One of my favorite destinations for a short break is Daylesford. It is so handy, just an hour and a quarter from my home in Melbourne, and although it does have a huge range of things to do, it is mainly the drive itself and the ever changing scenery that keeps me coming back.
Whether approaching by the Calder or Western Highway, the drive is half the fun for me. The turn from the Western Highway to the Ballan – Daylesford Rd always brings a sigh of relief, as the long straights of the busy highway change suddenly to a meandering country road. Tall trees frame the way, tantalizing views of lovely pastland flicker by, til dramatic breaks appear between the stand’s revealing a backdrop of rolling hills or the melancholy site of a long abandoned cottage. Hand painted signs offering fresh fruit and vegetables at roadside stands, seem to advertise not just their wares, but also the fact that you have left the city and have entered a slower, gentler world. The road winds past violet lavender fields toward the town, then dips at the lake, before rising in to the town itself, where fabulous restaurants, galleries, great shopping and a plethora of day spa’s await. An excellent source for finding accommodation in Daylesford is Daylesford Accommodation Directory.
I often take another route home, than the one I took in to Daylesford so that I can enjoy a different perspective. It does not matter too much which way as it is all rewarding, there are several lovely alternatives.
Taking the Trentham – Daylesford Rd is always pleasant, this way also has magnificent mature trees and lovely rolling country, but is accentuated with more small communities and quaint farm-let’s. If you are heading for home that way on a Sunday, drop in to the Daylesford Market at the Daylesford Railway Station, for local produce, trash and treasure and crafts. As you travel along this pretty road, there are other roads you may pick up some local produce, perhaps a little wine to remind you of your weekend, some local olive oil or chestnut’s to roast at home.
Trentham is itself a cute little town to stop for a cup of tea or latte and at this point I often decide whether to go through Blackwood or Woodend. The journey through Blackwood offers an interesting drive, tight turns and sweeping curves give glances of some very pretty scenery, before circling back to the Western Hwy. Autumn is a stunning time to travel this way, and my personal favorite. Deep gold’s, vibrant red’s of the trees contrast the dark green’s of grass and clear blue of the autumn sky, making every turn a delight.
The drive through to Woodend is also nice, with straighter roads and open fields leading to the lovely little town itself, which offers cake and coffee and some nice specialty shops. I prefer to take a little more time and detour through Kyneton. Like Daylesford, it is a gold town, so the buildings have a lot of character, many bluestones and historic sites, with antiques, crafts and plenty of eateries it is well worth a visit.
Going the long way round through Castlemaine is another lovely option, picking up some beautiful treasures at the Chocolate Mill on the way through can make this drive even more memorable. The road is open and sweeping, with rolling paddocks, cattle and mature trees to view and famous Mt. Franklin rising out of the farmland on the way. Historic Castlemaine has impressive buildings also, especially the Castlemaine Gaol looming up over the town from it’s hilltop. On the way back through a visit to Maldon is well worth the time, as you drive through note the antique town features the original condition authentic signage and buildings, meticulously maintained giving an aura of bygone times.
It is surprising how quickly you arrive back in Melbourne along either the Calder Hwy or the Western Hwy once you decide to leave the Spa Country. I look at the drive to and from Daylesford itself as a big part of the weekend getaway itself, not as a necessary evil. For me, taking the time to explore the countryside complement the weekend, instead of rushing to get back, why not enjoy the drive? Not many destinations offer this as well as Daylesford, and when you have the opportunity to indulge in the journey itself rather than having to put up with it, your break is that much more memorable.