The charming hamlet of HEPBURN SPRINGS, set amid lush green hills 4km north of Daylesford, and synonymous with spas and pampering, has become a popular weekend retreat for stressed-out urbanites. From the bus stop, walk through the shady Soldiers Memorial Park to the Mineral Springs Reserve, where you can taste three kinds of mineral water from old pumps and take advantage of the pool, spa and massage facilities at the sleek Hepburn Spa & Hepburn Springs Bathhouse (Sun– Fri 10am–6pm, Sat 9am–7pm, Tel:03/5348 8888, Web: www.hepburnspa.com.au ). Bookings must be made at least three to six weeks in advance, especially for weekends.
The gracious, grand Peppers Springs Retreat at the corner of Main Road and Tenth Street (Tel:03/5348 2202, Web: www.peppers.com.au ; Price: $201 and above) is located in a famous 1930s Art-Deco hotel that has been tastefully renovated with luxurious en-suite rooms; there's a mineral spa on site too. Tasty meals are available in the bar, and at the more elegant and expensive restaurant on the premises. Dudley House, at 101 Main Rd (Tel:03/5348 3033, Web: www.dudleyhouse.com.au ; Price: $131–250), is a lovely Federation-style weatherboard house with bed and breakfast. At the budget end of the scale is Continental House, 9 Lone Pine Ave (Tel:03/5348 2005, Web: www.continentalhouse.com.au ; Price: under $60), a vegan retreat offering basic accommodation, yoga classes and massages on request. The rambling house is located in a wild garden on a hill above the Mineral Springs Reserve. In addition to small dorms (bed $35) and simple twins/doubles ($80, BYO linen for all) there's a kitchen and several lounge rooms; a café offers vegan banquets on Saturday night ($30). Wildwood YHA at 42 Main Rd (Tel:03/5348 4435, firstname.lastname@example.org; dorms $27–32, rooms Price: $61-75) is set in a small and lovely renovated guesthouse with a homely kitchen and a deck overlooking a great garden area; booking is essential and pick-ups can be arranged.
A few eating places can be found along Main Street. The hippest by far is The Red Star Café at 115 Main Rd (daily 8am–5pm, dinner Fri & Sat), which is a likeable laid-back spot with a wide range of pasta and salads. For traditional Thai food try Jasmine Thai across the road at no. 114 (dinner daily except Tues; Tel:03/5348 1163). The Palais at no. 111 (Web: www.thepalais.com.au ) is a restaurant and bar (Thurs– Sun night) in a stunning Art Nouveau building with a ballroom used for dance classes and as an entertainment venue – top-notch names from the Melbourne music scene and further afield perform here. Further down the road, The Old Hepburn Hotel at no. 236 is good for a drink in the beer garden or for tasty pub grub (dinner Tues– Sun). They also have live bands on Sunday afternoons.