Leaving the noise and hurry of Melbourne behind her, Rachel Bache heads to the tranquil lakeside town of Daylesford.
As a young traveller, I'm more accustomed to dingy hostels or making do on a CouchSurfer host's dusty old couch, so the idea of spending the weekend being pampered in a luxury suite all to myself was pure decadence.
With the windows rolled down and Triple J blasting through the speakers, I drove away from the overwhelming hustle of downtown Melbourne and out to the country town of Daylesford.
The drive to the quaint little area was beautiful - passing rolling yellow hills of dried grass and tall eucalyptus forests. I could feel myself relaxing the further away from the city I went. Daylesford is only an hour and a half northwest of Melbourne, making it the perfect spot for a day trip or weekend away.
That afternoon I arrived at Lake House, a family-owned retreat built alongside Lake Daylesford.
Coming from humble beginnings, Lake House was originally a restaurant. It was opened in 1984 by Alla Wolf-Tasker, a woman with a passion for food and a dream to see fine dining brought to the rural Australian region.
Built from the ground up, next to the then-abandoned lakeside, Lake House was soon expanded by Alla and her husband, Allan Wolf-Tasker, to include accommodation and the spa treatment centre, Salus Spa, for their numerous guests.
Exploring the grounds, it was easy to see that this was a place built for unwinding. Trees and flowers lined the pebble paths, sculptures and other artwork could be found throughout.
Many of the pieces in Lake House are the work of Allan Wolf-Tasker, a talented painter and artist. I was lucky enough to have a sneak-peek inside his personal studio, which sits on the 2.42ha property.
The studio is filled with several large landscape paintings and, when I went poking around, Allan was sifting through his works, trying to decide which one he should donate to an upcoming charity auction.
Temptation on a plate at Lake House.
The rural retreat felt more like a country home away from home than a hotel. If only my real home were as elegant. My private suite was equipped with all the creature comforts I could want and then some. It also had a large wooden deck that overlooked the lake and forest, perfect for sitting back to watch kookaburras fly around. All of nature was literally outside my window.
The crowning jewel of Lake House is its restaurant, with menus devised by Alla. I have never dedicated so much time to eating one meal. I savoured every single delicious bite, from the snapper escabeche starter, right through to the chocolate, fig and raspberry icecream dessert - with wine recommended to match each course perfectly. I didn't want it to end.
Luckily, Lake House isn't the only option for fine dining in the area. Taking a five-minute drive up the road the next evening, I found myself at Sault Restaurant.
There, I revelled in a dish of citrus and vodka-cured salmon - made even more of a magical experience by the view of a setting sun over a field of lavender.
The food was mouthwatering, with most of the ingredients from local suppliers. Even the elderberry sauce drizzled on the free-range roast duck was made from the fruit of the elderberry tree outside the restaurant.
It is restaurant experiences like that at Sault and Lake House that have transformed Daylesford into a foodies' dream. But another drawcard to the area is Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. The mineral springs have been popular since the 1860s, with people coming from far and wide to drink the waters and bathe in them. In the 1890s, the bathhouse was built. Since then - after several renovations and rebuilds - the spa has provided relaxation to locals and holidaymakers alike.
During the weekend I got to spend quality me-time at Hepburn, soaking up the jet bubbles of a hot spa-bath.
When it was time to move on to the next treatment I almost didn't want to get out - but I'm glad I did as the relaxing massage I received afterwards was amazing.
Just a short drive from Daylesford town centre - Hepburn Spa's thermal waters are worth the visit - as is the town.
Wandering down Daylesford's main strip was a great way to spend the afternoon. The street is lined with cute boutiques and shops. I stopped in at an antique and collectibles shop packed with vintage trinkets and secondhand clothes.
I could easily have spent many hours (and a lot of money) there, but the temptation to browse other shops pulled me away. But not before stopping at Cliffy's Emporium for a quick latte. The quirky little cafe serves delicious cakes and treats. A perfect refuelling stop while window shopping.
On my final day in Daylesford I was picked up from Lake House by Clay Watson, owner of Daylesford Wine Tours, along with Maizy the dog, Clay's loyal sidekick. I instantly recognised Clay, strangely enough, from the second and third Matrix movies. As well as a wine enthusiast Clay is also an actor. It's not every day you get a (sort of) celebrity taking you on a private wine tour.
As a wine-tasting novice, it was fascinating for me to find out about the various flavours of the region and learn more about the wine-making process. Clay offered fun banter and great information about the vineyards, and about the whole area and the effects the forest fires have had on the wine community in recent years.
It was also fascinating getting to speak with Cameron Leith of Passing Clouds on his family-owned winery. Of course, sampling their finest wines also was a treat. A morning of tasting left me with a greater appreciation for wine - it also left me slightly tipsy - a nice way to top off an incredibly indulgent weekend.
Getting there: Flights available to Melbourne on Air New Zealand.
Accommodation: Lake House is at 4 King St, Daylesford, Victoria.
The writer travelled to Daylesford courtesy of Air NZ and Tourism Victoria.