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Daylesford, VIC

Fashionable town noted for its alternative therapies and its reputation as the Spa Centre of Australia

Daylesford is a resort town situated on a ridge and surrounded by mountain scenery, forestry and recreation areas which give the town a holiday-alternative ambience. It was originally a goldrush town and an influx of Italians and Swiss, and their influence on the gardens and architecture, has given the town a distinct European feel. Located on top of volcanic basins, Daylesford has become a popular "spa town". Waters trapped in volcanic basins beneath the town have slowly leached minerals from 450-million-year-old rocks:. Since the nineteenth century many people have believed that this odourless, effervescent mineral water has important curative effect. Consequently Daylesford is known as the 'Spa Centre of Australia' with 50 per cent of the country's known and active mineral water outlets and another 30 per cent located nearby. As a result of the popularity of the springs and spas a substantial number of businesses and individuals in the town now offer 'alternative' services, including every kind of massage as well as reiki, shiatsu, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology, spiritual healing, tarot and psychic readings.

Location

Daylesford is located 114 km north-west of Melbourne via Bacchus Marsh. It is 46 km north-east of Ballarat and 616 metres above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

When the townsite was surveyed in 1854 it was named Wombat. It was then renamed by Sir Charles Hotham, Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, after the place in Gloucestershire where Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India had died in 1818. 

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Things to See and Do

Accessing the Mineral Springs
The best way to access the mineral springs in Daylesford is to walk around Lake Daylesford. The Central Springs Reserve is near the spillway end of Lake Daylesford. It can be easily accessed from the 'Peace Mile' track. The 'Springs' Reserve was completed around the same time as Lake Daylesford. It was designed as a picnic area incorporating the mineral springs. Detailed information and photos can be accessed at http://www.daylesforddelights.com/central-springs-reserve.html.

All The Mineral Springs in the Area
There is the 'Wombat Flat Spring' on the King Street side of the lakes. Four 'springs' called the Central Springs A, B & C, Hard Hills, Wagga Spring, Sutton Spring at Central Springs Reserve which can be accessed via Fulcher Street.

Lake Daylesford and the Peace Mile Walk
Lake Daylesford covers the land upon which gold was found in 1851. The Wombat Flat Diggings became the site of a Chinese market garden and joss house when the alluvial gold ran out. This was maintained until 1929 when the lake was created. 
Today it is a popular fishing spot with picnic-barbecue facilities. It is also an impressive home to swans, cormorants, ducks, moorhens, sulphur-crested cockatoos, multi-coloured parrots and tiny wrens. 
The 'Peace Mile' walking track (2.9 km, easy) starts from the main car park and completes a circuit of the lake. It passes a number of springs as it makes its way around the lake. Rowboats, aquabikes, paddleboats, canoes and surf skis can be hired on the foreshore and there is also a cafe (the Boathouse Cafe was burnt down in 2012 and has been rebuilt) at the water's edge. There is an excellent walking map listing 13 places of interest. Check out https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/3134.

A Walk Along Vincent Street
Daylesford Museum and Primary School
Located at 100 Vincent St, is the Daylesford Museum & Historical Society. It is one of the largest regional museums in Victoria with over 800 square metres of space in the building. It is home to a significant collection of historical, photographs, memorabilia and artefacts which are displayed in the old School of Mines and Technical School building and yard. The School of Mines was built in 1890 as a venue for developing deep-lead mining skills. An important Indigenous collection is also on display together with and extensive collection of early mining relics, records and information. It is open weekends, school and public holidays from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm or by appointment, tel: (03) 5348 1453. For more information check out https://victorianmuseums.com.au/daylesford-district-historical-society-a

Primary School
Located at 102 Vincent Street, the old primary school (officially opened 1875) is an impressive building which has been placed on the Victorian Heritage Database. It has been listed by the National Trust. For more information check out http://www.daylesps.vic.edu.au/school/index.html.

Post Office
Located at 86 Vincent Street, the Daylesford Post Office was built in 1867 to an Italianate design with a clock tower and balustraded parapet. It is listed by the National Trust. For more information check out http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68585/download-report.

Town Hall
Located at 74 Vincent Street is the impressive Daylesford Town Hall (1882). It is still used extensively for public events in the town. Since 2015 the Aboriginal flag has flown permanently above the building. The Heritage Council has noted of the building: "One of the smaller examples in the great series of town halls designed by G R Johnson, the leading practitioner in the field: it dates form 1883-5 and has a giant order pilastrated facade with a happy use of arched windows with colonettes set into the sides, for while this elegant motif is used by Johnson elsewhere it is particularly apposite to Daylesford, where primitive Palladian windows are a hallmark of local architecture." Check out http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68587 for more details.

Alpha Hall
Located at 63-65 Vincent Street, the Alpha Hall was Daylesford's first picture theatre (c.1914) and reputedly the first picture theatre in Victoria outside of Melbourne. It is currently being used as a gallery. The Weirs sign below Alpha Hall relaties to early owners - Weir's Royal Pictures "The Home of Big Features and Good Music" were held in the old Alpha Hall and they were also "Tailors, Merchants and Hatters". Check out http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/26982.

The Convent - Gallery and Cafe
Located on Wombat Hill the Convent, which is located in the former convent of the Presentation Sisters (1892), was built as a private residence for the local Gold Commissioner. In its first manifestation it was known as Blarney Castle. It was purchased by the Catholic Church in the 1880s as a presbytery for the local priest. It became the Holy Cross Convent and Boarding School for Girls in 1892. By 1904 a new chapel had been built and in 1927 the north wing was added. The excellent and detailed The Convent website (http://conventgallery.com.au/history) notes: "The building reeks of history. It seems to seep through the walls and up through the original Baltic pine floors. In one cell, you can see the burnt patch where a candle had fallen, and in the courtyard, at the rear of the building, a smoke room was erected in the wall, to cap a 175 ft deep ventilation shaft down to one of Daylesford’s biggest mines. The long, narrow, third and top floor has been left in its original derelict state – an eerie reminder of years past. It is here, between the flaking plaster walls, that the air is thick and almost tangible with history. This room “closest to God” had been used for the nuns’ infirmary built in 1954. Adjoining this room is the old Bell Tower and from here one can admire a glorious, panoramic view of the town and beyond.
The old convent, magnificent though it was, lacked adequate heating and required a tremendous amount of upkeep, inside and out. In the 1970s it was decided that more suitable accommodation should be found for the nuns. The building and gardens had declined into dereliction when Tina Banitska, a well-known local artist and ceramicist, found the courage and foresight to buy the property in 1988. Since the building was re-opened as a gallery on March 31st 1991, The Convent has undergone several stages of renovations to the building and grounds, far exceeding its original grandeur."
It notes that today "the building houses seven individual galleries, a large retail area, a café, a lounge bar, a penthouse and two function rooms. Kept as a reminder of the rich history of the building are four tiny cells, which were the nuns’ bedrooms. Many boarders have returned to “the Convent”, and with trepidation, approached the old nuns’ quarters, which had always been forbidden ground."

Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens
The outstanding Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens (established in 1863) are located on an extinct volcano high above town, just off Central Springs Road. The gardens include oaks, ash, elms, poplars, cypresses all planted in the 1860s; conifers donated by Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller who was the Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens; a fernery; a begonia display; a lookout tower with views across the town and surrounding district; some excellent picnic areas and a kiosk. Of particular interest are the monkey puzzle tree, a German horse-drawn mortar from World War I and the begonia display in the Conservatory. The Friends of Daylesford's Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens website - http://www.wombathill.org.au - has additional information.

Tipperary Walking Track
The Tipperary Walking Track explores Hepburn Regional Park from Lake Daylesford to Hepburn Springs. It is an easy and well-signposted course. In total it is 16 km, will take between five and six hours, but can be broken into shorter sections. From Lake Daylesford it passes through Central Springs Reserve and along Wombat Creek. At the start, if you don't want to do the whole walk, there is the Lake Daylesford-Twin Bridges section which is 1.3 km and takes 20 minutes. Cross the footbridge at the carpark and return to the lake or cross the highway to Twin Bridges picnic area. It passes Central, Hard Hills and Sutton springs.
The track then follows both banks of Sailor's Creek north to Tipperary Springs (2.3 km - 40 minutes). The spring itself is located near the footbridge. Panning for gold and garnets is popular here. Cross the footbridge. You can loop back to Twin Bridges or climb the steps and follow the signs along the west bank of the creek to Bryces Flat picnic area (from Tipperary Springs it is 3.3 km, 1 hour). You can loop back to Tipperary along the east bank or cross the footbridge and follow the signs north to The Blowhole and Breakneck Gorge veering east to Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve. For further information, and details of each section of the walk, check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/hepburn-r.p/things-to-do/walks.

Daylesford Spa Country Railway
The old railway station, located at 16-18 Raglan Street, is where the town's Sunday markets are held and is the departure point for Daylesford Spa Country Railway. The trains run from Daylesford through Musk Station to Bullarto and return. There is a detailed description of the journey at http://www.dscr.com.au/heritage-train.php.
The final section from Musk to Bullarto travels through forest, with its fern gullies, streams, waterfalls and spring wildflowers and up a 1 in 50 climb. The train runs regularly on Sundays and there is a timetable at http://www.dscr.com.au/fares-and-times.php.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Jubilee Lake
Located off Lake Road to the south of the town, Jubilee Lake was constructed in 1860 to supply water for the goldfields and for domestic purposes. It is now a popular spot for camping, boating, picnicking and swimming. Fishing in the lake can see rainbow trout, redfin and tench being caught. There is a mineral spring, a kiosk, barbecue facilities, boat and canoe hire, a large playground for children and a walking track which leads around the lake and on to Soda Spring. There are photographs of the lake and a good map of the walk around the shoreline at http://www.daylesforddelights.com/jubilee-lake.html.

Sailor's Falls
Located in the Hepburn Regional Park, an area that was once mined for gold, Sailor's Falls, are 6 km south of the town on the Daylesford-Ballan Road. They cascade 20-30 m down a steep gorge into a fern-lined creek. A short loop walk includes the area's mineral springs (about 400 metres downstream from the falls) or there is a 6.5 km walk to Twin Bridges. There are two very useful websites. Check out http://waterfallseasons.com/waterfalls-in-victoria-sailors-falls-daylesford.htm and https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/australia-sailors-falls.html.

Mt Franklin Recreation Reserve
Mt Franklin, an extinct volcano (technically a breached scoria cone) is signposted 13 km north of town on the Midland Highway. Turn onto the Mount Franklin Road. The road ascends to a pleasant picnic-barbecue area. You can walk or drive from the picnic area to the lookout at the summit. For more information check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/hepburn-r.p/things-to-do/mt-franklin-reserve.

Goldfields Track
The Goldfields Track, of which the Leanganook Track is a 60 km section, is a 210 km track from Bendigo to Ballarat passing through Daylesford and Castlemaine. It is designed for both bushwalkers and mountain bike enthusiasts. The excellent Goldfields Track website (see http://www.goldfieldstrack.com.au/Pages/Explore.aspx) describes the track as "takes bushwalkers and mountain bikers through some of the most interesting and diverse scenery and Central Victoria's treasures - from diverse forests and spectacular views to the artefacts and cultural heritage of the greatest gold rush that the world has ever seen.  You'll travel through, or very close to some of the most picturesques and hospitable villages in the state and be able to enjoy the spoils of all that they have to offer." 

Dry Diggings Track
The Dry Diggings Track is a 55-km walking route which winds its way around the old goldfields between Castlemaine and Daylesford, taking in Fryerstown, Vaughan, Mt Franklin and Hepburn Springs. It takes in many of the area's goldmining relics, as well as its plant communities and fauna types. There is a very detailed map and description of the trail at http://www.goldfieldstrack.com.au/Pages/Explore/Dry_Diggings_Track.aspx. It describes the track as "Australia’s first National Heritage Park, the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park was created in 2002 in recognition of the region’s intimate association with the Victorian gold rush era. From the wet temperate forests on top of the Divide to the dry northern plains, it’s a roller coaster journey for most of the way and not recommended for the inexperienced walker or novice rider. At its outset, the walking track contours on steep slopes above Sailors Creek, hidden away in forest from the mineral spa towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. The bike route goes through town before rejoining the shared use track at Golden Springs. Soon after, your arrival at the spectacular erosion columns of Beehive Gully acts as a fitting introduction to the typical narrow, high-walled gullies pockmarked with mine shafts and riddled with stone ruins, encountered throughout this track. What you are traversing in places like Browns, Sebastopol and Sailors gullies is an open air museum consisting of a century and a half of old mining artefacts – a ghostly, abandoned landscape fading back into bush."

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Dja Dja Wurrung Aborigines. 

* The first European settler in the area was Captain John Hepburn who arrived in 1838. 

* In 1848, Irish immigrant John Egan took up land on the future townsite which, at the time, was known as 'Wombat Flat'. 

* Egan and his party found alluvial gold in August, 1851.

* Two or three hundred diggers were reported in the area in 1852. 

* A townsite, originally named Wombat, was surveyed in 1854. Around this time Italian miners began arriving in the town.

* The town was renamed Daylesford in 1855.

* An Anglican school was opened in 1857.

* A local Post Office opened in 1858.

* By 1859 about 3400 diggers were on the local diggings, 800 of whom were Chinese. 

* Daylesford was declared a municipality in 1859 

* The Wombat Creek was dammed in 1861 forming a reservoir.

* 1861 saw a Catholic School open.

* In 1862 both the local Court House and the hospital were opened.

* A flour mill was opened in 1863, reflecting the emergence of local agriculture. 

* St Peter's Catholic Church was consecrated in 1865.

* Novelist Joseph Furphy was married at Daylesford in 1867. 

* By the 1860s the alluvial gold was exhausted and a shift to quartz reef mining began.

* In 1880 the railway from Woodford reached the town. 

* A railway station was completed in 1881.

* Daylesford became a fashionable spa resort in the 1880s.

* A school of mines opened in 1891.

* The School of Mines became a technical school in 1914.

* Gold mining in the town continued until the 1920s.

* The last gold mine, the Ajax Mine, closed in 1923.

* The town as a spa resort destination fell out of favour in the Great Depression. 

* The railway to Creswick was closed in 1953.

* By the early 1980s interest in the local waters had revived. 

* In 1995 Daylesford was absorbed into Hepburn Shire.

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Visitor Information

Daylesford Regional Visitor Information Centre, 98 Vincent St, open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, tel: (1800 454 891.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.daylesforddelights.com for detailed information about the town.

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1 suggestion so far
  • Visiting from Qld, the one thing we notice is lack of rest areas with toilets, bins and
    parking for cars with vans, and trucks, and good signage for parking and toilets around town. Otherwise, lovely place to visit.

    Bronwyn Johnson