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From the vast outback to our beautiful coastlines, Australia offers some of the greatest drives in the world. We’ve partnered with Avis to bring you a series of tales from the road. We’ve already spent a weekend at Sydney’s hidden bush hostel and the Sunshine Coast, now BRODIE LANCASTER and SINEAD STUBBINS explore how far you can stretch a weekend in regional Victoria.
8:30am: Before setting out on our drive to Turpins Falls, we stop off at Grigions and Orr Corner Store in North Melbourne. You can’t start a road trip on an empty stomach, right? No, you cannot! We fill up on gourmet toasties, coffees and a couple of milkshakes and then embark on the long drive. Our stomachs are full, Drake is on the radio, Brodie has printed out the Google Maps directions and already picked up our shiny new Toyota from Avis – it’s a great start!
11am: We arrive at Turpins Falls with towels in hand – despite the fact that it’s about five degrees colder than we thought it would be. Turpins Falls is a freshwater swimming hole situated 12.6 kilometres from Kyneton. It kind of looks like something from The Beach, or if Picnic at Hanging Rock had a waterfall. Safe to say, it’s pretty nice.
After a very steep trek down to the water – Sarah rolled her ankle but miraculously managed the journey. Remember to wear sneakers, kids! – we arrive at the basically deserted waterside. Despite the signs warning that “deaths have occurred in this area” we manage to survive the rocky terrain and underwater shards covered in slippery moss by stepping into the pool very gingerly/clinging to a rock like truly glamorous starfish. It’s very relaxing, very beautiful and we saw a big group of kids using a selfie stick. Turpins Falls rules.
1pm: We leave the bumpy, dirt road at Turpins and get back on the highway to head to our next stop. Daylesford is a “spa town” in regional Victoria where people retreat from the city to drink two glasses of wine at lunch, get a massage and some bath salts and eat a hearty meal. It’s a big tourist destination now, so there’s a heap of fancy restaurants and museums in the town centre. It’s also the closest thing Australia has to Stars Hollow, the fictional, fairytale town from Gilmore Girls. Needless to say, it is our jam. (And by “jam” we mean organic, locally made fruit preserves, of which Daylesford has A LOT.)
Standing immobile in water and then wrestling to take off our wet bathers in the car has really zapped our energy, so we stop off at The Daylesford Hotel for a hearty pub meal – and boy, does it deliver. We eat chicken parmas and chips and drink soft drinks in tall glasses. Waiting next to the pub there’s a horse and carriage and also a group of bikies sampling from the nearby ice creamery. We think they, too, came to town after hearing about the scones and artisan soaps.
1:30pm: A friend’s given us the hot tip to visit Daylesford Aromatherapy, so we do. “It’s better than Aesop!” she said. And it kind of is! There are rows of little brown bottles full of moisturisers, mists and serums that were all made on the premises and they’re all super cheap. The shop smells like honey and lemon and the shop assistant is very helpful in explaining what all the lotions and potions actually do (she also asks us were we on a “girls weekend”, which makes us seem more fun and carefree than we actually are). We stock up on all the “necessities” and then begin debating whether cheese and wine will be enough for dinner. Spoiler: it is!
2pm: For people who like buying things, Mill Market is kind of a Mecca. The warehouse is packed to the gills with vintage and antique furniture, clothes and knick knacks, but fair warning: you need to be in the mood to browse. Even the most casual shopper can easily spend hours getting lost in the labyrinth of ‘60s fan zines, buttons from WW II, The X-Files action figures and ‘70s denim jumpsuits. We also find the Reality Bites soundtrack but we only listen to it once because all the mid-’90s whinging becomes pretty tiring after a while (back to Taylor Swift!).
Mill Market is chaotic and you’ll probably get lost more than a few times. But they also have a cafe with the biggest and most delicious scones you’ve ever encountered. Because it’s Daylesford, you can also get a glass of sparkling wine, but we don’t get one because we’re already buzzed on leisure.
After Mill Market we hightail it to the local Coles and buy as much cheese, crackers and sliced Italian meats as our weary arms can carry. We stay at a friend’s place that night – in the kind of country cottage that reminds you of witches, but in a good way – and watch season one of Skins. There is a big storm that makes us yell, “Aunty Em, Aunty Em!” but it’s kind of nice. Our only concern is for the wellbeing of the pet goat on the property, but the next day he seems pretty chill about the whole thing.
10am: Even after all the waterfall-climbing, schnitzel-eating and potion-brewing we got up to the night before, we know the biggest day is yet to come, so we leave our farm retreat early. We drive down the dirt path, try to take a self-timer selfie with the goat, fail, and head back to Daylesford for breakfast.
While driving along the highway, we see signs that say “CHOCOLATE MILL, TURN RIGHT”. Do you think we keep driving? Or turn left? Or make a U-turn? We do none of the above, because in the middle of a bush is the Chocolate Mill, a café, store and factory churning out gourmet chocolates all day long. We stock up in the store, purchasing things like licorice double-dipped in chocolate, Turkish Delight and chocolate pistachio nougat, and are rewarded with a loyalty card reserved for Serious Chocaholics only.
What begins as “a quick stop” at the café turns into a meal-ruining pre-breakfast taste of the best hot chocolate our mouths and minds have ever known. Filled with milk and chocolate like three little Augustus Gloomps, we roll back to the car and continue on to our destination: THE PAST!
12.30pm: Sovereign Hill is an “open-air museum” where visitors can explore life on the goldfields in the late 1800s, when hopefuls from all over the world gathered in Ballarat to try their luck panning for gold. Everything from houses and schools to restaurants and shops have been faithfully recreated for visitors to explore and experience.
When we arrive at Sovereign Hill, we leave the present day behind us and go back in time to the Eureka Stockade. Luckily the past still has sunglasses and sneakers, because it’s super sunny and we are about to spend hours walking around the goldfields and hat shops of the 1800s.
The first stop is the Sweet Shop, where we load up on musk drops and more boiled lollies than (let’s be real) any person should ever consume in a lifetime. Throughout the day we also sample fudge at the Grocer, sausage rolls and lemonade at the Hope Bakery and beers at the New York Bakery (cold Coronas and waiters with topknots may not be historically accurate but they are both delicious). Sovereign Hill really excels in the snack department.
1:30pm: Everyone gathers halfway along the main strip of shops to watch the Redcoat Soldiers perform their daily march through town. We watch them firing their rifles from the top of the hill as we duck in and out of the bar, bowling alley, candle workshop, coffin factory and other spots that inform life way before hashtags.
3pm: After getting our fill of the shops and moseying in and out of the cottages, church and school on one side of Sovereign Hill, we take a different route and wander toward the replica goldfields. We catch the tail-end of a performance by one of Sovereign Hill’s many historical actors as he explains what happened after visitors from the United States and China followed the promise of gold and settled in Ballarat. Getting your hands dirty and panning, he tells us, was not the way to strike it rich – instead, the enterprising settlers who provided goods and services to the miners were the ones who really benefitted from the boom. That’s mostly all I remember, because halfway through his explanation a lady in the crowd drops her camera down a mineshaft and we all lose our train of thought.
4pm: We are a bit worried that we don’t have enough time to get the complete Sovereign Hill experience in just a few hours – Sinead is the only one of us who had ever been before, Brodie and Sarah were going in fresh – but find we are bursting with history, fudge and sausage rolls before the museum closes at 5pm. After we pay a visit to the sombre Chinese temple and watch a candy-making demonstration (and marvel at how strong lolly-makers would need to be to haul those logs of sugar and glucose day in, day out), we cross the threshold separating the past from the present day and embark on the drive back home to Melbourne.
(Lead image: Tim Lucas/Flickr)
Avis car hire is the perfect way to make more of your holiday. Roadtrips give you the opportunity to see different sides of your destination. With such freedom, the possibilities are truly limitless.