Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Hepburn Springs Review + RECOMMENDATIONS

Hepburn Springs has a soft spot in my heart - it was the place my family went for weekends, school holidays and the like. Since then, the place has changed somewhat. What used to be a quiet rural day-trip for migrant European families to fill up empty soda bottles at the mineral springs, has turned into a Tourism Victoria campaign (with Isabel Lucas cameo) encouraging holiday-makers to "lead a double life" at the health and well-being capital of Australia. Sea-changers seeking a quiet life out of the rat-race have hired agents to week-end let their properties, whilst opening up massage/day-spa/mud-wrap/hot-rock treatment facilities.

A weekend in Hepburn Springs is a great way to get out of Melbourne, particularly with a significant other. It is a short 1 and a bit hour trip down the Western Highway, meaning it is easily accessible for a post-work departure so that you arrive just in time for a late evening romantic country dinner (or in time for the start of Friday Night Footy).

The highlight of any trip to Hepburn comes in the way of food. Saturday morning involves a late leisurely sleep in, followed by a gentle stroll up the street to Chowder House for breakfast - they make a strong Melbourne-worthy coffee and rustic home-style breakfast. I had the Chowder House Breakfast (Poached eggs, mushrooms, wilted spinach, home baked generously buttered sourdough, fried tomatoes, bacon and a salty hash brown) - the lovely Ms G's similarly savoury breakfast came with beautifully cooked sweet apples slices.

Following breakfast we walked to Hepburn Springs and sampled the local mineral water (hint - Wyuna Spring has the best tasting mineral water), checked out some statues by local Hepburn artist Petrus Spronk, then picked up a newspaper at the Hepburn General Store (also a good source of freshly baked bread bread and quality produce), to spend a lazy afternoon reading on the balcony overlooking Doctor's Gully, watching the Rosellas flying into the trees.

After digesting the newsprint (and breakfast), it was time for a massage, as you do in Hepburn - see recommendations below. Then, the most highly anticipated part of the weekend, dinner at the Farmers Arms in nearby Daylesford.

The cosy pub comprises a communal local pub front bar (perfect for a pre-meal drink) and the well-renowned restaurant in the back (bookings a must). The food here is outstanding - the descriptions on the menu are daunting in their complexity, but once you delve into the food you forget the verbosity and just enjoy.

Here is the run-down:


- Butter poached prawns with kipfler crush, avocado, celeriac remoulade, seawater dressing & baby herbs

- Ocean trout, limoncello & vanilla cervice with shaved fennel & peach salad

- Angus fillet on herb roasted field mushroom, spinach, double whipped mash and Periguex
- Hard herb crusted lamb rack, rock & walnut pesto, grilled pear, walnut & pes tendrill tart.


Where to stay?
Clifden Lodge (http://www.cottagedirectory.com.au/cottage/Clifden%20Lodge) or Kauhi Cottage (http://www.cottagedirectory.com.au/cottage/Kauhi%20Cottage)* or plenty of others around

Where to get massages/treatment/etc?
Hepburn Spa Resort
Shizuka Ryokan

Where to eat?
Dinner - Farmers Arms
Brunch - Chowder House / Breakfast & Beer

Where to drink?
A Perfect Drop, Horvat's Wine Cellar Door, Old Hepburn Hotel

What to do?
- Check out the Sunday Market in Daylesford and buy Des O'Toole's famous locally made honey
- Visit the Convent Gallery
- Walk around Lake Daylesford and check out the old bookshop next to the late
- Stroll around Lavendula Lavender Farm
- See Kangaroos relaxing on the Hepburn Golf Course
- Check out neighbouring country towns like Maldon, Castlemaine, Malmsbury, Creswick and others.

*This is a shameless plug. If you mention my name (Simon Schenkel) to the agents (Daylesford Cottage Directory - p: 5348 1255), you can get a 10% discount.

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