It hadn’t occurred to me before but it wasn’t until I was about to leave for Australia that I realised I was about to embark on my first solo road trip EVER! I’ve done many road trips before but never alone. I looked forward to lots of ‘me-time’ in the car but who was going to help me navigate? I figured I would sort that out when the time came… and it came fast!
Getting out of Melbourne
As I negotiated the busy streets of Melbourne to get to the highway that would take me into the country, I felt slight pangs of fear. I was stuck on a busy road, snarling traffic around me and the sound of a stern female voice on the GPS navigation monitor telling me to “keep in the right lane and turn right after 50 meters”. “Errrr, thanks ma’am! I would if I could! You can’t see this massive truck on my right can you?!?!”, I yelled in frustration. I chuckled when I realised what I was yelling at. Oh, wouldn’t it be so much more fun if I was yelling at a real person! Haha!
I finally made it onto the highway and in no time, I was whizzing past the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. Melbourne’s imposing skyline faded below the horizon as I headed further afield. My pangs of fear had quickly changed to excitement. Here I was, in the car on my own, with a lady’s voice as my guide, and my iPhone was belting out my favourite songs! How awesome is that? I sang along to Pharell’s “Happy” and for the first time, I felt very much at ease. Indeed, happy!
My first destination was Daylesford, together with its twin town Hepburn Springs, the ‘Spa Capital of Australia’. Located in a verdant, hilly region, the towns are blessed with an abundance of natural springs. It took me just over 1.5 hours to get to Daylesford and the difference with bustling Melbourne could not have been greater! I passed beautiful lakes, framed by lush forests, and sleepy communities.
A crimson rosella flew past as I arrived at my first stop: the gorgeous Lake House and Talus Spa. Perched on the slopes of a hillock, the Lake House is a hotel that’s renowned for its fantastic restaurant and its luxurious spa. I checked in and the lovely staff showed me my accommodation, the jaw-droppingly beautiful villa! It was a chilly day and I was thankful for the fireplace that was already crackling wildly when I entered.
I went for a long walk around the lakes and later that evening, I was treated to the culinary genius of the chefs at the Lake House. I was truly impressed by the impeccable service and knowledge of the waiters and the sommelier – seeing that I was dining alone, the waiter brought me a book (about the history of the restaurant) to read – a very thoughtful touch. The ingredients used by the chefs are sourced from the surrounding region as well as from the restaurant’s own organic vegetable gardens – the freshness was unmistakable, especially the salads (the leaves were some of the tastiest I’ve ever had). The tantalising combinations of flavours, aromas and textures made for a superb meal.
Fun at the Passing Clouds
The next morning, I hopped into my car and drove the short distance to Hepburn Springs where a fabulous mineral bath awaited me at the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, Australia’s original wellness retreat. Situated amidst gorgeous forests, the Bathhouse is a favourite among locals and Melburnians who come here to enjoy the mineral springs.
Later that day, feeling warm and chirpy and accompanied by the equally uplifting tunes of Fun (remember “We Are Young”?), I drove to Musk along the Daylesford-Trentham road. I was tipped off by the sommelier at the Lake House that there would be an open day at the Passing Clouds winery, with food and music – that was more than enough to catch my attention. I arrived at the small winery to find a fun party atmosphere despite the chilly weather. It was a local affair, with people laughing, dancing and enjoying fine wines and barbecues. I joined in the fun with a glass of Chardonnay and several delicious skewers, and swayed to the folksy tunes of the Ugly Uncles. What a treat!
The joys of solo travel!
From here, I continued to Trentham, passing green rolling hills reminiscent of the English countryside, sprawling farmlands and patches of gum forests.
Just before Trentham, I made a diversion to the stunning Trentham Falls. It was raining when I stepped out of the car but I told myself that the shower would quickly pass – funny how much I talked to myself on this solo road trip! True enough, when I reached the viewing point after a short walk, the sun appeared accompanied by bright blue skies. The falls looked absolutely splendid!
I made my way back to the car just as the sun disappeared behind thick dark-grey clouds and continued my drive to Trentham, the gateway to the Wombat State Forest. I strolled past quirky shops and found the historic Red Beard Bakery. This bakery is famous for its sourdough bread which is baked in a massive 19th century oven. It was a treat to witness how the Red Beard loaves are made and baked in that impressive oven.
Loaf in hand, I stepped out of the bakery into another passing shower. I found shelter in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It looked pretty run-down on the outside but once inside, I found a newly refurbished bar/lounge with friendly bar staff.
One of the advantages of travelling alone is how easy it is to strike up a conversation with locals or fellow travellers. People take an immediate interest in you and before you know it, you’re engrossed in a fascinating conversation (or desperately looking for an exit). I found company (or rather, company found me) with a local farmer and his wife. I think I failed miserably in trying to explain what it is that I do. Haha! Oh, the joys of solo travel!
*End of Part One*. Continue to Part Two.
Note: this trip is part of the iambassador #MelbourneTouring project in partnership with Tourism Victoria and Royal Brunei Airlines. Velvet Escape maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.