It’s certainly worth exploring Daylesford and Castlemaine as two incredible day trips from Melbourne. Even better, take a few days and enjoy more of this interesting area known as The Central Highlands.
Autumn is a particularly lovely time of year to go as the colours on the trees burn red and orange, like photos of North East America’s ‘fall’. Wrap up warm for outdoor walks, wine tasting and excellent local food.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
THE MILL | somehow I am following Boomtown Wines on Instagram. When I saw they were opening up a small cellar door in Castlemaine, and as we were heading out to Chewton, this seemed like the perfect mini road trip for exploring Daylesford and Castlemaine. Boomtown is three alternative local winemakers coming together, bringing their own labels and producing unusual blends.
ARINYA RETREAT | if you want to visit Daylesford, see if this incredible accommodation (sleeps from 1 to 10 people – but regardless you get the entire home) is available. Your host Damien is so welcoming and can arrange massages, yoga and delicious home cooked meals.
WINERIES | the area around Castlemaine is known for its wineries – especially reds. I especially loved Bress, which is renowned for its excellent lunch and also hosts special events for group suppers. Within close proximity at the equally wholesome Harcourt Valley and Black Jack wineries.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
TRAM HOUSE | tucked away on a backyard plot in the town of Chewton is this incredible renovated tram. Friends of a friend had been living the good life here for a couple of years whilst they built a kitchen/ bathroom and waited for planning permission for a house. Heaven!
CASTLEMAINE | is a pretty town that revolves around its central crossroads. The pace of life is pleasantly sedate, and there’s very little to do beside mosey around and stop for coffee and cake. Which we did, in the popular re-PUBLIC fire station cafe with its sun trap seating area.
Also check out: this lovely Mulberry’s Deli has gorgeous products, but you can easily spend a small fortune on cheese!
DAYLESFORD LAKE | I first visited Daylesford for a wedding in 2012 (I think!). I remember walking around the pretty lake and spying the famous Lake House from the outside. Unfortunately the hotel and dining area are only open to staying guests.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
SPRING WATER | alongside its antiques shops and foodie scene, Daylesford is also famous for multiple spring water sources. In several locations around the town (and surrounding area) you’ll find pumps that you can drink from. Unfortunately we found every sample was disgusting, and tastes like rotten eggs! I’m not convinced that’s good for anyone…..
DAYLESFORD FOOD FESTIVAL | in Autumn 2016 we visited the first food festival held in Daylesford at the Lake House (I can’t find the exact name). They clearly hadn’t accurately forecast the numbers who would attend! Despite $10 entry per person, it was very hard to get close to any food stands and the cups for wine sampling ran out immediately. I’m sure next year will be slicker!
WET WEATHER | during our last trip to Daylesford, ahead of my birthday, we were cursed with non-stop rain for two days in early June! The odd downpour just has to be dealt with, but it’s a shame when the weather rules out almost all of the areas outdoor highlights for exploring Daylesford and Castlemaine.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
LAVENDER FARM | to my last point, we decided it really wasn’t worth visiting Lavandula when exploring Daylesford and Castlemaine. No lavender farm looks good in the pouring rain! However the pictures in various guide books look beautiful and I’ve no doubt that in the right season the smell and colour would be incredible.
AND KNOW THIS: Castlemaine was one of the major gold rushes of Victoria and of Australia. In 1852 the goldfield had acquired a population of 30,000 and was by then regarded as the richest goldfield in the world.