Many of the European settlers to Australia from the mid eighteenth century were familiar with ‘taking the waters’ - not just for health reasons but as a social event. With the discovery of mineral springs in and around Daylesford, it was inevitable that the district should act as a magnet with people who automatically associated mineral springs with health and entertainment. What developed at the Hepburn Springs Reserve was a centre that was European in inspiration but with a distinctly Australian atmosphere.
Early residents of Daylesford were quick to appreciate the value of their mineral springs and held their first meeting to discuss the protection of the springs in 1864. Four years later the first mineral springs reserve was established at Hepburn Springs.
By the 1880s Hepburn Springs mineral water was widely known in Australia. It was either bottled at the factory on the reserve or taken away by rail in large pressurised containers. The opening of the railway line in 1880 gave easy access to Daylesford and plenty of comfortable, even elegant, guest houses, restaurants and tea rooms were quickly established. These were cheaply staffed by the wives and daughters of miners. By the turn of the century a small bath house with two baths had been built in Hepburn Springs Reserve which proved to be so popular that in the early 1890s two more baths were added.
Holidaying in the Spa Country
Until the 1930s Daylesford and Hepburn Springs flourished. The local authorities boasted that their naturally radio-active mineral water could work miracles. Among other things it could restore youth, helped jaded appetites, was a tonic for the blood and dispelled acute pain. An advertisement from the late 1920s reads: “Warm in winter, yet with invigorating, bracing mountain air, and cool in summer, with restful nights peculiar to the district, the climate leaves nothing to be desired. The Hepburn Mineral Springs are famous throughout the State for their health-giving properties.”
Everybody went – for their health, for the annual family holiday and above all for their honeymoon. The nightly dances at the pavilions at Hepburn Springs, Central Springs and Tipperary Springs were characteristic of the lively atmosphere enjoyed by visitors in an era of no television and few cars.
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