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Driving holidays – Daylesford (Victoria)

Nerves jangled? Life getting you down? Don’t reach for yet another “miracle” vitamin pill. Head for Daylesford in country Victoria. This bucolic retreat should do the trick. It’s done it for us, numerous times.

Let it pamper spirit and body with its plethora of massage therapists and spas, a couple of great bookshops, and some of the best grub in country Australia.

Rebirthed as the gay centre of rural Victoria, Daylesford with its treed streets and fine gold era buildings, provides attractions for all persuasions.

The journey

Getting there is a cinch. It’s an hour and a half up the Calder Freeway from Melbourne, turning off to Woodend, and then left at the end of the main street to Daylesford. Or follow the Western Freeway (M8) from Melbourne, exiting toward Daylesford at Ballan.

What to do first is the dilemma.

My first stop is book heaven, the Avant Garden, a labyrinth of tomes of all types (there are 14 rooms of them) in an elegant Georgian bank building on the main street. If you can’t find what you’re after here, head to the Lake Daylesford Book Barn, down by the water a couple of kilometres out of town.

An institution for two decades, it now has a casual dining deck from which to absorb the tranquillity.

If collectables are your go, visit The Mill Market (105 Central Springs Rd), a massive antiques complex. For more stylish fare (plus food), try the Convent Gallery, in a former convent (9 Daly St) with attractive garden and statuary. And check out the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens, east of the town centre on an extinct volcano (a stunner in autumn).

Fabulous food

Oh, and the food! Daylesford is seemingly wall-to-wall eateries. Choose according to mood. There’s Frangos & Frangos, European style cafe dining in the main street with creamy expresso coffee, tasty pastas and to-die-for lemon tarts. Or for grander, try Alla Wolf-Tasker’s celebrated Lakehouse of seasonal delights.

For mine, the best grub is at the Farmers Arms hotel on the Trentham side of town. No sausages and veg country pub this. It’s a treat.

For R and R, Daylesford rates 8 out of 10.

TONY FAWCETT

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