No, I didn’t find any alluvial gold in Daylesford, an easy two-hour drive north-west of Melbourne.  Unfortunately, the days of panning the river bed for gold are over.  But back in the 1850s, it was gold that made this small city rich, along with a host of others along the so-called Goldfields Touring Route (Ballarat, Clunes, Castlemaine, etc.).  In its prime, Daylesford had about 40,000 inhabitants, compared to approx. 3,500 nowadays.  But this is not to say that the area is depressed.  On the contrary, because of its vicinity to Melbourne, it has become a welcome weekend destination, when the population easily swells to 7000 visitors, sometimes up to 25,000 (for example for the very popular gay and lesbian festival in March).  Maybe also because at 700 meters over the sea, it is cooler at night than Melbourne in the summer.  Last year, however, it did not look good for this area, as the fires drew alarmingly close.  A local resident told me “the dead saved the living” meaning that the fire stopped at the treeless cemetery and thus saved the town. Nature’s power of recovery never ceases to amaze, as the photo of the darkened trunks show, showing a veil of new grass growth.

My main reason for wanting to visit the region was – you guessed it – the mineral water springs in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.  Many of the over 100 different cold water mineral springs were discovered as a result of mining activities; they are now fitted with a manual hand-pump and can be accessed by the general public free of charge.  You can even bring your containers and take as much water as you want.  As the most helpful and friendly lady at the visitor’s center told me, everyone has a favorite spring as every spring has a different taste.  The newly renovated Hepburn Bath House was a disappointment, though:  for all the multi-million dollars that were invested in a facelift for this historic institution founded in 1895, it is too small and too expensive for the very limited offerings ($70 – approx. €35 –  for 2 hours at the weekend for just four different small pools and one steam sauna).

From about the 1970s, the area became an alternative lifestyle center, and now is a veritable hot spot for everything to do with the wellness craze:  day spa treatments galore, all sorts of massage treatments, with a plethora of restaurants and clairvoyant/tarot card reading establishments thrown in for good measure.  I stayed at the very English (but run by a charming French lady and her Australian husband) Mount Stuart House and felt like a veritable princess sleeping on the highest mattress ever.

As you can see from the photos, you would hardly think that this is the Australian bush, so lush the green fields, with their picturesque cattle, horses (lots of studs along the way) and sheep, dotted here and there with gigantic eucalyptus gum trees and, right now, iridescent yellow mimosa trees.  Traffic was very light, allowing me to stop freely along the way for photos.  Every now and again a clutch of home-made post boxes signalled human habitation somewhere down the adjacent dirt road. This is also wine country, with lots of “free degustation” signs dotting the roads.  So far, though, I still haven’t seen a live kangaroo in the wild, let alone a koala, just the signs for them…

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  1. Was für ein wunderschöner Beitrag! Danke! Der Text und die Fotos – informativ wie immer und herrlich zum Anschauen.(Nebenbei: die ’empty road …’ könnte auch durch den äußeren Südwesten Frankreichs in den 80er Jahren führen – mit einer roten Ente statt eines blauen Autos … Seufz!)
    Liebe Grüße Ariane

  2. Zenaida, Du bist zu beneiden. So viel schoene Gegenden und so viele schoene Erlebnisse. Hier beginnt der Herbst, und die Wiesen sind in vollem Gang. Liebe Gruesse, Hilde

  3. Liebe Zenaida,
    ich schliesse mich Hilde an: beneidenswert………………………
    Der Herbst beginnt in deutschen Landen – wir haben noch schöne Tage: Sonne und eine wunderbare Farbenpracht bei den Bäumen und Wäldern.
    Lass es dir weiterhin gut gehen und bis ganz bald.
    Alles Liebe Ulrike

  4. I have visited Daylesford and Hepburn Springs several times and enjoyed iy every time, I loved the walk around Lake Daylesford, walking and shopping in the main street was fun and I bought some really unique presents for friends. We tried several different cafes and restaurants and had some delicious meals that were all quite different. Can’t wait until I go there again and visit new places and find new things to do.

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