Daylesford, location for romantic weekend getaways, market browsing, antique shopping and fancy food consumption; or family fun time? Totally possible.
During the midst of a Christmas and New Years’ family get together in Victoria my family of three decided to take a trip to Daylesford for a night. We hadn’t been before so my little sister made a things to do list for us, which included the following things:
- × Cafe at Botanic Gardens
- × Ducks at Lake Daylesford
- × Galley Diner, or possibly any other foodie place on this street
- × Daylesford Sunday Market and train ride
- × Mill Market
- × Arse water – pump fresh from a spring
Its always interesting to have people without kids suggest things for you to do when you do have kids. Pre-kid I was particularly naive about these things. My sister's list provided a good starting point, and came with the proviso of perhaps not to take miss two into the Mill Market, unless we were feeling particularly insane. This is my account of what happened in Daylesford over about 24hours with our two year old. You know, in case you are thinking of doing the same thing.
As we all possibly know holidays consist of a few major considerations:
- × Accommodation
- × Transport
- × Food &
- × Activities
For the sake of my mummy brain (which is what we call long term pregnancy brain), and if I am ever to get this zine written, and, let’s be honest, for organisation OCD reasons I will recount the trip according to these.
If this were to be a romantic getaway with loads of shopping and gastronomic stuffing of faces then the accommodation we selected would have been a bit of a downer. However with miss two year old in tow it was pretty much appropriate. Half hostel, half boarding house the Daylesford Springs Chalet with its mid-century retro furnishings and fish tank suited us to a tee. Our room was plenty spacious and had the all-important feature of a bath and a bed big enough for three. The shared kitchen and lounge allowed us to feel relaxed about excited shrieks and running games. We also made use of the sesame street jig saw puzzles. As far as costs go this was more of a budget accommodation, although comparatively it was more than we would normally spend.
You totes need a car to make the vacation at Daylesford work. We managed to do the trip with just the one car, a hatch back even. We did a bit of ferrying about, and dropping off one parent at a park with bub while the other hotfooted it to a local attraction. Or bub and a parent dandering about in the car while another parent hunkered down at the enormous antique market. Parking was never a problem and although the town sprawls a bit the map that the hotel guy marked with all the great things to do paired with our GPS meant we found where we were going relatively easily. As long as the in-car DVD player was operating.
Keeping the car stocked with water and changes of clothes was good because it got pretty bloody hot, and some of the parks and food stops resulted in grubby hands and ice cream/tomato sauce dribbled outfits. We did manage to avoid the use of a pram, and lucky too because all the shopping at the antique outlets and markets meant the boot was filled with printmaking drawers, antique baking trays and Maisy DVDs.
Are you in for a treat, well you could be if your offspring is amenable.
Upon arrival and booking in, we headed straight to the botanic gardens. We parked at the top of a hill – because this was where the signs led us, and then we strolled in the most picture perfect fashion a family of three can. A parent either side, swinging little miss up high and then back down again. Admiring flowers and reading sign posted botanical names of trees. And then the cafe came into view. Blue skies, red geraniums, glass house roof, grape vines, rusted iron signage. Perfect. We claimed a table under the glass house roofed courtyard. We viewed the menu and made choices, salivating in expectation of our late-morning breakfast. Little miss chose a cake from the glass fronted counter, and with great relief it was served immediately. I was still in the honeymoon stage of reaching Daylesford in one piece. Car rides can be hell. The breakfasts and coffee and kombucha took a little longer to arrive and we had to tag it out. Meaning one parent did some parenting and the other took a mini vacation at the table. A cafe in the middle of a ginormous park which required much exploring, digging up and climbing was not going to hold the attentions of our little miss. Cue epic tantrum. End honeymoon period. Enter reality. However, the wing back chairs nestled beside an enchanting mural created a perfect nursing environment. So much so I have been searching on eBay for a chair like this ever since. We headed back to the accommodation for afternoon naps. Bub and I slept in the pillowy bed and hubby carried out some recon.
The recon served its purpose and hubby took bub to taste the curly fries at Galley Diner: delicious, expensive and served with three sauces. So delicious that bub continued to snack on them an hour later, stone cold.
Meanwhile I had an iced coffee at the Peppermint Cafe while I was making the most of my solo visit to the Mill Market. I might have had a lamington too. I know I picked a couple of indulgent things. Honestly though, all I can remember is that I had a hard time choosing something from the options and I raised my eyebrow cynically at the huge price tag.
Urban Spoon suggested the Farmers Arms for a family friendly evening meal. They could not have been more right. We were sprung taking a selfie under the pubs signage, and shown to a long table near other families. Colouring pencils and paper were produced for little miss, and she was given as much attention as any other patron. Our meals were enormous, delicious gastro-pub fare. And the range of beers and ciders made us very happy. We did a bit of tagging with trips out to the beer garden to climb the patio umbrellas – yeah, that’s a thing. We finished off with a serve of icecream for the little miss and fielded more enquiries after her well being. Yeah, we loved that place. I think it would be good if you didn’t have kids too; as long as you don’t mind little ones doing frequent circuits of the place and swinging off umbrella cords.
We did breakfast in the shared hotel kitchen – cereal, hot drinks, fruit - I can’t remember. It was quick and messy – like most breakfasts, with some scattering of jigsaw puzzle pieces. But it was for a greater cause – getting to the Sunday Market early with enough food in our tummies so that we wouldn’t get headaches or faint from hunger. My sister had suggested we find the food van selling samosas and fruit juice icypoles. We did and I ate a hearty yet simple samosa, and little miss attempted the fruit juice icypole, but found it too much and carried it, melting until daddy finished it off. A little surprised at the small number of food stands – the samosa/icypole and the sexy sausage van seemed to be it – we made the most of the bakery and chocolate stands to create an improvised chocolate croissant – organic artisan chocolate bar sandwiched in a fresh croissant. Nice. The market was hot and the further we walked along the row the less interesting the stands. The best ones were near the car park, and the more commercial ones were closer to the train station. The trash and treasure was a good range and we bought some excellent clutter for the house and a Pocoyo DVD that has been on high revolution play in the car. It probably wasn’t the best market for a little one, and would have been improved if we were planning on taking the train ride. But I wasn’t convinced about the length of the ride and plus there were other things to do in town. I did use the train station toilets and as a previous rail worker I loved the restorations and the vintage posters.
So, on we went to the park to buy icecreams and feed ducks. The Boathouse café sells some fine icecream and good coffee for parents who need sugar/caffeine fix. It would be wonderful if the café had a little side window for icecreams and coffees, because it was the sort of place that people dress up and escape to. Not wonderful for little ones to swing around poles and wipe sticky fingers on bay windows. Nevertheless the service was charming and I loved my white chocolate and raspberry icecream. Little miss loved her vanilla icecream, and she loved swapping back and forth with me too. We took the icecreams outside to the edge of Lake Daylesford. Little miss shooed the ducks away, and we watched some geese and some swans swim pass. It was too hot to play in the little park there so we drove on to find some natural spring water to pump up and taste.
During one of my tag offs I spent a good couple of hours wandering the very enormous Mill Market. This being a collection of small shops under the one roof selling antiques, vintage items and second-hand wares, oh and even some new things that didn’t fit any of those categories. After two hours I still hadn’t looked at everything, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. A café closing call pulled me out of my trance, and I sat down for ten minutes to fuel up for a bit more browsing. This was good because I was able to think over some things I had seen and make buying decisions. I got some lovely items for myself, a new handbag, a pashmina, a vintage sieve, and a much coveted printmakers letterpress tray. I found some items for little miss that we hadn’t packed – a long sleeved tee, two Maisy DVDs, and some more things just because – lacing cards, a Holly Hobbie nursery rhyme book and two miniature baking trays. And nothing for hubby because I have promised to stop cluttering up the house. If we had taken a larger car I would have considered buying some furniture.
On our first night at Daylesford, feeling curious and encouraged by the dry heat, we popped our heads into the Hepburn Bathhouse. It was as beautiful as a modern art gallery, as quiet as a church, as cool as a summer breeze and more expensive than we ever imagined! We did not indulge.
I was able to have my meander through the Mill Market because hubby and bub were doing a park crawl. First the skate park and playground, which is on the way back into town. Apparently bub found the skate park more interesting that the playground. But she is two, so of course playgrounds are a bit beyond her these days. Then when this got boring or too hot perhaps, they made their way to the park at the duck pond. Neither of these has much in the way of shade. They came and found me at the Mill Market and they were sweaty, sticky and happy. My sister was right about taking caution with our two year old in the Mill Market. After a small near miss involving sticky hands and antique hats, hubby removed bub for a photo shoot with the aged metal sculptures outside. I spent a goodly amount paying for my purchases, and felt again for a brief moment like a pre-baby two income couple.
I already covered the market in the food section, but it is a good activity to carry out. Especially if you want to do the Heritage Train Ride. But I didn’t. The one hour return trip sounded more like a punishment than fun family activity, even if toddlers get a ticket for the conductor to punch. Maybe when bub is three, otherwise I’m not sure it would be the ticket getting a punch. Meaning I might be punching a wall after enduring an hour of toddlers running and screaming up and down and up and down a slowly moving train.
On our map there were several little symbols of water pumps – depicting places you could stop and pump up the water from the natural springs. My sister had warned me about the taste. But we did want to tick as many things off the list as possible. And surely this was a family friendly activity if there ever were one. So we pulled over at one of the signs on road – same symbol as the map – carried our empty water vessels and followed the trail. It was a mix of dry grasses, green trees, stone walls and a dry creek bed; a very pretty backdrop for some family rambling. The two minute walk took us about ten minutes because we were scaling walls, hiding behind trees and taking selfies. The pump stood over a stone well adorned with a very informative sign. The water we pumped out tasted of metal and was slightly fizzy. It was pretty arsey. My tummy reacted badly to all the minerals, but slightly delusional from the heat and the fun I kept drinking it. A little part of me hoped the minerals would do me some good. God knows I could really do with a superpower besides making milk. We scampered across a bridge and back again after it led to a closed off part. There were picnic tables and bins, and it was close to a café so it would make a nice spot for a gathering. Under the trees it wasn't too hot either. This funny little interaction with nature was a highlight of the trip.
Trip complete with all family members intact. More clutter in the boot to take home and new DVDs for in-car entertainment. Plus we want to come back one day with the bub and stay a bit longer, so that must mean the trip was a success. Unless it means something else, like I don’t remember it properly.