There is something special about Australian country towns. People have time to smile when you walk past them or to offer help if you look lost.
There is fresh local produce, picked from a tree that morning, or plucked from the earth before being served for lunch.
You’ll probably be able to visit a cellar door where the person serving you also made the wine you’ll be tasting, and there will be all-day parking, for free, on the main street in town.
Daylesford, just an hour north of Melbourne Airport, is one such place with a country vibe, but being so close to Melbourne it also offers some of the best elements of the city, including broad-mindedness and an artistic vibe.
Think barista-made coffee served swiftly, a real butcher’s shop, delightful food cooked by serious chefs (no Maccas or KFC) and accommodation options that range from city slick to country comfort.
It means shops that sell the latest fashionable wear – but also op shops with serious bargains (I’m still using my much-loved Vinnie’s scarf).
There are few traffic jams in Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs; I don’t recall having seen a traffic light, and if you hear a car horn it is probably just someone greeting a friend.
Sure, in the country, life moves a little bit slower. But science suggests that living in the country is beneficial for both your physical and your mental health.
“What a contrast to the city, where you can spend considerable portions of your day waiting in a traffic logjam.”
While city and suburb living certainly has plenty of benefits, there’s something about spending a few days in a town like Daylesford that just leaves your mind and body feeling good.
There’s cleaner air, for a start. Life is generally cheaper out of the big cities, and you have easier access to great dishes with far fewer food miles. There is less crime, too.
With just 2,548 people as of the 2016 census, Daylesford was first established in 1852 as a gold-mining town.
Today, it pulls in the visitors as one of Australia’s few spa towns – another bonus for locals.
The Daylesford-Hepburn Springs region accounts for more than 80% of Australia’s known mineral water springs.
City lovers would argue that there are more jobs in the big smoke; that service levels are higher, and public transport is easier to access, but there are no police sirens in Daylesford, and no noisy jet planes overhead.
Daylesford and Hepburn Springs have no fumes or stress, but the service levels are good. Many young people train in the city but then return to their own slice of heaven.
You may be troubled deciding which of the many excellent eateries to patronise, which local Macedon Ranges wine to choose, and – for visitors – whether to choose to stay in homely pub accommodation, in luxury self-catering apartments, or in one of the several world-class gourmet and spa resorts.
It’s that level of choice that makes Daylesford-Hepburn Springs so unique. That, and the beautiful surroundings.
There can be few better ways to greet the day than with a brisk walk around the shores of the lake followed by a hearty country breakfast in front of a wood-fire in winter or alfresco in summer.
Daylesford is a perfect escape for the spoiled city dweller.
You’ll find great shops, art galleries, wine bars, regional charm, wellness treatments and other joys of city living without the hassles. Where in a city could you be close to 140 natural mineral springs rich in magnesium, calcium and silica and believed to cure afflictions from acne to arthritis?
Throw in the scenic volcanic crater of Mt. Franklin, the many regional bushwalks, and the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens and it is hard to imagine anywhere better to escape the hustle and bustle for a few days, or a lifetime.
Winsor Dobbin is a freelance travel, wine and food writer who is based in Tasmania but tempted by Daylesford. @winsordobbin