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© Neena Bhandari, The Hindu Metro Plus

Neena Bhandari visits the heart of Australia’s calming spa country and returns rejuvenated
PHOTOS: Neena bhandari

Chill zone Daylesford town and (bottom) La Trattoria’café at Lavandula Lavender Farm

Natural mineral springs renowned for therapeutic healing bubble beneath the twin towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, a picturesque 90-minute drive from the Victorian capital, Melbourne.

This is the heart of Australia’s calming spa country, home to perhaps the largest number of holistic practitioners in the Southern Hemisphere, offering cocooning mudbaths and clay wraps to water therapies and massage treatments.

The healing waters were first discovered in 1836 by Captain John S Hepburn, but when gold was discovered in the region in 1851, the community had to fight to protect the mineral springs from the threat of mining. Today, there are around 65 mineral springs — a majority sourced from sandstone, shale and silt laid down under the sea millions of years ago. One is spoilt for choice with the range of bath elixirs on offer.

We choose the original 1895 Edwardian Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, which has just undergone a makeover and has over 30 wet and dry treatment rooms.

The facility has private and traditional communal bathing mineral springs pools, akin to the ones in Bath (the United Kingdom) and Rotorua (New Zealand).


Curative effects

We immerse in the warm waters, and within minutes, the curative effects are visible on the skin, which takes a supple, soft tone. After a good soak in the effervescent mineral spring’s spa, which is a cocktail of calcium, magnesium, chloride, potassium, sulphate and iron, the underwater spa couches, located adjacent to the communal pool, catch my fancy.

Reclining on one of the elongated metal couches, I feel the spa jets stroke pressure points as the mild autumn sunlight quavers through the full-length glass windows, overlooking the tall trees where the laughter of Kookaburras compete with the cacophonic cries of the cockatoos. It is ultimate relaxation, indeed. But in this land of indulgence, I am tempted with more pampering and can’t resist a facial. The citrus and woody aromas invigorate the senses as the therapist works her way through my neck, face, shoulders and head with gentle strokes, using potions made of botanical and marine ingredients.

Lush environs

The concepts of health and wellness are intrinsic part of the local culture. These lush green surrounds, resonating with birdsongs, once attracted Chinese migrants, who established market gardens, and the Swiss-Italians, who planted olive groves and vineyards in the twin towns, which still reflect the character of their earliest heritage.

To complement the award-winning day spas, there is an array of boutique wines, gourmet cuisine and historic streetscapes dotted with cosy cafes, art galleries and quaint shops. It is here that I find an amazing Alpaca wool skirt, taste my first “chilli” chocolate and indulge in an inspirational brunch at Cliffy’s, a cheerful country restaurant that serves simple, stylish cooking with a ‘depends who’s in the kitchen’ approach.

Idyllic farm

Rejuvenated and refreshed, we veer through the Poplars to Lavandula Lavender Farm, set beside a bubbling creek among hills, farmland and forest, for a taste of Europe.

The 19th Century stone buildings, built by Italian-speaking Swiss, who came to Daylesford in search of gold, on cobbled courtyards surrounded by lavender fields, have been restored by Carol White, who yearned to bring up her sons in the country and bought the place two decades ago.

The 100-acre farm has become a local icon, growing lavender, olives and grapes. The menu at its rustic restaurant, La Trattoria, includes signature dishes such as fresh-baked lavender scones and home-made lavender ice-cream.

It is popular with tourists, including Indian visitors, who can relish eating indoors or al fresco in the grove with llamas, emus and ducks for company.

As the shadows lengthened, it was time for us to return to the madding crowds of the city, but for those wanting to stay longer in this land of healing waters, there is boutique accommodation, luxury waterfront apartments, cosy cottages and intrinsically Aussie-style bed and breakfasts to suit every budget.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari & The Hindu Metro Plus. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any www.india-voice.com content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the newspaper where the article is published.   

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