DAYLESFORD

The ultimate weekend getaway town becomes a permanent destination

STORY: MARGARET LINLEY      PHOTOGRAPHY: VISIT VICTORIA 

In the foothills of the Great Dividing Range you will find Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, the twin towns known as the Spa Capital of Australia. 

Gold brought the first wave of white settlement, but it was the bubbling mineral springs dotted throughout the area which gave these towns longevity. Today, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs have leveraged the rich resource to become a centre for spiritual and physical wellness.

Daylesford is also a playful town. It’s long sat at the top of the tree for a weekend getaway, a girls’ get-together, a romantic escape. Many regular visitors profess to love Daylesford for one reason or another. And its property prices reflect that. Once you’ve had a lovely time here, it’s only natural to consider the what ifs:  ‘What if we made it home? What if we bought a cottage, a holiday place, we could Airbnb it, our friends would come too.’ Daylesford is that sort of place. It’s not uncommon to see tourists, in the busy main street, pause at the real estate agent windows and ponder the possibilities.

Historically, each group of people drawn to the town has made its mark. There were those who came post-war from Switzerland and Italy, looking for gold, but also for an escape from upheaval at home. The mark of this migration group is reflected in the old macaroni factory, Tuscan architecture, gabled roofed cottages and with a festival to celebrate their heritage.

Daylesford was one of the earlier towns to embrace the idea of catering specifically for the gay community. It hosts Australia largest queer pride event, the Chill Out Festival, in March each year. 

Bird-watchers, wildlife lovers, mountain bike aficionados and campers come for the stunning beauty and possibilities in the nearby Wombat State Forest. The dry diggings track, part of the larger goldfields track, is a walking-cycling track from Daylesford to Castlemaine.

“There is also an event called Aperitifs. Anyone new to town is welcome. It’s where you find out about the different community groups, the walking group on Friday, the book clubs. A lot of friendships begin at Aperitifs.”

The magnificent Botanical Gardens, set upon an extinct volcano, are an irresistible attraction for garden-lovers. 

Foodies flock to the area and the demand has seen a stunning array of food goods and eateries open. Pretty much anything a gourmand will expect to find in Melbourne can be found here.

Along with the foodies, have come artists, musicians, writers and film-makers. They have added layers of culture and activity which in turn as created more interest for tourists. The success of Daylesford breeds more success.

This pretty town has it all: A busy calendar of events; a range of businesses catering specifically for healing and indulgence; speciality boutiques and art galleries; and a solid culinary offering. It is beautiful to look at, both its built and natural environments.

But it is cold. And hilly. Perhaps it’s not the place to retire if arthritis is your near constant companion in the colder weather. But for those who relish a frost, the invigorating feel of the cold on your face, the chance to rug up before setting out, the idea of gathering around a fire in the evenings,  the cold that settles in the middle of the afternoon, will not matter.

Daylesford has the services required to make it a strong contender for permanent residency. A 24-hour hospital provides urgent care, acute medical and surgical care and residential aged care. There is also a range of allied health services. 

There is some choice in education with a government primary school hosting 268 students, a Buddhist school with 41 primary-aged students, and a Catholic primary school with 80 students. There is one secondary school in Daylesford; a government school with 479 students.  If that is not enough choice, there are other towns within striking distance with further options. 

Buses run to neighbouring towns, including to Creswick (29 km), Ballan (33 km) and Castlemaine (37 km) where the V/Line Melbourne train departs. Daylesford is an easy drive from Melbourne along the Calder Freeway.

For those in the market for property, it is worth noting you will be competing with others whose plans include purchasing a property for the short-term rental market. The median house price in Daylesford is $642,500. House values increased 8.3 percent last year and 30 percent increase over the last three years. Local agents are reporting a surge of interest from Melbourne buyers during the months of Covid-19 lockdown.

The Traditional Custodian of the land which Daylesford stands are the Dja Dja Wurrung people.

SNAPSHOT

WATTLE ROAD 🖤  The vibrancy of this town has to be experienced to be believed. By embracing and catering for diverse interest groups – fans of health and wellness, artists, foodies, the LGBTQI community, weekend tourists – it has created a unique feel. And it’s a scenic, 90 minute or less, drive to Melbourne.
DISTANCE FROM MELBOURNE: 108 km
POPULATION: 2548
WHO LIVES HERE?
According to the 2016 Census
♦ 
The median age of people in Daylesford was 53 years. Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 12.6% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 28.4%.
♦ Of the families in Daylesford, 31.1% were couple families with children, 48.3% were couple families without children and 20.2% were one parent families.
♦ The most common occupations included professionals 19.8%, managers 15.5%, community and personal service workers 14.1%, technicians and trades workers 14.0%, and labourers 13.4%.
♦ 74.2% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 4.9%, New Zealand 1.4%, India 0.9%, Germany 0.9% and United States of America 0.7%.
CLIMATE: Warm and temperate with significant rainfall. June average temperatures, max 12°C, min 4°C. December average temperatures, max 26°C. min 10.2°C.
MAJOR EMPLOYERS: Healthcare, tourism, retail.
SCHOOLS: Three primary schools (Government, Catholic and Buddhist) and one Government secondary school.
HEALTH CARE: In addition to the local hospital and GP services, residents can access a range of service under the banner of Daylesford Health. They include: speech pathology, podiatry, maternal child health services, the Active Living program which works to decrease the risk of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions; and STEPMI, which offers long-term support and therapy for those enduring mental health issues.
NBN CONNECTION: Fibre To The Node (FTTN)
PROPERTY PRICES: The median sale price of a house is $647,500. Property values have increased by 9.1% in the last 12 months.
SPORT AND RECREATION: Football, netball, bowls, lawn tennis, soccer, gold, yoga, swimming, boating, trail bike riding, bush-walking, and wildlife- and bird-watching.
ARTS AND CULTURE: Convent Gallery, many smaller galleries and studios, festivals including Chill Out and Daylesford Highland Gathering. Classes and learning opportunities in many areas including cooking, silver-smithing, watercolour painting.
COUNCIL: hepburn.vic.gov.au

MY HOMETOWN

KIM McQUEEN

I was living in Albert Park and working in real estate, selling what we call lifestyle properties for Colliers International. I got to see every square inch of Victoria; beautiful properties, acreages, little farms. I was selling a lot in central Victoria and Daylesford, which I hadn’t seen much of before. I’m more your Mornington Peninsula girl.

I then started my own real estate business and was commuting up and down to Daylesford several times a week. I was very impressed with Daylesford, all its wonderful services and restaurants and cafes.

I listed a property in Daylesford and I walked in and instantly knew this was for us. My husband Peter and I had been thinking we wanted to move rural and have a small farm. ‘No need to put it on the market,’ I said, `I’m going to buy it.’ And we did.

We’d had holiday houses before, but never acreage, let alone a vineyard. But we live by the idea that fortune favours the brave. What did we have to lose? So we have 30 acres, five of them under vines. We’ve been there 12 months with not a single regret.  

My husband has his own business and he commutes to Melbourne when he needs to. It’s very easy – practically freeway the whole way.

We didn’t have any friendships in the area when we moved here. You’ve got to put yourself out there when you move to the country. It would be too easy to sit inside and not be open. If you do that it can be lonely for some people.

We’ve met people through my work and through the vineyard.

There is also an event called Aperitifs. It’s been going for 20 or more years. Every second Wednesday night between 5.30-7.30 someone hosts it. You take your own wine and glasses and get to talk to people. About 70 go. Anyone new to town is welcome. It’s where you find out about the different community groups; the walking group on Friday, the book clubs. A lot of friendships begin at Aperitifs.

We’ve seen younger families move in since COVID. People want to raise their children in a rural or regional setting and now are not tied to the office so much. 

Prices have gone through the roof. We are seeing prices, over the last few months, that are astronomical. Local people are being priced out of the market by Melbourne people who are coming up here and are able to offer more because they’ve sold in Melbourne.

Every year you can say we missed the band wagon.  but the prices keep increasing so maybe there’s not a time when you miss the band wagon.

It is always a bit cooler here in winter and its good if the weather is getting to you to take a week and go to Queensland. I’m a winter person; I love open fires, winter food, red wine.

MELBOURNE

Travel time is approximately 60 minutes.

TO DAYLESFORD

FIND A PROPERTY

Lot 2/104 Central Springs Road, Daylesford

Lot 2/104 Central Springs Road, Daylesford

SOLD

2 1 1

15B Grenville Street, Daylesford

15B Grenville Street, Daylesford

SOLD

4 2 2

15 Leggatt Street, Daylesford

15 Leggatt Street, Daylesford

$1,700,000 - $1,850,000

5 3 3

13 Knox Street, Daylesford

13 Knox Street, Daylesford

SOLD

4 1 2