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Sunday Travel Editor Angie Kelly and two friends head to Victoria's spa country for the ultimate girls' getaway.
They're everywhere: cruising the shops in the main street, propping up the bars and taking the big tables in smart restaurants.
Chicks. In all their incarnations. Twentysomethings and their mums. Families, friends and hens. Lots of hens. Groups of young mothers (sans enfants) and us — three long-time workmates.
It may be officially known as spa country but Victoria's Daylesford and its twin town of Hepburn Springs has few rivals for the title of girls' getaway capital of Australia.
Drawn like fireflies by the ultimate chick, Mother Nature, and her warm and wonderful waters, here we are, floating en masse in the mineral springs dotted around the town in hotels, spas and the impressive Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa.
After hiring a car, we traffic-scarred city dwellers remark to each other how easy the 75-minute drive to Daylesford from Melbourne Airport is.
We cruise into Vincent Street, the town's main drag, where strolling the shops and laneways is a weekend ritual. A riot of homewares shops, bakeries, cafes, upscale boutiques (when did alpaca knits become so coveted?) and art galleries no doubt make the town's many Melbourne visitors feel at home, with plenty to see over a two- or three-day visit just here alone.
Our home for the weekend is the ridiculously pretty Lake Daylesford Country House — a perfect doll's house of femininity with four lusciously decorated bedrooms, off-white timber floorboards and a French Provincial theme throughout. Flowers, floor-length curtains and lots of yellow and cream form the perfect backdrop for the glowing gas fireplaces — I leave mine on all night in the master bedroom, watching the warm light until sleep comes.
Though bitterly cold thisweekend, the cottage and the town is well set up for winter getaways with crackling fires in most venues and all that warm, wonderful water. We enjoy rugging up in layers as well as hats, boots and gloves, and embrace the wintry weather as an excuse to sample all kinds of comfort food. To this end, we linger over lunch in the welcoming cosiness of Wombat Hill House, a chic cafe, garden and store perched on a peak in the botanic gardens, a five-minute drive from our cottage.
Later, Kazuki's Japanese-inspired restaurant serves us two courses of finely assembled works of art for our evening meal. Then we stay much too long at the pumping Horvat's wine bar, where we join a crush of late-night revellers dancing to live music and sampling boutique drops sourced from the surrounding western central highlands.
Though there is no shortage of pools, baths and spas to choose from (Salus Spa at Lake House and the Peppers Hepburn Springs Spa are among the most popular), we head for the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa to soak away our Sunday morning.
The original communal bathing house opened in 1895 and has been drawing on the area's mineral-rich waters ever since.
Renovated four years ago, the modern complex is split into a large show-up any-time relaxation pool (where children are welcome) and an appointment-only spa, where private hydrotherapy is something really special with music, room fragrance and sexy lighting the icing on the bubbling bathwater.
That private bath was the undeniable highlight before discovering the submerged spa couches built into the communal springs ... six heavenly beds in a row with soaring views of the adjacent mountainside; surely one of the most memorable spots in Australia to relax. As a chick-magnet, it's hard to beat.
Where Lake Daylesford Country House, 123 Vincent Street, Daylesford. To book: Daylesford Getaways, (03) 5348 4422; dayget.com.au.
Getting there Daylesford is just over 100 kilometres from Melbourne Airport. Take the Calder Highway to Woodend Township, turn left and follow the signs to Daylesford.
How much Two nights midweek from $800, two nights weekend from $1000.
Style statement White-timbered, cushion-filled, French Provincial girly.
Perfect for Girls, girls, girls.
Shame about It being too cold to set ourselves up on the pretty rooftop terrace overlooking the lake.
Kudos Four bathrooms mean no waiting, with the main bedroom's en suite Jacuzzi likely to trigger bath envy.
Take the kids Probably not — this is one doll's house that is built just for grown-ups.