First published on 7 Jun 2012. Updated on 7 Mar 2013.
When Melbourne’s shrouded in drizzle, the savvy native will head to the hills. The Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region of Victoria, just an hour-and-a-half northwest of the city, offers natural springs, ample skin-quenching spa treatments and leaf-crunchingly good walks.
Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat, in Hepburn Springs, is devoted to cuddly getaways. Winter is its busy season, thanks to its manifesto of keeping the wood fires stoked, the red wine flowing and cosying up hotel rooms with heated floors, spa baths, furry throws and mood lighting.
There are warm-hued palettes throughout this 1935-built former village pub – not to mention wonderful interior design touches from Stuart Rattle – but it’s the combination of its Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Arts and Crafts influences that makes it something else. From the library, to the breakfast conservatory, to the grand, European-style reception and the Tuscan gardens, every last detail has been lovingly attended to by owners Wayne Cross and Chris Malden, who have a respected reputation for restoring historical buildings. They even grow their own organic vegetables and run the Birch Estate farm, on which they breed rare cattle and sheep.
You’ll be wanting to taste the aforementioned beasts and veg, no doubt, and that’s what fine dining restaurant the Argus is for. Overseen by Executive Chef David Willcocks, who had previously been working as Executive Sous Chef at the world renowned ‘Schilo Kitchen’ at the five-star Hotel Finca Cortesin in Malaga, you can expect fine dining country dishes like roast quail with some exotic touches such as Ajo Negro and XO Consommé. The menu’s quick to change, though. Alternatively, you can have high tea served on fine antique china in the lounge…. And the retreat even bottles its own mineral water.
The award-winning mineral spa itself offers two hot mineral water pools overlooking the stunning gardens, with a colder plunge pool for the daring. There are the saunas and steam room you’d expect, an infrared detox box, a range of face and body treatments using organic ingredients, and some pretty rare soft pak float beds that suspend the user in water to allow the maximum absorption of clay treatments. The retreat has just introduced a twilight bathing package on Friday nights and the spa is popular enough to have to employ 25 therapists at weekends. Two years ago, in fact, the team broke the world record for simultaneous massage at nearby lavender farm Lavandula, with 196 masseurs and masseuses taking part.
Break your own record for luxury and take off to Hepburn Springs for a weekend.
Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat, 124 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs. 1300 737 444.