Melbourne may be fêted for its cosmopolitan cool, but there's plenty of appeal out beyond the city fringes, too. The rural backcountry of upstate Victoria has wineries, mineral spas and elegant, Gold Rush-era towns. These attributes are condensed into the pretty resort of Daylesford, which, just two hours' drive from the city, is a firm favourite with Melbournians in need of a countryside fix.
Unlike many country towns, Daylesford doesn't compromise style for scenery. It may be laid-back and leafy, but Daylesford's charm comes with gourmet dining, good design, decent wine and proper coffee.
Accommodation options are correspondingly chic, not least White House: an 1850s miner's cottage that's been carefully restored and decked out with reconditioned vintage finds. A thick hedge adds an element of seclusion, while the edge-of-town location puts it within a few minutes' stroll of Daylesford's draws.
The carefully curated, vintage interiors, from the wellington boots by the door to scattered books within, give the impression of entering a home from years gone by, where the owners have just popped out.
There are two double bedrooms at the front of the house, each with bespoke bedding and feature fireplaces, plus a third, light-filled double with an en suite in the pimped-up garden shed. All three rooms are styled to feel unique. Free-standing, claw-foot tubs take centre stage in both the main bathroom and outhouse en suite.
There's a cosy library of classic and contemporary paperbacks plus a main room combining kitchen, lounge and diner. A working fireplace and plenty of comfortable seating make this an inviting scene ... unless, that is, you're a child. This is very much an adults-only hideaway.
Out and about
Daylesford has a thriving spa industry thanks to its wealth of natural, mineral springs (with over 70 in the surrounding area). Neighbouring Hepburn Springs has several spots where visitors can take the waters (00 61 3 5321 6000; hepburnbathhouse.com), or book into Daylesford's award-winning Salus Spa (00 61 3 5348 3329; lakehouse.com.au/spa) for any number of rejuvenating treatments and therapies. Try a half-hour mineral water soak in private treetop cabins, or opt for something more hands-on such as a two-hour massage and facial (A$295/£197).
The area's other forte is food. Local produce features heavily on Daylesford menus and there are world-class wineries to tour in the hinterland (bit.ly/DayleVic). For something more active, pretty Lake Daylesford is ringed by a 2.6km footpath, and there are proper hiking trails throughout expansive Wombat State Forest.
Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens (admission free) is ideal for ambling, or simply stroll among the homeware, gift and antique emporia on Vincent Street, Daylesford's characterful main drag. For more tips, see visitmelbourne.com/uk.
The food and drink
The White House comes ready-stocked with the first day's breakfast of fresh bread, spreads and oranges for juicing. Top up with supplies from Daylesford Health Foods & Organics down the road (27 Albert Street), adding local sausages from the butcher (No 22) and supermarket shopping from Coles (corner of Bridport Street). Or have breakfast made for you at one of Vincent Street's charming cafés: Frangos & Frangos does an outstanding brunch at weekends (00 61 3 5348 2363; frangosandfrangos.com).
For a real treat, book a table at the Lake House (00 61 3 5348 3329; lakehouse.com.au), one of Australia's most respected restaurants. The vibe here is "fine dining with its top button undone", with a focus on own-produced honey, vegetables and seasonal salad leaves, plus other items sourced from the surrounding area. Daylesford's gourmet revolution actually began right here at Lake House. Owner Alla Wolf-Tasker established the restaurant in 1984 and encouraged local farmers to develop and supply speciality (and often organic) fresh produce. Seasonal treats include black bream with squid ink pasta or a consommé of heirloom tomatoes, all served in an art-filled dining room overlooking the lake. Two courses cost A$80 (£53), three for A$100 (£67) or there's a tasting menu for A$140 (£93).
The White House, 58 Albert Street, Daylesford, Victoria, Australia (00 61 416 032 111; thewhitehousedaylesford.com.au). A two-night stay costs A$680 (£453) based on two sharing or A$1,250 (£833) for six sharing.
James Litston flew to Melbourne with Singapore Airlines (0844 800 2380; singaporeair.com). Returns from Heathrow via Singapore start at £1,005Reuse content