Highlights of the Macedon Ranges and Daylesford

wire sculpture Macedon Ranges

Joanne Brookfield

Posted March 15, 2022

An hour’s drive from Melbourne and you’re in the Macedon Ranges and Daylesford region of Central Victoria. With natural springs and waterfalls, and rolling hills and mountain scenery, this rustic setting makes for a relaxing getaway.

Add in endless day spa options, gourmet eateries and vineyards galore, all located in historic towns with perfectly preserved streetscapes for added charm, and your day trip may very well become a whole weekend away.

Macedon Ranges – Walk and wine

An erupting volcano six million years ago is ultimately responsible for putting the Macedon Ranges on the map, with its solidifying magma creating Hanging Rock. Also known as Mount Diogenes, this rare geological formation was immortalised by the classic Australian film Picnic At Hanging Rock.

You can have your own picnic or barbeque within the Hanging Rock Reserve or take the Pinnacle Walk to the summit. Alternatively, the landmark can also be enjoyed as part of the view from Camel’s Hump, the highest peak in the Macedon Ranges.

If you’d rather a wine than a walk, you’re also in the right place. Hanging Rock Winery, one of the largest in the region, joins dozens dotted across the landscape with its rich volcanic soil being ideal for vineyards.

Like in France, where Champagne is specific to a geographical location, the boutique wineries here are famous for their ‘Macedon’ sparkling, given this cool-climate wine region (the coolest on the mainland) is ideal for growing the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes required for cuvees.

Wineries around Gisborne, Lancefield, Trentham and Romsey are where you want to head for a glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, while the drier hillside surrounding Kyneton, Malmsbury and Baynton produce more robust Riesling, Merlot and Shiraz. 

vineyards at a winery

Hanging Rock winery is located 3km from the iconic local landmark, Hanging Rock.

Daylesford – Relax and rejuvenate

Whether you’re wanting a day-spa experience or a whole weekend of wellness, Victoria’s Central Highlands is your ideal destination. A little over an hour’s drive from Melbourne are the twin towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. Known as ‘Spa Country’ this region has more naturally occurring mineral springs than anywhere else in Australia so you can ‘take the waters’.

For centuries, it has been believed that geothermal springs, which are often rich in magnesium, calcium, silica and potassium, have many health benefits which is why public bath houses have sprung up above them across the world. Whether these minerals have healing properties, or just a relaxing soak in warm water is what rejuvenates, you can find out for yourself at Hepburn Bathhouse.

People have been ‘taking the waters’ here since 1895, although these days there’s a whole range of mineral bathing and spa options available. Nearby, similar experiences can be found at The Mineral Spa which is part of the Mineral Springs Hotel, while in Daylesford, The Lake House – famous for its restaurant on the banks of Lake Daylesford – also has a day spa on site.

The Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is another place where you can unwind and relax, just a stone's throw from RACV Goldfields Resort, where RACV Members save 25 per cent when booking direct.  

However, you define indulgence, you’ll be sure to find it with more than 200 types of therapies being available, from standards such as massages and facials, to ancient Ayurvedic healing, to more alternative options such as reiki and astrology, from the numerous day spas, health retreats and beauty businesses operating in Daylesford, Hepburn Springs and the handful that are also in Kyneton.

people relaxing at a spa

Hepburn Bathhouse offers relaxing and reviving spa treatments.

Trentham – Treat the tastebuds

It’s a tiny town, but your tastebuds will thank you if you make the trip to Trentham. Like Kyneton, which is a twenty-minute drive further north, Trentham is a foodie’s regional favourite. For some fabulous fare with a French feel, there’s Du Fermier.

Based on classic French farmhouse dishes, using produce harvested from her own kitchen garden, chef Annie Smithers serves seasonal dishes that are sometimes plated, sometimes shared, but always sensational.

The setting is a charming historic pub, but the menu is all modern Australian at The Cosmopolitan Hotel, which focuses on the finest local and regional produce. A spacious, shaded beer garden allows the kids to free-range while adults wash down their meal with craft beers on tap or local wines from Macedon Ranges, Bendigo and Heathcote. 

For something to take home, RedBeard Historic Bakery is renowned for their handmade organic sourdough bread, which you can watch the artisan bakers make using traditional techniques and baking in a 19th century Scotch oven. They also offer workshops, guided tours and a licensed cafe on site to dine in.

If you do venture further to Kyneton, Piper Street covers the gamut from kid-friendly feeds right up to the one-hatted Midnight Starling.

The Mill, Creswick

The Mill in Castlemaine is a place for foodies, art admirers and seekers of unique collectables.

Castlemaine, Clunes and Creswick – character and culture

In the same way gold attracted prospectors to central Victoria during the Gold Rush of the 1800s, bringing these regional towns and villages to life in the process, the surviving architecture is a magnet for those wanting to escape the concrete jungle and step back in time. Castlemaine, Clunes and Creswick – each one only a half hour drive from Daylesford – have preserved many of their historic buildings, so you can stroll along 19th century streetscapes, which are lined with contemporary cafes, wine bars, restaurants, antique stores and galleries.

Castlemaine is known for being an artist’s enclave, with Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum, Fawkner Gallery and The Left Bank Gallery among several galleries exhibiting work within the town centre, not to mention all the local artist's studio galleries.

There’s more art to be found, plus vintage wares, food and wine at The Mill, a sprawling site located opposite the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens. Castlemaine is also home to the stone that now takes up residence at RACV Cape Schanck Resort.

Bibliophiles will want to make a beeline to Clunes, one of only 15 internationally recognised Booktowns in the world. Each May, Fraser Street (where Heath Ledger shot scenes for his starring role in the film Ned Kelly) is transformed into a massive book fair for The Clunes Booktown Festival. Endless stalls and marquees sell collectable, rare, second-hand, small-press and new books while the surrounding venues are alive with author talks and workshops.

There’s also food trucks, live entertainment, and activities for children, with Creative Clunes also running other literary events in the area throughout the year.

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