Dear Darling Designer Daylesford. Hmmm. Much like Venice, your pretty streets, bars and cafes quieten as afternoon rolls into early evening and day trippers pack their perfectly co-ordinated children into cars with prestige branding, and head back to the city.
The bustle of elbowing through ‘late in life’ parents pushing prams the size of a small car is exhausting for empty nesters of the same age, like us. I shudder at greying papa’s trying ever so hard to understand a toddler’s tantrum or wiping drool from a sleeping infant while beautifully groomed mama’s clutching designer monogrammed bags of apparel, desperately seek a wine and ancient grain salad.
Having taken the camper trailer for our mini long weekend break, we were fortunately able to escape the puffy jacket brigade and have quiet sessions in a peaceful, if not exactly inspiring caravan park. If, however, you prefer bustle and want to eat and shop without driving, there are countless B&B’s to stay in. This is a town for the visitor to stay, eat, drink and shop. Full of beautifully appointed shops and a multitude of eateries.
The Daylesford Holiday Park certainly has not been updated in the last decade at least. Although tidy, the shabby onsite shacks with retro aged, but not restored vans attached, are covered in dust, lattice or plastic café curtains to keep out the weather. Our powered site was interesting. The grounds keeper supplied an extension cord! Water was courtesy of a hose. Needless to say, we used our own water supply and left his hose coiled under the monolithic pine tree we were parked beneath, fearful of the overhanging branches the size of a train carriage coming down and crushing us like an aluminium beer can, and obscuring any hope of sunshine on a chilly Autumn day.
I may be sounding a little negative, usually my travel declarations are happy and full of love for where I have been and what I have seen. Perhaps my expectations of a pretty country town with lovely walks were somewhat dashed by the hordes of people cramming into cafes and shops. It felt like a miniature metropolis. There were lots of pretty walks, gorgeous buildings and parks, they were just extremely crowded. The botanical gardens are quite lovely, with a look out tower. Cars can drive through.
The caravan park was a good place for an overnight stop on the way to somewhere else, but it felt a little gloomy, drab and lacklustre for a longer stay. Perhaps I misjudged the towns tourist capacity, it’s been over thirty years since I last visited Daylesford, rather a lot has changed and improved, but personality has dissolved with the upgrade in facilities. The Daylesford Convent has some historical charm and art on display but charges admission to venture past the cafe.
Okay, the good points. For those who want to get out of Melbourne for somewhere nice to lunch and stroll the shops, and don’t want a long drive, it’s perfect. B&B overnight weekend, also perfect. The choice of places to eat are many and of quite a good standard. Bakeries are plentiful, Knick Knack shops, local wines and craft beers, and shop after shop for hours of browsing through ‘vintage’ treasures. (Ummm, sifting through trash and treasure crap at highly inflated prices.) These ‘retro’ market places are essential for killing time if the weather is inclement. So, they do serve a purpose other than promise a unique find.
For walkers, there are some decent hills to get your heart rate soaring and beautiful views from many parts of the town, although a lack of footpaths was an issue , we had to dodge a lot of SUV’s.
Must be a few sinners in town going by the number of churches.
Autumn can be sunny, warm, drizzly and cold. We had all facets of weather in the three days we spent in Daylesford. The leaves had turned their fiery pre-winter colours and the ground was blanketed in russet hues, thick and crunchy below trees that would cast cooling shade in hot summers and allow warming sunlight to shine through naked branches in cooler months. I have to admit, I did my share of kicking up leaves as we walked. Irresistible.
Clunes is only a short drive away, and worth doing. Renowned for its book festival, it is a lovely town with beautiful old buildings in very good condition. Renovations and restorations are evident as original buildings are rendered usable without destroying the ambiance of the town’s main street. Although a tiny town compared to Daylesford, there are still plenty of choices for a coffee and cake, or lunch. Walking around the town is quite lovely, with interesting cottages and gardens to enjoy.
The drive is through pretty countryside, although we did miss a turn on the way back and ended up on a road quite reminiscent of the Oodnadatta track, and met some overly curious cows with rather loud moos.
We were lucky to score sunny, if not terribly warm weather on arrival, although the clouds rolled in and rain began to fall intermittently, but we felt cosy in our Penguin camper trailer and munched on cheese and delicious bread we had bought from the Himalaya Bakery in Daylesford. The baker hand sliced the loaf for us, for which I was very grateful, and I am very glad we walked into his bakery as the bread was delicious and toasted beautifully for breakfast the next day.
The Daylesford Lake promised old time grandeur but it needs a jolly good tidy up.
There are some mineral water pumps, a decent walk around the lake, but it was terribly scruffy. We didn’t bother with tea at the Boat House Cafe as it was overflowing toddlers and mum’s due to a large play ground and masses of ducks. Great for mums of little ones. I loved the birds but they are obviously used to people as they had no fear and come looking for handouts.
We checked out the Hepburn Spa mineral springs. A nice walk, but it was freezing when we got there. We couldn’t check out the pool as it was hidden from public view, but there are a serious of pumps which we didn’t taste the waters from. If there was water flowing it would have been quite pretty, but it has been dry, so hopefully they will get some rain and fill the waterways this winter.
The Chocolate factory captured us. We picked out 10 chocolates. which cost almost $30. Beware if you have kids with you.
In summary. Daylesford is great for those who like to eat out and shop in a pretty location away from Melbourne. I recommend the B&B option for an overnight stay. It’s not however, for travellers who enjoy camping in seclusion. And beware the pubs, they look like pubs from the outside, but inside they are sterile pokies environments. Although this menu was amusing.
I fell in love with this doggy and his ever so practical but not terribly cool jumper. He made my day. Love him.