Lavandula, a Swiss Italian farm northwest of Melbourne, is steeped in history - a divinely-scented pocket of land at Shepherd's Flat, that could be straight out of a Glorious Gardens of Europe coffee-table book.

Developed in the mid-1800s by Swiss-Italian immigrants as a pig farm and dairy farm, it's now a lavender farm. But Lavandula is also the site of a restaurant and cafe, a picnic spot, and a well-stocked cottage-store of lavender oils, creams and potions to soothe every part of the body and mind.

There's petanque, gardens filled with heavenly-scented antique roses, an antique and crafts store and it's 'home' to a gaggle of geese, donkeys and llamas that love a pat or two from visitors.

In 1979, Melburnian Carol White was a passionate Francophile when she came to Hepburn Springs and purchased the farm. But when she learned the property had been settled and developed by some of the region's Swiss-Italians in the mid-1800s, she 'converted' to an 'Italophile,' and set about paying tribute to their history and culture in the way she developed Lavandula.


Carol's story is the stuff that family movies are made of: When her marriage ended, she left the city with her two primary school-aged sons to live at Shepherd's Flat. The dairy farm's 1868 hand-built stone house - which had been empty for two decades - became their home.

Lavender planting began with each and every plant lovingly nestled into its plot in the ground by hand and trowel. More than 20 years later, the annual harvesting is still done by hand and sickles.

It's worth timing your visit for one of the annual events which range from the lavender harvest festival in mid-January and a music-in-the-garden day in late October, to a Swiss-Italian Fiesta and olive harvest in late April. There are workshops at these events, too, so you can learn about the art of pickling olives or caring for chickens.

Lavandula's cafe is usually closed in August, though the farm and its shop remain open every weekend during that month.

Opening hours throughout the rest of the year are 10.30am to 5.30pm every day, apart from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Contemporary accommodation across the road from Lavandula has recently opened.

Getting there: From Melbourne, drive northwest to Daylesford, then through Hepburn Springs. Shepherd's Flat and Lavandula are just a little further along the road.



Victoria Bartle travelled to Melbourne and Daylesford courtesy of House of Travel.