Spas. Mineral water. Wine. Picnic at Hanging Rock. Daylesford and surrounds are famous for many things. What isn’t as well known is the country quirkiness. There is plenty of it and it is well worth seeking out.
The trail begins less then 10 minutes from the charming historical gold rush base of Ballarat. Creswick is a blip on the map but is packed with discoveries.
Le Peche Gourmand Photo: Willunga Wino
Le Peche Gourmand means “the sin of gluttony” – but the magic of this little shop is that after partaking of their patisserie goodies, you feel as carefree as if you were on holiday in Paris.
Baguette at Le Peche Gourmand Photo: Willunga Wino
Their baguettes have legendary status, and in their simple perfection it is easy to agree. My baguette is filled with roast pumpkin, rocket, Meredith feta and pesto. It is a thing of beauty. Crunchy on the outside, delicious and soft at it’s core, and a sweet, salty, peppery filling.
Patisserie at Photo: Willunga Wino
Their sweet offerings are just as tempting, and dazzling in their ever changing array.
60% cocoa chocolate ganache, salted caramel and peanut tarte Photo: Willunga Wino
The chocolate, peanut & salted caramel tart is delicious, and the size is generous enough to share at a reasonable price of $5.50.
Next door to Le Peche Gourmand is the tiny, hole in the wall, Goldfields Farmhouse cheese shop. Owner Nardia Keene offers daily tastings through the range with lots of personalised attention. Spring milk is making delightful fresh cheese, including the outstanding local flavoured feta.
The tasting room’s walls are papered with the current available cheeses, split into those from Jersey cows or Holsteins. It’s a busy little place with lots of people popping in to buy fresh Ballarat Basilio Sourdough bread.
Time your trip right – the tasting room is open 10-4.30 Fri Sat & Sun. We came away with the rich, nutty Ascot Blue, and some delicious organic Wellwood walnuts. You’ll know the place by the fondue pots in the window.
Moreish Pizza Verde Photo: Willunga Wino
Further on in Kyneton is Pizza Verde. Surrounded by cottages and heritage shops, this inviting place is always full. Sit close to the pizza oven to see all the action. Specials sourced from local seasonal produce are scrawled on butchers paper and hung proudly on the wall. Interesting local beers make a great foil for the flavoursome pizzas with their thin & crisp bases and oven char. My zucchini, chili, lemon & mint pizza was topped with creamy dollops of salted ricotta and was music in my mouth.
Good Sth Aussie flour at Redbeard Photo: Willunga Wino
Trentham is worth a stop. Red Beard Bakery is a famed organic sourdough bakery, with a woodfired Scotch oven churning out delicious sourdough in varieties like Mr Potato Head and Helga, as well as cakes like treacle gingerbread.
Recycled material walled gardens at Red Beard Bakery Photo: Willunga Wino
Grab a toasted sandwich, a loaf and sweet treat for later, and enjoy in the walled gardens.
Chucky, anyone? Photo: Willunga Wino
You don’t have to go far for the best example of country quirk. Right next door is Two Fat Wombats – an emporium of concrete & fibreglass garden statues. With a twist. It is like peering into a bizzaro zoo. It is a must see! Who knows, you may even take home a 200kg evil Pygmy hippo as a souvenir.
Some friends in the Two Fat Wombats bizarro emporium Photo: Willunga Wino
On your way back to Ballarat, work off your day of indulgence at the La Gerche Nature Walk & Nursery. Interpretive signs tell the story of ‘forest sheriff’ John La Gerche who was tasked with protecting the native forest from illegal logging in the 1800’s. How times have (sadly) changed!! Such positions of course no longer exist and government sanctioned native logging continues producing the lowest value products like toothpicks from our irreplaceable & dwindling natural heritage. Wander through and see the result of gold rush sluicing on the land, and La Gerche’s now over 100 year old plantings.
Natural springs are also dotted all over. We tried two, including the Deep Creek Mineral Spring which is commercially bottled for sale and slightly effervescent. Avoid those around Lake Daylesford if you are looking to drink your mineral water – it was far too sulphurous to go anywhere near our mouths!