Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges are spectacular in autumn and everyone wants to join in on the fun.

But rather than battle the crowded streets and private gardens on the popular Mount Macedon, why not opt for a more family friendly location with plenty of room to move? The botanic gardens in the area offer a colourful collection of trees of all sorts, with accessible walking paths and space to kick a football or frolic in fallen leaves.

We have created a Treasure Hunt List for you to tick off as you explore these nature-filled landmarks. This is the ideal family friendly excursion in the fresh air, with a fun challenge to boot. (Please note that all of these gardens have water features, so be vigilant when you are exploring them as a family, especially with smaller children).

Kyneton Botanic Gardens

The historic bluestone gates on Mollison Street mark the entrance to this renowned local site that dates back to 1858. There are 17 trees within which are listed by the National Trust, as well as a gardener’s cottage. Meander along the path through the thoughtfully crafted gardens, designed to inspire all your senses. When you emerge on the other side, there is the equally beautiful Kyneton Community Park, where the kids will enjoy equipment made of natural materials. There are no cafes in the immediate vicinity but if you head back to the Mollison Street and High Street intersection, Ruby Cafe and Social Foundry, are both fantastic family friendly eateries.

Don’t miss: The historic drinking fountain. Can you find out when it was built?

Malmsbury Botanic Gardens

Set behind a small gated playground, these gardens are straight out of a Monet painting. The Weeping Willows frame the lake with its beautiful wooden bridge. Follow the dirt path on your treasure hunt and have a rest or snack on one of the many picnic tables dotted around the lake when you need a rest. How many geese can you spot on the pond? These residents add to the serenity of this charming spot. The Malmsbury Bakery is just across the street if you fancy a delicious baked treat after your adventure.

Don’t miss: The Malmsbury Viaduct which is visible from the gardens. How many arches are there?

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Conservatory at Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. Photo by Shuang Li

Castlemaine Botanic Gardens

These gardens offer plenty of open space to play and run between Lake Joanna, quaint rotundas and manicured garden beds. There is a mixture of both native and exotic plants, as well as many that are listed under the National Trust. Little and big people alike will be awestruck by the towering cypress that have watched the town from its beginnings into a new century. Follow the winding path through the gardens to the charming playground at its end. If you are after something delicious to punctuate your adventure, The Mill (across the road from the lake end of the botanic gardens) is a business precinct which offers a range of options, including coffee, meals and ice cream.

Don’t miss: The historical fountain. Can you see what is on the top?

Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens, Daylesford

These lush gardens overlook Daylesford and are jam packed with an assortment of stunning plants. There is something to discover at every turn of the path; wombat statues, carefully crafted sticks into artistic ensembles and trees that make the perfect outdoor tent. At its centre, is the quaint Wombat Hill House café, a wonderful resting spot after a nature themed treasure hunt.

Don’t miss: The Pioneers Lookout Tower. How many stairs can you count to the top?

The Big Tree in Guildford

For the ultimate in tree treasure hunting, consider heading to Guildford, which is less than 15 minutes’ drive from Castlemaine. Guildford’s Big Tree Park is host to a magnificent red gum, which is 30 metres high, has a circumference of over 9 metres, and the canopy of which is home to a menagerie of native birds and animal life. This tree is of significant importance to the local Dja Dja Wurrung people and estimated to be between 500 and 1000 years old.

Treasure Hunt List:

  1. Palm tree or fern 
  2. Oak tree (receive a bonus point if you can find an acorn) 
  3. Weeping willow 
  4. Cypress tree  
  5. Gum tree 
  6. Pine tree (receive a bonus if you can find a pinecone) 
  7. A body of water: lake, river, creek or pond 
  8. A human-made structure (bridge, gazebo, cottage or tower) 
  9. Fallen leaves in these colours: yellow, orange, red, purple, brown 
  10. A tree that you need more than one person to reach around its trunk 


Hero Image: Malmsbury Botanic Gardens. Photography by Joel Bramley @joelbramley

About the author

Kat Buttigieg
Kat Buttigieg, Macedon Ranges Mumma
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Kat Buttigieg is a writer and mum of three from Gisborne who loves exploring the Macedon Ranges and championing local businesses. She runs regular meetups to connect families in the region, and writes blogs about affordable family fun in the Ranges. Kat was awarded the 2020 bronze AusMumpreneur award for Making a Difference (Community). In her spare time, Kat enjoys a good book, making music and writing fiction.