Yesterday (Tuesday, December 1) we left the state of Victoria bidding both Melbourne and Hepburn Springs a fond adieu. To date, with some brief exceptions such as snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, our time in Melbourne and the wine & spa country outside the city in Hepburn Springs has certainly been the highlight of the trip.
I can not thank Rhonda & Boyce enough for their hospitality while we stayed in Melbourne. We ate very well every night thanks to their restaurant picks and on Sunday evening we joined Rhonda's parents at their home for a feast that would give a traditional Thanksgiving dinner a good run for its money. Each night dinners extended 3-4 hours and the conversation made every evening fly by. When we checked out of The Rialto in Melbourne and hopped in our tiny red rental car I thought we would regret leaving the city for the tiny town of Hepburn Springs. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sergio did a magnificent job navigating the roads and I have to pat myself on the back for my expert reading of the road maps. The drive to Peppers Springs Retreat & Spa was very easy and something I would recommend anyone visiting the area consider taking time to do. We stopped along the way at a few towns our concierge had suggested, but we both agreed these towns were mostly forgettable and not worth seeing. Fortunately, the countryside is spectacular once you get out of Melbourne. The area is filled with rolling hills for farming and vineyards interspersed with beautiful Eucalyptis forests. I have some gorgeous photos that I'll share upon my return back to the states if only so I have something to remember the trip.
The sleepy towns we drove through from Melbourne were depressing and filled with dingy cafes. It really gave us pause to consider if the trip was worthwhile. The worst of the drive was when we stopped in Woodend - a sad little town which only made us sadder after visiting it. However, 35 minutes and about 20+ photographs later we arrived in Daylesford which neighbors Hepburn Springs. The minute we pulled into the center of town which sort of is a mix between the wild west with the architecture (you'll see what I mean when I post my photos) and something you would see in Napa / Sonoma because of all the cafes, restaurants, wineshops, etc... we knew we were going to enjoy our stay.
Down the road (2-3 kms) is the quaint town of Hepburn Springs which is picture perfect. The Peppers Springs Retreat & Spa exceeded my expectations after a somewhat disapointing experience at the Peppers Beach Club in Port Douglas. The owners of the Hepburn location are two lovely gay men Wayne and Chris and their staff was the most attentive and polite I've come across in all our travels through Australia to date. I'll post more photos of the grounds but suffice it to say, I look forward to visiting both Hepburn Springs and the Peppers Springs Retreat and Spa again. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more the 3-course dinner which seemed to grow to 5-courses or our relaxing morning at the resort's spa.
Flying from Melbourne yesterday was definitely sad. I've developed a mad crush for everything and everyone in Victoria and when I come back to Australia, I'll be looking to spend more time there. I'm now in Sydney and hope to explore the city a bit more. Last night we took a night boat to explore Manly Beach which looks to be absolutely gorgeous.... but more about that later.