Most Melbournians will probably have visited Daylesford before – the bustling regional town, with its excellent restaurants, shops and vibrant creative community isn’t exactly a well kept secret. But, no matter how well you think you know the area, there are always hidden gems to discover in the wider Macedon Ranges region, just 90 minutes from Melbourne.
We recently spent a day in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, capturing some of the best that the region has to offer. Our guide was celebrated landscape designer Paul Bangay OAM. Paul moved here around 20 years ago, finding himself drawn to the region for its distinct seasons, its cool winters and mild summers, and its rich and fertile soils. He wanted to build a garden here – and what a garden he built! Stonefields is Paul’s private residence, and the garden he has created here really must be seen to be believed.
After a tour of Stonefields, Paul took us all over the region, to visit his favourite spots for coffee, lunch and dinner – and I also took a short side trip to one of his favourite plant nurseries, too. So, join us, for A Perfect Day in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, with Paul Bangay!
Unbelievably, Paul created his grand country garden at Stonefields from scratch, and it has been a labour of love for 16 years. Over that time, Paul has witnessed the impressive and dramatic ways the landscape changes with the seasons – from frosty winters to verdant spring and summer, and resplendent autumn, with all its fiery colours.
As one of Australia’s most celebrated landscape designers, Paul’s tastes and interests have changed in the last decade and a half, and these changing tastes are mirrored in the ever-changing landscape at Stonefields. What started life as quite a formal, structured garden is today softened with areas of carefully cultivated wilderness.
Whilst not open to the pubic year round, Paul takes small groups for private tours of the garden seasonally – keep an eye on his website for details.
Cliffy’s Emporium, Daylesford
A local institution, Cliffy’s Emporium is a cafe with so much old world charm – and a lot of local history. Housed in a former general store, the building, with its rustic timber and corrugated iron cladding has been a part of the Daylesford community since the 1950s.
Fast forward more than 60 years, and the heart and soul of the original general store lives on, this time in the form of a buzzing local cafe and providore. Serving up amazing breakfasts, lunches – and excellent coffee, Cliffy’s is a well loved local favourite.
30 Raglan Street, Daylesford
Du Fermier, Trentham
Du Fermier is a much loved French-style kitchen restaurant, created by revered local chef Annie Smithers.
Located in Trentham, around 20 minutes from Daylesford, du Fermier takes its inspiration from classic French farmhouse cooking. Each weekend Annie lovingly creates a menu featuring local and seasonal produce, much of which she grows in her own kitchen garden. Guests are served by Annie personally, who makes time to chat to every guest, at every sitting. The feeling here is warm, inviting and so friendly – an experience almost like dining in Annie’s own home.
Du Fermier is open for lunch Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday. Reservations for bookings two months in advance on the first of every month – get in quick!
42 High Street, Trentham
Lambley’s Nursery and Gardens, Ascot
Artist Criss Canning and her husband David Glenn own Lambley Nursery and Gardens, an amazing plant nursery in Ascot, renowned for their incredible array of dry climate plants. Here, under David’s direction, a passionate team of horticulturalists propagate, grow and sell a huge variety of ornamental plants, shrubs and flowers, as well as tending to the beautiful public gardens which draw many visitors each year.
The gardens are open to visitors 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week
395 Lesters Road, Ascot, Victoria 3364
The Lake House, Daylesford
Quite simply, The Lake House is an institution. Located overlooking Lake Daylesford, this iconic venue incorporates a 5-star hotel and spa, and of course, a truly remarkable restaurant, which has received countless accolades and awards, including 2 hats from the national Good Food Guide.
With Culinary Director Alla Wolf-Tasker AM at the helm, the Lake House restaurant prides itself on its incredible produce, much of which is sourced from local producers, as well as the restaurant’s own productive vegetable garden at Dairy Flat Farm, where produce is handpicked daily.
4 King Street, Daylesford
There’s never been a better time to explore regional Victoria. Stay close, go further and plan your next getaway here. Remember, tourism and hospitality businesses have doing it tough lately so, keep in mind, to #travelkind.
Paul Bangay’s breathtaking garden at Stonefields has been a labour of love for 16 years. Photos – Amelia Stanwix.
First stop – Cliffy’s Emporium, a Daylesford institution! Photos – Amelia Stanwix.
Left – autumnal scenes at Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens in Daylesford. Right – Annie Smithers serves lunch at her iconic restaurant, Du Fermier in Trentham. Photos – Amelia Stanwix.
Lambley Nursery and Gardens in Ascot, renowned for their incredible array of dry climate plants. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.
The Lake House overlooks Lake Daylesford, and in Daylesford’s most iconic and awarded restaurant. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.
The Lake House. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.