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Hepburn Springs, VIC

Beautiful and peaceful mineral springs and spa village.

Hepburn Springs is a charming and peaceful village which sits on a ridge and is characterised by quiet, leafy parks and recreation areas. The village is over 600 m above sea-level while the famous Bathhouse and Spa, and the equally famous springs, are nestled on the slopes below. Hepburn Springs is known as the 'Spa Centre of Australia' with, reputedly, 50% of the country's known and active mineral water outlets. Its primary appeal lies in its mineral waters, its spas and its easy proximity to Melbourne.


Hepburn Springs is located 116 km north-west of Melbourne via Ballarat. and 46 km north-east of Ballarat.


Origin of Name

Hepburn Springs was named after Captain John Hepburn who passed through the area during an overland trip from Sydney to Port Phillip in 1836-37. He was so impressed with the countryside that he took up land in the district in 1838.


Things to See and Do

Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa
The Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is located off Mineral Springs Crescent in the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve. It was originally built in 1895 and offered the traditional shared experience of a communal bath house. Every kind of hydrotherapy imaginable is on offer. The bathhouse contains a mineral Relaxation Pool and Spa Pool which provide waters which rehydrate and oxygenate the body. It is open to all individuals and families. There are changing degrees of privacy (and the rates increase with privacy) with The Sanctuary being a specialised refuge restricted to people over the age of 16 (it includes a towel, robe and locker); The Spa offering private water therapies and, finally, a Wellness Natural Mineral Bathing with added sea salts and an Indulgence Steam therapy experience. tel: (03) 5321 6000. The complex is open from 9.00 am to 6.30 pm Sunday to Thursday and  9.00 am to 8.00 pm Friday and 8.00 am - 8.00 pm on Saturday. Check out http://www.hepburnbathhouse.com for details and prices.

Other Spas and Therapies
There are a total of six spas and massage places in Hepburn Springs. The major attraction is the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa which had a $13 million upgrade in 2008. There is also a boutique Mineral Spa at Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel and a range of other massage and spa services which are all outlined at http://hepburnspringsvillage.com.au/the-relaxing-side.

Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve
The Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve is central to the appeal of the town. It is a delightful 30 ha reserve which includes the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa; the Pavilion which offers light meals, tea and coffee; and the Soda, Locarno, Sulphur, Wyuna and Argyle pumps where it is possible to drink the mineral waters of the area. Hand pumps and continuous-flow pipes allow visitors to bottle or drink the water free of charge.
Each pump has a detailed sign which includes information about the specific spring:

Soda Spring - The sign notes: "In 1930, the Geological Survey drilled eight bores in the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve. The bore construction followed a dry season and enquiries of the Mines Department about reductions in spring flow that were experienced. Five of the bores were abandoned either because fresh water was encountered or because they were too near the existing springs and it was feared the bores might affect their flow. The remaining three - Soda, Sulphur and Wyuna - were fitted with hand pumps and have since assumed the status of 'spring'. The mineral waters throughout the Hepburn Springs Reserve tend towards a sodium bicarbonate type. The soda spring water when compared to the other mineral springs on the reserve, contains the lowest levels of chloride, calcium and silica. The water comes from a bore. Mineral water was struck at between 5-8 metres, just beneath a layer of fill from the alluvial workings of the goldminers. The bore was re-drilled in 2002 to a depth of 11.5 metres."

"Locarno Spring is believed to be one of several minor eyes (water seepage points) that were observed, but went unnamed by Dr Dunn of the Geological Survey in 1910. At the time the springs in the reserve were dry due to distant underground gold mining. After the closure of the North Frenchman's and the Frenchman's Reef Mines, spring water appeared at a new lower eye in the creek - now known as Locarno Spring, taking its name from the Swiss spa resort. During the 1970s and 1980s ,the period of the highest demand for mineral water in the reserve, overflow from Locarno Spring was diverted at night to the bottling plant at Pavilion Spring. Excess pumping at the bottling plant during the day could stop the flow at Locarno Spring.
"Surprisingly very little historical data exists on the flow of Locarno Spring - despite it now being the most prominent of the public spring outlets. It is geologically associated with the west dipping fissures cutting across sandstone strata of the Hepburn Spring anticline. The anticline passes between Locarno Spring and Pavilion Spring. A new bore was drilled in 2007. The mineral water from the bore contains the highest levels of calcium, magnesium, total dissolved salts, inorganic carbon and bicarbonate of the five Hepburn springs. It is also one of the most effervescent."

Sulphur Spring was fitted with a hand pump in 1930. It is a sodium bicarbonate natural mineral water or "soda water". Although it is called "Sulphur Spring" it only has 9mg/L which gives it the lowest level of sulphate of any of the five springs. The original bore reached 5.2 metres but in 2007 it was dug to a depth of 20 metres.

Geologically the springs are located on rock strata and volcanic basins which were formed by three extinct volcanoes. Waters, trapped in these basins, have slowly leached minerals from 450-million-year-old rocks. The reserve has picnic and playground facilities, toilets and shady trees.

Memory of Place Sculpture
Outside the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is an unusual sculpture comprising a chair, the shadow of a reader, the word "Listen" and a series of five story stones. It is by Petrus Spronk and is titled Memory of Place.
Spronk explains the sculpture: "The sculptures story: The chair at the entrance to the bathhouse tells us about a local man, John Howell, who used to welcome visitors, open the gate and take two bob for a fee, then return to his book. (I felt this to be a poetic moment which became an inspiration for the sculpture). He was an avid reader, which is shown by the book on the chair. The book on the chair features a short essay about how the Reserve came into being ... the shadow from the chair, cast by Chris Howell, represents his father ... the nearby rock, inscribed with the word "Listen", invites us to do just that. Listen to the various stories the park will reveal to you by taking your time, being still, appreciating the quietness of the trees and listening. Generations ago, a time well before television, the park used to be a social centre for the local community and visitors alike. Many weekend activities such as dances, singing competitions, performances etc provided entertainment. The series of five story rocks located within the Reserve tell us in various anecdotes about some of the historical social events experienced in the reserve. This goes back to the 1920s and 1930s as told by old time locals Marie Butler, Joe McEwen, Laurie Sullivan and a younger generation, Merv Keating and Bonnie Howell."

Old Macaroni Factory
Located at 64 Main Street, the Old Macaroni Factory is a large hand-made brick structure which was erected in 1859 by Italian immigrants, Pietro and Giacomo Lucini. It reflects the architectural traditions of Northern Italy. The facade is plastered and without decoration although the ceilings of the wings feature hand-painted decorations added by the Lucinis. The factory is now a cafe-restaurant run by the great-great grandson of the Lucinis. It is open Wednesday to Sunday from 8.00 am - 3.00 pm and Friday and Saturday from 6.00 pm. Tel 0409 585 967 or check out http://www.macaronifactory.com.au. There are tours every Saturday at 10.30 am.

Villa Parma
Fabrizzio Crippa emigrated to Australia in 1855 from Lombardy. He came to Hepburn Springs and became part of the district's Swiss Italian population. Initially he worked as a butcher before turning to grape growing and wine production. In 1864 he built the Villa Parma, a two-storey rendered brick building with a distinctive dark stone trim, on the coach road to Castlemaine. The gardens comprised vines on trellisses; mulberry, chestnut and pear trees and plantings of tobacco. The house comprised three bedrooms downstairs with another three upstairs. According to the Register of the National Estate – Australian Heritage Database, "the cement-rendered brick and bluestone building featured local sandstone edgings with distinctive dark stone trim quoining around the front ground floor windows, along the sidewalls and the main front door. The latter feature incorporated a central French window-style with margin glazing and a rectangular light above it. On either side of the door were two timber-paned casement windows, with four similar but smaller crafted windows above on the first floor. Plain timber casement windows were also located on the back and the sides of the building. Solid, louvered wooden shutters encased the ground floor windows. The slated roof appeared hipped and there were a number of tall rendered chimneys. The cellar boasted a deep natural spring well, with brick arches supporting the building. The design of the well not only provided an abundance of water but also maintained effective drainage." Stencil designs on the ceiling and oxide walls also featured as part of the interior design. It was from his carefully laid out vineyard of over 15,000 vines and the purpose-built cellar with a deep well at Parma House that Fabrizzo Crippa produced his award-winning wine, Parma House Red. Amongst his awards, he received a bronze medal in London in 1873 as well as honourable mentions at the Vienna Exhibition. Crippa was instrumental in establishing one of Victoria’s earliest vineyards. He was also a member of the first Hepburn Springs Committee formed to protect the mineral water from the effects of mining." The building was heritage listed in 1985. In 2006 it was restored to its original state and it is now available for rent as a four bedroom boutique villa. Prices and booking are available at http://villaparma.com.au.

Other Buildings
The town has a number of fine old guest houses which are of architectural quality and some historic interest. Among the most impressive are Dudley House; The Springs Hotel now operating as Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel; The Grande, now operating as a boutique hotel and restaurant with Friday night cabarets; and Wyuna, now the home of well known artist David Bromley. Their heydays as guest houses were from the 1930s to 1950s.


Other Attractions in the Area

Jacksons Lookout Tower
Jacksons Lookout Tower is located above Hepburn Spa on the road to the Midland Highway. The intention is to offer panoramic views of the town and the valley. However the trees have grown since the tower was built and the views have been very effectively blocked.

There are a number of pleasant, signposted bushwalks that start at the Hepburn Reserve:
* to Hepburn Reservoir (5 km return)
* Jacksons Lookout Tower (2.6 km return, 40 mins) and
* Argyle Spring (2.8 km, 1 hour return). The latter can be started from the reserve carpark or from Wyuna Spring.

Tipperary Walk
The major walking trail is the Tipperary Walk which explores Hepburn Regional Park from Hepburn Springs Reserve to Lake Daylesford. It is a well-signposted walk which includes some of the old water races from the gold mining era. It is a total of 16.3 km, is easy and gently undulating, and can be broken into shorter sections :
(1) From the reserve to Golden Spring (at the end of Golden Springs Ave) via Jacksons Lookout Tower (2.8 km).
(2) From Golden Spring follow Spring Creek past Liberty Spring to Breakneck Gorge (2.2 km).
(3) Cross the Newstead Road bridge over the gorge and follow Sailor's Creek to The Blowhole (3.1 km).
(4) Follow the signs and cross the bridge to Bryce's Flat Picnic Area (1.7 km).
(5) There are two tracks (one on either bank of Sailor's Creek) south to Tipperary Spring (3.3 km). The spring itself is located near the footbridge. Panning for gold and garnets is popular here.
(6) Follow either bank south to Twin Bridges picnic area (2.3 km).
(7) Cross the highway, follow Wombat Creek, try the waters at Sutton, Hardhills and Central Springs and finish at Lake Daylesford (1.3 km).
For details check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/hepburn-r.p/things-to-do/walks.

The Blowhole
The Blowhole was created in the 1870s when goldminers used dynamite to create a tunnel through a quartz reef in order to divert Sailor's Creek. This enabled them to scour the old creek bed for alluvial gold. The Blowhole is located along a side road which heads off Blowhole Road and it is also on the Tipperary Walk. It is particularly impressive when the creek is flowing strongly. There is a short loop walk around The Blowhole and an explanatory plaque.



* Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Dja Dja Wurrung Aborigines.

* The town is named after Captain John Hepburn who travelled through the area during an overland trip from Sydney to Port Phillip in 1836-37.

* Hepburn took up land near Smeaton in 1838.

* Alluvial gold was found near the townsite in December 1851.

* Prospectors arrived in 1852 at the 'Jim Crow Diggings' and the mining camp turned into a town.

* At the height of the goldrush in the mid-1850s significant numbers of Italians and Swiss Italians settled in the area. Their influence on the gardens and architecture is still in evidence and gives sections of the town a European feel.

* It was during the goldrushes that it was found that the town was positioned on a rich deposit of odourless, effervescent mineral water.

* A post office was opened in 1854.

* The alluvial gold had run out by the late 1850s and a new camp, with significant numbers of Chinese diggers, was established at Breakneck Gorge in 1859.

* The Old Macaroni Factory was built in 1859.

* The elegant Villa Palma was completed in 1864.

* The Hepburn Mineral Spring Reserve was established in 1865.

* By 1868 the potential of the mineral springs had been recognised and a committee was formed to clear up the remnants of the goldrush era

* The appeal of the waters and the picturesque setting saw the town became a fashionable spa resort during the 1870s.

* The railway arrived in 1881.

* The arrival of the railway saw visitor accommodation grow rapidly with guest houses, luxury hotels with orchestras and formal dinners, ballrooms, theatres, pavilions and baths being built.

* A bathhouse, since modernised, was built in 1895.

* In 1906 a bushfire did enormous damage to the village and destroyed large numbers of buildings.

* In 1910 the site was inspected by Dr E J Dunn, the Director of the Geological Survey.

* By 1912 the Victorian State government had closed down Frenchmans Mine and paid the owners £250 compensation. The mine had reduced the water flow to the spings and the locals deemed the springs more valuable than gold.

* In 1914 Frenchmans Reef Mine was also closed.

* In 1930 the Geological Survey drilled eight holes in the Hepburn Springs Reserve.

* The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the town's fortunes as a spa resort decline.

* The local post office closed in 1964.

* By the early 1980s there was a renewed interest in the town and the local waters.

* In 2007 all the five bores at Hepburn Springs Reserve were replaced with deeper bores.

* The new, modern Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa was opened in 2008.

* Today the spa complex has been restored and extended and it is now visited each year by thousands of people.


Visitor Information

Hepburn Springs does not have its own information centre. The nearest is the Dayleford Regional Visitor Information Centre, 98 Vincent St, Daylesford, and is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, tel: (03) 5321 6123 or 1800 454 891.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website - http://hepburnspringsvillage.com.au - which includes an excellent, downloadable map as well as information about accommodation and eating in the village.

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