With everything that’s constantly on the go in Melbourne, it’s not hard to forget that there is actually reasonable cause for excitement beyond the city boundaries too. This is one of our favourite trips to escape on; so next time you’re needing a detox from the city, pack your bags and join us on a much-needed detour through the Macedon Ranges to Australia’s spa capital, Daylesford.
The ideal distance for a just-far-enough weekend getaway, with incredible landscapes and wildlife to boot, this trip should satisfy your cabin fever until your feet start to get itchy again. We’ve got you covered with all the fundamentals for a perfect weekend roadie: history, hikes and, of course, hunger-busting. That’s not to mention the unbeatable calm of your destination, because we all know that every now and then it gets just a bit too hard to resist the craving for a little pampering.
Melbourne and brunchin’ are two words that seem to be synonymous these days, so where better to start a roadtrip than with a delicious (not to mention aesthetically-pleasing) morning meal in Australia’s most metropolitan city. A staple for any Melbourne brunch suggestion list is Auction Rooms, a centrally-located café with an unassuming façade but endlessly cosy interior. Packed out every weekend, probably because of their Colombian Breakfast Arepas, we reckon, Auction Rooms will warm your belly and your coffee-deprived soul. Just what you need to kick off an exciting weekender.
Your journey to Daylesford will take you through one of the most scenic regions of Victoria, the charming and oh-so peaceful Macedon Ranges. With jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenery of undulating hills and mountains, quiet and historic villages and endless valleys and vineyards, you will never tire of that view your windscreen is blessing you with. If you’ve timed your roadie to take place in autumn then you’re already a step ahead of the game, the Macedon Ranges are even more special when they are drenched in the reds, oranges and yellows of a fresh autumn morning. Take your time exploring the region, you don’t find places like this in the city streets!
If mystery and intrigue are things you look for in a bush walk (who doesn’t?), then the Hanging Rock Trail in the Macedon Ranges will tickle all sorts of senses. The setting for 20th century Australian novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which a group of schoolgirls and their governess disappear while on a school picnic, the Hanging Rock Trail combines the eerie and the picturesque to create a pretty memorable hour-return walk. Whether or not the story is actually true, it sure makes for a bit of suspense along the way; just try to stay on the path, okay?
No need to save up for that trip to France, because the French-style cuisine you so dream of is waiting for you at a somewhat unexpected location: right in the heart of Trentham, one of the Macedon Ranges’ many delightful country villages. Du Fermier is the brainchild of Annie Smithers, who creates a heavenly set menu every week depending on what produce is available in her vegetable garden, designed to make it feel as if you’re dining at a French farmhouse. If you’re planning on stopping here (and we highly recommend you do), it’s a good idea to book in advance. These delicious homely meals are pretty damn popular.
A trip through the Macedon Ranges and to Daylesford isn’t complete without stopping off at the Trentham Falls, Victoria’s highest single-drop waterfall. Picture a thundering 32 metre drop, a backdrop of incredible basalt columns and lush surrounding greenery, and it’s a fair bet your imagination is still nowhere near how cool this place is.
It’s not often a place can claim to be “The Most Beautiful [insert category here] in Australia” and actually live up to it, but we are pretty convinced that the Convent Gallery in Daylesford could be the most beautiful gallery we’ve ever seen. Built to be a private residence during the 1860s Gold Rush, before being converted into a convent and girls’ boarding school, the building now celebrates art, history and culture throughout its galleries, as well as being a seriously romantic wedding venue. Not only is the building itself pretty awe-inspiring, Convent Gallery also boasts a breathtaking view of Daylesford and surrounding regions. After enjoying an exploration of the gallery and grounds, wind down with a drink from the stylish Altar Bar.
One of Daylesford’s most popular restaurants, Mercato serves up Australian-style tapas paired with over 100 local wines almost every night of the week. Choose from a thoughtfully curated degustation dinner or an equally exquisite à la carte menu, and rest assured that either option will give you one of the most deliciously unique meals you’ve ever had. Eucalyptus Smoked Kangaroo or Emu with Shaved Pecorino, anyone?
As Australia’s spa capital, Daylesford has many incredible accommodation options, from luxurious retreats to five-star hotels and deluxe Airbnbs. You are truly spoilt with choice, meaning the hardest part is choosing which bed to sink into. There could be worse things to worry about, we’re sure. For a wallet-friendly option, the Daylesford Holiday Park has three very cool ‘glamping’ tents, complete with fully set up queen size beds, which make your childhood camping days look like pure torture. They also have a special ‘Bark Royal’ cabin, which allows you to sleep with any furry friends that have been sharing the road with you. Wins all round!
For a bit of serenity to start your day, look no further than the perfect backdrop of Lake Daylesford and its surrounding gardens. A changing scene with every new season, Lake Daylesford is the pearl in the centre of the cosy town, and is a hub of outdoor activity for everyone from walkers to bikers to picnickers. It takes about 45 minutes to make a lap of the tree-lined lake, showing you all the best birdlife, natural springs and Australian bush that the region has to offer. Try to hold off the urge to slip into one of the spas that surround the lake; there’ll be a chance enough for that very soon.
Combining the aesthetics of a true-blue Melbourne café with the rustic feel of rural life (perhaps our favourite fusion), Cliffy’s Emporium is a breakfast spot that will make you wonder if you ever really need to go back to the city. As you wait for your Sticky Date Hotcakes or Shakshuka, stroll through the aisles of local produce and specialty groceries, whilst admiring the way the building seems to so perfectly preserve the character and homeliness it has embodied since the 1950s.
Now, the moment worth waiting for... Cruise the ten minute drive out of Daylesford to Hepburn Springs and discover the undisturbed paradise of the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa. Providing a spot for social bathing since 1895, what used to be just a traditional bathhouse has now expanded into a multi-complex bathing and bliss experience. In a beautifully-designed space, these baths, pools and spa facilities will relax your body and your mind. Choose a peaceful bathing experience in the 36-degree Celsius water, or opt for a full-blown sanctuary therapy experience… We have a feeling you won’t want to leave.
Because a round trip is much more exciting than an out-and-return roadie, on your way back to Melbourne make a slight detour to pass through Ballarat. The third biggest city in Victoria (though with a population of just 100 000, it won’t feel anything like the madness of Melbourne), Ballarat has a rich history due to its success in the gold mining boom, and you can feel the legacy of this throughout the town. The best spot to experience this history is Sovereign Hill, an outdoor, ‘living’ museum where a step into the streets takes you back in time to rush of the gold-trimmed 1850s. Your visit will be surrounded by a fully replicated gold rush town, complete with in-costume characters to make your experience that much more immersive and impressive. It won’t take long to understand why Sovereign Hill has been named as Australia’s top ‘Major Tourist Attraction’ no less than four times.
If you like your meal to look as good as it tastes, Eclectic Tastes Café & Pantry should be your number one stop for lunch in Ballarat. Located in Victoria’s response to New York’s Flatiron Building, Eclectic Tastes serves up breakfast and lunch every day to bless both your taste buds and your instagram feed. With something for everyone on their colourful menu, not to mention a wine to match, there’s no chance of being disappointed at this joint. Definitely try the 63-degree egg to see what all the fuss is about.
It could never be possible to visit Ballarat properly in half a day, so the best way to see as much as possible of the historic city is through the self-guided streetscapes walking tour, which will see you explore all the architectural heritage along the incredible streets. With buildings that date back to the Gold Rush glory of the 1850s, which are still every bit as dignified but now housing modern wine bars, theatres, galleries and cafes, there is something exciting awaiting your eyes every which way you turn. Download the self guided brochure from the Ballarat website and go for gold. See what we did there?
Upon your return to Melbourne you’ll probably be feeling marginally peckish, but because of the hundreds of restaurants, bars and eateries, it can be hard to know where to begin when looking for somewhere to have dinner. Don’t sweat it, because we’ve got an idea that will cover all bases. Rooftop Bar might sound like a name that would get demoted to the 300th Google search page, but people love it so much that it’s deservedly made its way onto the very first. Open until the early hours every night, Rooftop Bar has its own little Burger Shack sitting pretty on the rooftop, where you can eat to your heart’s content whilst sippin’ cocktails and enjoying that heart-stopping view of the city. Ah, Melbourne, we’re sorry for ever thinking we could leave.
Banner Photo Credit: Visit Victoria