Hepburn Springs’ reputation as a wellness destination may date all the way back to the discovery of its first mineral spring in the 1830s, but there’s plenty more to recommend in this rich pocket of country Victoria.
Just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Hepburn Springs is the quieter, lesser-known neighbour to superstar spa town Daylesford (located just three minutes down the road) but still offers everything for a complete mini-getaway. This traditional home of the Dja Dja Wurrung people also has a rich Swiss Italian heritage and other well-preserved historic details. Besides being home to Australia’s largest concentration of mineral springs, the region bears the mark of the country’s gold-rush, such as a manmade blowhole created by gold miners in the 1870s.
Bringing serene Hepburn Springs firmly into the modern day, meanwhile, is a distinctive cross-section of restaurants, galleries, accommodation and, of course, spas. There’s more than one path to wellness, after all, so why stop at a massage and soak when you can explore a Japanese guesthouse or dine on exceptional locally sourced produce? With that in mind, here are some of the best bets to get you started on a well-earned respite.
Frank & Connie’s Kitchen
Set inside a quaint old weatherboard shopfront on Main Road, Frank and Connie’s is owner Caliopi Buck’s love letter to beautiful produce-driven meals shared with family and friends. There’s a liberal dash of Greek influence here due to Buck’s grandparents – the titular Frank and Connie – but the menu ranges across the Middle East, South America and parts of Asia. The elevated selection of share plates includes a Greek variation on ceviche that comes with tzatziki and jalapeños, house-made duck baos with pickled radish, slow cooked lamb ribs with chimichurri, and a punchy Thai-inspired broth with whole prawns and squid. For drinks, there’s a slick, locally driven wine list and seasonal cocktails. Where to sit? You can’t go wrong inside with its timber furniture, various curios and rustic charm, but there’s also a fabulous courtyard and garden outside – perfect for a spritz and a snack on a sunny day.
The Oxford Dining Room at Hotel Bellinzona
A landmark hotel dating back to 1903, the extensively renovated Hotel Bellinzona is home to 43 beautifully appointed rooms, an indoor heated pool, a spa and several individual food and drink destinations. But the grand centrepiece is The Oxford Dining Room, an extended showcase of modern European cuisine that also boasts eye-popping garden and forest views. The fine diner’s menu is a sharp focus on locally sourced produce: it changes seasonably but you might find dishes such as Loddon Estate duck, Western Plains pork and Long Paddock Ironbark cheese soufflé; or their famous slow-cooked lamb shoulder for two with anchovies, almond sauce, parmesan and pine nut crumb. The accompanying wine list goes deep on some of the region’s most distinctive drops.
An authentic Japanese-style spa and wellness retreat, Shizuka Ryokan stands out in rural Victoria. There are only six guest rooms, and the minimalist Japanese architecture extends to a zen rock garden and shoji sliding paper screens. An in-house restaurant serves seasonal cuisine while the on-site spa includes facials, massages, yoga, meditation and other treatments grounded in Japanese traditions. There are also specialised retreats and workshops available. Nestled along the town’s quieter Lakeside Drive, Shizuka transports guests to another time and continent.
Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel
This 1930s-era boutique hotel is a popular relaxation destination for both day and night. It’s home to The Argus Dining Room, which has been peddling local produce and wines for nearly a century, and features formal Italian gardens and a winsome miniature hedge maze. But the accommodation itself is just as impressive, and ranges from traditional hotel rooms to an assortment of self-contained villas. Among the latter is the heritage-listed Villa Parma, dating all the way back to 1864. It’s a refurbished four-bedroom landmark that fits up to eight guests. Some of the hotel rooms, meanwhile, include sun-soaked balconies and private spa baths. The hotel is also home to The Mineral Spa, a day spa that offers a variety of indulgent treatments and mineral bath sessions.
Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa
The Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa has been a strong local draw since 1895, thanks to its direct line to mineral springs and elaborate suite of wellness experiences that range from massages to water therapy. The bathhouse offers both private and social bathing and you can choose your time to suit your own schedule, whether it’s early in the day, in the evening, or somewhere in between. You needn’t travel far for further relaxation either: you can find beautifully appointed private villas on site at either Hepburn Retreat or Hepburn Escape, and there’s the historic Pavilion Cafe sitting snugly next to the bathhouse.
Hepburn Springs Mineral Reserve
The very first mineral spring to be discovered in the region – by Captain John S. Hepburn – this little oasis wound up giving the entire town its name. And it can still be visited alongside a half-dozen other springs at this designated reserve. Taps allow you to pump the water straight from the source, while bathers can experience its rich mineral properties (including calcium, silica and magnesium) at the nearby Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa. Besides the reserve’s open-air, walkable nature, it’s also a valuable glimpse into the area’s history and past efforts to preserve the springs.
Greg Mallyon Artist Studio
Painter and printmaker Greg Mallyon is one of the best-known artists in a region celebrated for its creativity. He draws inspiration from the natural details of the landscape to create abstract, often colour-soaked images that evoke textured aerial views. During spring, Mallyon will open his Daylesford studio to the public every Saturday. It’s a rare chance to get a close look at the process of an artist whose work graces many spaces across Hepburn Springs and beyond.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Daylesford Macedon Tourism. Enter to win a spring escape to Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges Region, valued at $2591. It includes a midweek two-night stay for two at Shizuka Ryokan, a set-menu dinner for four people at The Argus Dining Room, a three-course meal and tasting paddle at Holgate Brewhouse, a Daylesford Picnic Boxes voucher, a wine and cheese platter and a dozen take-home wines from Hanging Rock Winery, and a visit to Buda Historic Home and Garden in Castlemaine. Enter here before the competition closes on Monday December 12.