styles of cider made with English-heritage cider apples. They serve tasty items on their menus which change in the winter and summer.
Herbal Lore Liqueurs
Visitors can sample a range of gins and liqueurs at this cellar door, which is housed in the old Daylesford Butter Factory.