Lost in Hepburn
STORY BY RICHARD CORNISH
There are some Hepburn locals who do not believe the spring waters have healing powers. Since the Swiss Italians first laid eyes on the mineral rich springs bubbling up from the earth this little warren of forest and gullies has been a mag-net to those who wanting to drink the water or to bathe in it. Health spas were built above the springs and the natural water forcing its way to the surface was harnessed. But there are many who live in and around the area who believe it is the area around the springs themselves that have the power. At the confluence of Spring Creek, Locarno Gully and Wild Cat Creek are several different springs each with their own character, some smelling deeply of sulphur, others so full of salt and iron the water tastes like blood. To the traditional Dja Dja Warrung women this was Moorokyle. A special ceremonial place for childbirth and healing. Walk through the cool, dark and protected gullies and even today, the area has a different feeling to the rest of the region. It’s powerfully still. And calm.
One of the best ways to explore this eerily beautiful country is to walk it. Find a track and walk to a spring, wander under the candlebark gums and the box gum trees, follow the creeks and admire the pools of water and moss-covered rocks. There are walks as short as 1.4 km to Argyle Springs or 16km from Tipperary Springs to Lake Daylesford following the cool clear waters of Spring Creek.
For maps and info visit parkweb.vic.gov.au
This has been an institution since the 1880s and is now a place aimed at wellness, promoting the ideas of healthy living, relaxation and healing. Come here for a Royal Milk Bath, Pure Mineral Bath or Mineral Mud Bath. There are private mineral spa areas, special treatment for men performed in barbers’ chairs, massage, steam therapies and water therapies.
Generations of locals and visitors have memories of nights spent in The Palais. Built as a palais de danse in the 1920s this grand old dame of entertainment was built with an expertly built sprung native hardwood floor, making it perfect to trip the light fantastic. For decades it was the go-to venue for local and international musical performers but closed in 2013. The Melbourne-based owners of the building along with new manager, Richard Fanale, have completely restored the building back to its former glory. This included some some much-needed modernisation including the downstairs toilet area and will reopen this month in time for the opening of The World Cabaret and Circus Festival (see Page 21), and claiming its rightful crown as the venue for the region.
Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel
The lure of the springs must have been powerful because just as Australia was trying to drag itself from the depression an impressive guest house was built that combined elements of Spanish Mission and Arts and Crafts architecture. Today the Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel is a sophisticated and beautiful accommodation and dining venue, surrounded by a large expanse of manicured Italian inspired gardens. The interiors were designed by the late great local designer Stuart Rattle. Dine at The Argus, where local produce, such as Holy Goat La Luna cheese is served with pickled mushrooms, pear and foraged herbs is served in the popular share plate style. A short wander across the gardens is the award-winning Mineral Day Spa for a relaxing soak, scrub and polish.
Frank and Connies
Chef Caliopi Buck is young but cooks like a Greek yiayia, making the most of great local produce and using both high level modern skill and the methods she learned at her grandmother’s side. The fun and lively diner has all the energy of a taverna but a much deeper seasonally changing menu spelled out on the chalkboard above the open kitchen and a really good wine list. If you like real food, Greek food and a room with its own sense of style you will love Frank and Connies.
The Surly Goat is a dedicated local restaurant, committed to offering smart contemporary food and keeping things simple so that our menu can change and evolve along with the seasons, making use of the produce that is in its moment and at its peak, and where possible from our passionate local producers. But beyond all making sure what is served is fresh and tasty! The food menu is complimented by a deliberately small yet dynamic wine list with a focus on passionate and interesting producers both local and international and as such, our list changes regularly and features some well-known wines along with a few obscure gems, but always with something new to try. Recently head chef David Wilcox and his wife Vanessa Hernandez took over the reins of the Surly Goat leading this wonderful beast in the same direction as before.
If you’re sick of the sameness of big-name retail you will love Portal 108 – the bricks and mortar HQ and store of beautiful emporium of fashion, accessories and fun household items gathered together at 108 Main Rd, Hepburn. Hence Portal 108. Owners Connie and Kyla have done the shopping hard yards and brought together the clothing of Elm Lifestyle, the weathered-look leather bags of Kompanero, the bright and sassy Blue Q socks, anti-theft travel wear by Bobby Backpacks and beautifully handcrafted EOS Footware.
Hepburn General Store
Do not judge this local book by its rustic cover. From the outside it’s a quaint and rambling weatherboard store with an enormous shady verandah. On this inside this 19th century general store offers really good coffee, Bocastle pies, Timboon ice cream, Mt Franklin Organics, gourmet produce alongside staples like bread, vegemite, the city and local rags plus loo paper and – it’s also a licenced Post Office. It’s the tradies and bike rider favourite for every day, freshly made sandwiches, rolls and salads. This is one of the local’s best kept secrets.