My two unforgettable days at Daylesford, Victoria – part 1

Although this post is about a wonderful trip I had recently to the beautiful Daylesford in Victoria, famous for their spas and fantastic restaurants, I would be lying if I said the entire experience was rosy. Yes, I just have a tiny little complaint I wanted to vent out before I start rambling about the beautiful food we tried and lovely people we met.

Lake Daylesford, overlooking the Lake House

Most of you are probably familiar with online group discount coupon sites and have probably bought a few yourself. I was an avid lover of these coupons as sometimes a true bargain can be discovered and a wonderful experience to be had, but what was to be an unforgettable birthday present from Yuye somehow turned into a part disaster. What I meant by part was because the experience itself was fantastic but definitely not the organisation of it.

Oscars Villa at Spa Country Villas

Yuye bought a coupon for a ‘romantic Daylesford retreat’ at Spa Country Villas for my birthday in November 2011. The coupon specifically said I could stay in any of the THREE spa villas available – the El Camino, Oscars or Avalon. I loved the look of El Camino on their website and so I was instantly sold. I emailed to make a booking the week following my birthday but as El Camino wasn’t available, I told the lady that I’d contact her again. It wouldn’t be until a month ago that I actually got back to her and finally made the booking (the coupon was valid until October 2012).

My first shock was the fact that she emailed back and said my voucher had already been ‘used’ according to the Groupon website. I obviously hadn’t stayed there so she rechecked and got back to me the next day that it was all sorted out. Phew.

El Camino on the left and Oscars on the right

I proceeded to making my booking via email, stating exactly which villa I wanted and listing all the information required. She got back to me with a single document that started as ‘Thank you…for your stay at Oscars…’ Oscars?! I thought my eyes were playing up on me. I immediately called her and asked whether it was a mistake but no it wasn’t. She failed to tell me that apparently I was only allowed to stay in Oscars (which just happens to be the cheapest villa on their website) because of some issues with past Groupon patrons.

Secluded Avalon Villa at Spa Country Villas, it overlooks the gorge and has a fantastic view

After much heated discussion about how I think this would make the Groupon information very misleading and unfair for purchasers like myself since I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, I gave in and just went with Oscars. ‘It’s not negotiable’ she said in a stern voice.

There goes my happy bubbly self eagerly anticipating the perfect belated gift that was meant to be perfect. I hate imperfect holidays, makes me feel like all the time and money spent was wasted.

View from the villas, the photo really doesn't do it justice

If I didn’t also purchase another coupon for a horse riding session also in Daylesford, I would have totally contacted Groupon to make a refund. Whether or not they’d allow me was a different matter but I would have tried. That was quite upsetting since I purchased this coupon with my eyes set on that one particular villa. Oh well, life is never as expected I suppose.

Sunset on the first night from the villas

It was difficult for me to find Oscars when I got there because it literally looked like the garage for El Camino (which I would have stayed in if I booked back in November 2011). But the inside was surprisingly beautiful. There was no view from anywhere which was partly the reason for staying there, but with the curtains closed, the air conditioning turned on and woodfire started, we felt like we were in our own little world, away from all our worries and away from all things social (there’s no internet or any form of phone reception on my Vodafone phone). I was actually content with what I received.

There was a bottle of red wine and glasses on the table as described (although we ended up just taking the bottle home) and a helpful guide about Daylesford as well. The bed was soft and the villa was very overall very clean, although some parts seemed slightly aged.

Inside the Oscars Villa

However, I was a bit cheesed about the breakfast. Nothing wrong with self cooked organic eggs and bread with milk and cereal but it was just the fact that the Groupon information made it sound like a proper hot breakfast would be cooked for us, or maybe that was just me being stupid as always.

Kitchenette at Oscars

The spa was quite large and there was bubble bath liquid in a soap dispenser for us to play with. But what does a ‘bonus romance package and arrival platter’ mean? There was no platter in sight and if the bubble bath from the soap dispenser was meant to be a romance package, then I have nothing to say.

Large 2 person spa bath with bubble bath solution

Putting aside all the negativity, if the information posted wasn’t so misleading and inaccurate to say the least, I would have been quite pleased with staying at Oscars. It was romantic in its own right just because of the location and because we were able to enjoy each other’s company and our company alone. No annoying games to take his attention away, no chatting via text or on social media sites and there was no blogging, just a lot of photo taking. :)

Large TV with DVD player, DVDs, fireplace and magazines to read on a comfortable couch

The location of the villas (I thought) was fantastic. It was actually located just above Hepburn Springs, off a tiny windy road with no lights and lots of kangaroos and wild birds.

We came across many kangaroos around the neighbourhood

For 2 kilometres along that windy road, I only saw 3 houses and the villas. The rest were just trees, wildlife and rolling hills. It was so very tranquil and quiet, too quiet perhaps that Yuye was scared we might get murdered by some evil person and we’d have no one to help us because there was no phone reception!

This road winds for a long time and goes up and down like a roller coaster! Very fun to drive at night with no lights ;)

I woke up early the second morning, excited by the morning dew and sunshine on the hills. I couldn’t wait to get out and breathe the fresh air and hear the birds sing. I was glad I didn’t refund the coupon.

I loved what was left of the autumn foliage or how little of it there was to begin with – most of the trees there are gum trees and other local species that do not shed leaves.

I loved the abundance of blooming flowers, even though we were well into late autumn.

I loved the view of the villas hidden amongst the trees from the road.

I loved the fact you can bring your pets (for a small fee) and that there was a pond with a bridge and chairs to enjoy the serene atmosphere.

I also loved the town of Daylesford. The people were lovely and the restaurants were surprisingly very good! As we arrived in the late afternoon, we were only able to enjoy dinner on the first day. I had sat in Yuye’s living room planning exactly what I wanted to eat and do as I knew I wouldn’t have internet to look anything up when I got there. I did however, make the mistake of not printing out some maps. Silly me!

I wondered into a small shop on the main road, asking for directions to Farmers Arms Hotel where I had read great reviews about and we headed there. If you have your directions panned out, Daylesford is actually quite easy to navigate since it’s so small. Farmers Arms is on a corner off the main road leading into Daylesford from Melbourne, I can’t believe I missed it on the way in.

It was a hotel and pub that was quite large and welcoming. The board listed all the dishes we could choose from which consisted of hearty meals that you would expect from pubs like it, just hearty and unpretentious.

Yuye ordered a pint of beer ($9.50) while I ordered an iced coffee ($5) which was specially made for me as it wasn’t on the menu. Yuye’s beer was nice, but I loved my iced coffee. It was made from a fresh espresso and was so strong and aromatic I could almost taste the coffee beans themselves. It was also very rich and creamy with the addition of the ice cream and cream.

Iced coffee and beer

The restaurant was quite dark as you can see so sorry for the poor photo quality. I ordered the slow cooked lamb shanks with creamy mash for $25. It was just as expected with deep, rich flavours and succulent, tender meat falling off the bones as I dug my way through it. It was unexpectedly very large and I barely managed to finish the dish.

Slow cooked lamb shanks with creamy mash ($25)

Yuye ordered the pork belly with mash and broccolini ($26) which was equally as hearty and equally as delicious if not better. The crackling was so crispy it was to DIE for. I savoured every bite of what Yuye allowed me to have and every time I took a bite, the crunch gave me shivers. I love crackling, if I haven’t made that point clear yet. Mmmmmm. The mash was very creamy and beautiful again and the broccolini was nice and al dente. It’s definitely a dish I would love to eat again.

Pork belly with mash & broccolini ($26)

We should have gone there a bit later because just on 6pm, we were not all that hungry which was such a shame! It’s definitely a restaurant worth visiting if you find yourself in Daylesford.

I’m sorry for such a negative start to the post, I assure you my next post about Daylesford is all positive and there will be even more fantastic food and beautiful scenery. We went horse riding for the first time which was SO exciting (and bum hurting), so stay tuned my dear readers! :)

Also, for those of you with coupons left for Spa Country Villas, just a reminder to expect only being able to stay at Oscars. I think it’s still worth while to visit even with this setback because Daylesford is really beautiful and the villa was quite sufficient for two people wanting to have a good time away from the city. We paid $289 for 2 nights at this villa which was really not very expensive, but for the full price of $425 on weekdays or $475 for weekends and public holidays, I’m not sure if I would pay that price (this is for Oscars only, the other 2 villas are more expensive by $50).

Question time: Have you ever had a bad experience with a coupon purchase or any travel mishaps? Did it turn out ok in the end?

Farmers Arms Hotel
Phone: (03) 5348 2091
1 East St, Daylesford VIC 3460
http://www.farmersarmsdaylesford.com.au/

Farmers Arms Hotel on Urbanspoon

Spa Country Villas
Phone: +61407303461
Address: 127 Charlies Rd, Hepburn Springs, VIC
Email: robyn@spacountryvillas.com.au
http://www.spacountryvillas.com.au

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31 comments… add one

  • Georgia June 20, 2012, 3:27 pm

    We got married in Daylesford only a few weeks ago (see my most recent blog post). Daylesford has been my favourite place in Victoria since I was a kid. It’s changed considerably in that time, mind you, but retains such charm and beauty. It’s a pity about your dodgy Groupon experience (have had one or two of those myself with group buying sites), but am so glad to hear that you enjoyed this beautiful region :)

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 20, 2012, 3:43 pm

      Congratulations Georgia! :D I would love to get married in Daylesford, it’s the most serene and beautiful town I’ve been to in a long time. Even though the Groupon experience didn’t start off too well, I was still glad I went and would go again in a heart beat if I get the chance! :)

      Reply
  • love2dine June 20, 2012, 5:55 pm

    So gorgeous!

    Reply
  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella June 20, 2012, 6:06 pm

    Oh no, what a shame that it got off to such a rocky start. That’s sort of the issue I have with those coupon sites. I bought mainly spa and beauty treatments and you wouldn’t get what was specified or you’d get a shortened treatment. But this definitely sounds like misleading and overselling! I’m glad that you were happy in the end though, I suppose it’s hard not to build up to the excitement of an offer when they sell it like that!

    Reply
  • Ming June 20, 2012, 7:26 pm

    Oooh I’m so jealous! Your photos are absolutely beautiful, and dinner looks so hearty and rustic! Shame about the coupon trouble though :(

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:42 pm

      Thanks Ming! Dinner was absolutely fantastic. I wish I could find a restaurant like that here in Melbourne. :(

      Reply
  • Gracie ~ Food Fascination June 20, 2012, 10:47 pm

    I enjoyed looking through your blog. Coincidentily, I made Strawberry Shortcake yesterday!!!

    Reply
  • Em June 21, 2012, 10:20 am

    I love Daylesford. I hope you have emailed both the accommodation owner and Groupon and clearly laid out the issues.
    I am very wary of group buying sites and so far have only brought two deals from them, both have which have turned out great. *sigh of relief*.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:44 pm

      I was going to email Groupon about it but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Even though I had a bad start, I guess the experience was still good. Although I have been put off buying any more coupons. :(

      Reply
  • yummychunklet June 21, 2012, 10:58 am

    Gorgeous photos! Inside and out!

    Reply
  • Tania @ A Perfect Pantry June 21, 2012, 11:55 am

    What a gorgeous place. I love such getaways… Might have to convince hubby to take me there:)

    Reply
  • Carolyn Jung June 21, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Beautiful sunset. Now, that looks like a fun and relaxing getaway. ;)

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:49 pm

      It was indeed a relaxing experience, apart from the organisation of it, and getting lost on the first day because my GPS didn’t work! :P

      Reply
  • Nami | Just One Cookbook June 21, 2012, 4:00 pm

    Aiya… a little more work to deal with these coupons but I can’t believe you could only stay at Oscars… it’s different from what they promised! Well, but I’m glad everything turned out okay. Horseback riding! That must have been fun. I’ve did a couple of times but my thigh got so painful next day… lol.

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:51 pm

      It’s put me off buying coupons now. :( Although I should give them the benefit of the doubt because my horse riding coupon was great!

      Reply
  • tastyfoodsnaps June 21, 2012, 7:27 pm

    anything slow cooked is yummy!
    that lamb looks so good!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:52 pm

      It was absolutely fantastic! I was very surprised at the quality of the food, thinking the reason for the high votes is because there’s only a few restaurants in the area but I was pleasantly surprised. :)

      Reply
  • Hannah June 21, 2012, 8:05 pm

    I’ve never tried any Groupon deals (hadn’t even known they were available in Australia until recently), but euuuurgh this sounds horrible! Thank heavens there was still sunshine and deliciousness for you :)

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:55 pm

      I’m so glad there was sunshine on all the days I was there, made the whole experience so much better! :D And the food, what can I say ;)

      Reply
  • Ali June 21, 2012, 9:59 pm

    I’ve had a few misses with group-buying coupons too, and have decided that I probably won’t bother with them anymore…as the hits weren’t really enough to make up for them. But, glad you had fun in the end…I have never been to Daylesford but it just looks beautiful and somewhere that I think I would enjoy! Thanks for sharing…gorgeous pics too :)

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 23, 2012, 6:57 pm

      I totally agree Ali. :( Most of the experiences with coupons have been average, but this just made me really not want to buy them anymore or at least have to not expect as much. I am glad that the weather was great and Daylesford was a fantastic place. :)

      Reply
  • Daisy@Nevertoosweet June 25, 2012, 11:47 pm

    I’m so jealous that you went to Daylesford! And the weather seems to be so nice :) Clear blue skies and I love the little villa that you have ~ So cosy hehe!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake June 26, 2012, 11:29 pm

      It was beautiful when I went, so lucky judging from the weather these few days. :D The villa was quite cosy. :) Loved the spa and the fact that I could watch TV from the spa was great, made me not want to get out. :P

      Reply
  • Tina October 2, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Beautiful photos, they really capture what Daylesford is about, beautiful bush scenery, great food and drinks, secluded accommodation, it is a very charming town isn’t it!

    Reply
    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake October 6, 2012, 3:57 pm

      Hi Tina, thanks for stopping by my blog! And yes I totally agree with you, Daylesford is all about those things you mentioned, totally loved it there! :D

      Reply
  • Claire December 14, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Hi jenny, I really enjoyed reading your blog. Especially about Daylesford which is one of my favourite places in the world. We currently have an offer on Groupon Mahala in Daylesford and I am the owner of the property. I’m sorry to hear about the accommodation – ( it can ruin it for everyone) but glad you loved Daylesford and of course, the Farmers Arms – it’s a great place! and can assure you that what you see is what you will get at our property. If you decide to come and stay, please let me know! Kind regards,

    Claire

    Reply

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