The attractive, hilly country around DAYLESFORD and neighbouring Hepburn Springs, just 90 minutes from Melbourne, is a popular weekend retreat for Melburnians and is known as the “spa capital of Australia”, with around seventy mineral springs within a 50km radius, plus more than thirty spas, wellness retreats and healing centres (see spacountrycom.au). Daylesford grew from the Jim Crow gold diggings of 1851, but the large Swiss–Italian population here quickly realized the value of the water from the mineral springs, which has been bottled since 1850.
Daylesford’s well-preserved Victorian and Edwardian streets rise up the side of Wombat Hill, where you’ll find the Botanical Gardens, between Hill Street and Central Springs Road, whose lookout tower has panoramic views. Not far away, on the corner of Daly and Hill streets, is The Convent (theconvent.com.au), a rambling former convent with three levels of galleries selling high-quality arts, crafts and antiques, and a café and a bar. There’s a great Sunday market just nearby, on the main road to Castlemaine. The town also has “healing centres” aplenty, the spectrum of services ranges from natural therapies to tarot readings – enquire at the visitor centre.