Sipping cocktails with kangaroos, I'm having a Mad Hatter's tea party moment worthy of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Not that Australia's iconic marsupials are imbibing, they'd be even more pugilistic with a couple of drinks under their pouches. They're simply bounding across the golf course, much to the delight of international visitors enjoying aperitifs. When it comes to quirky tourism experiences, the Victorian gourmet town of Daylesford is at the front of the pack. 'There was nothing here 30 years ago, when I dreamt of opening a French provincial-style restaurant where local farmers would bring me organic produce,' says Alla Wolf-Tasker, managing director of the Lake House luxury hotel, restaurant and spa. She opened her regional restaurant in 1984 but the dream was temporarily shattered; just one farmer arrived at the kitchen door, with a sack of potatoes. In those days, visitors to rural Daylesford were looking for toasted sandwiches rather than Wolf-Tasker's shiraz-glazed squab. Now, though, the annual Lake House Regional Producers' Day, held in February, attracts more than 50 quality growers and wine producers. 'Food developments over the past 20 years have been absolutely mind-blowing and even though the restaurant menu changes twice a season, it remains grounded in nature's bounty,' says Wolf-Tasker. During my visit, damson plums destined for jam are ripening and the kitchen staff are busy making crab-apple jelly, charcuterie and bread while planning autumn dishes around the imminent arrival of wild mushroom and quince. Not surprisingly, everything on the Lake House menu is created from the ground up. Furthermore, its cellar is consistently voted among the world's best by Wine Spectator magazine. The restaurant's terrace overlooks a golden Lake Daylesford. A light breeze ruffles eucalyptus leaves on towering gums, where a noisy flock of white cockatoos has taken up residence. A gaggle of geese sleeps standing in the sun, heads tucked under wings. Crunchy gravel pathways meander around the lake, where bronzed straws of light kiss rocks and bushland before throwing a vibrant embrace over colourful pedalos moored next to a little wooden kiosk. Insects dance across a watery canvas that reflects the deep olive and glowing chartreuse of overhanging trees. The natural rhythm of country life is attracting a growing number of celebrity visitors to this part of the world. 'Privacy is important for some of our guests and we are opening two luxury villas with plunge pools and kitchens, where an in-house chef can prepare meals,' says Wolf-Tasker, who has played host to actors Katie Holmes and Nicolas Cage. Take a drive along Daylesford's food trails, though, and everyone's a VIP, as farm gates swing open to reveal award-winning cheeses (Holy Goat), organic berries (at Trewhella Farm), vegetables and certified-organic Wessex Saddleback pigs (at Fernleigh Farms). The lamb is farmed biodynamically at Powlett Hill and Tuki Springs, which also smokes a mean trout. Every local butcher's recipe for bull-boar sausages is a closely guarded secret while near the hamlet of Musk, Istra is producing traditional European hams, prosciutto, salamis and sausages for local and international markets. Daylesford Organics, in Musk Vale, opened in late January, offering 30 types and 200 varieties of vegetables, including award-winning carrots and eggs. A wild-bush drive past olive groves and paddocks to Ellender Estate Winery unlocks a sense of adventure that's rewarded with cool-climate pinot and sparkling chardonnay. Daylesford's charming Victorian-era Vincent Street is lined with health-food stores and lifestyle boutiques filled with tempting diversions. Couples sip lattes on Frangos & Frangos' vine-entwined verandah. At Bocconcini, customers lunch on locally sourced salads under shelves stacked with larder luxuries before being lured into Sweet Decadence by its handmade chocolates. Must-visits in the town include the magnificent Convent Gallery's light-filled exhibition spaces, garden cafe and gift shop. A weekend cocktail at its atmospheric Altar Bar has to be good for the soul. Two stone samurai warriors stand guard at the entrance to Purl's Palace, an eclectic emporium crammed with fabric and yarn. The dilemma of what to choose from Mercato's delicious dinner menu is easily overcome by ordering a tasting plate of local dishes. Whether they've been visiting Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs from Sydney or Singapore, Hawaii or Hong Kong, the sentiments in hotel visitors' books are similar: 'Beautiful, relaxing, perfect - just what we needed'. Just three kilometres from Daylesford, surrounded by thousands of hectares of Wombat State Forest, Hepburn Springs has been a popular spa destination since 1870. To harness the restorative powers of 70 mineral springs bubbling beneath deep gullies, a bathhouse was built that proved a hit with Melbourne's growing European migrant population, who flocked here to 'take the waters'. Benefiting from a sleek A$13 million (HK$94 million) makeover, Australia's only century-plus, continuously operating bathhouse has been revitalised. Nestled snugly into bushland, sunlight pours through a vast angled wall of glass into the reception of the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. Imprinted with wood grain, raw concrete walls lead to unisex changing rooms and a promenade with state-of-the-art mineral pools at an ambient temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. It's worth the price of admission to the Sanctuary, the bathhouse's exclusive section, just to float in an saltwater therapy pool, heated to 36 degrees, gazing at gum trees through the skylight. Mineral-water monsoon showers, from cool to hot, transport you to a jungle clearing before you embark on a therapeutic trip around the globe: a Mediterranean body scrub, an Indian massage and a Chinese body wrap scented with lotus. In the 15 treatment rooms, luxury has been cleverly fused with an industrial-design edge and, sited above the mineral springs, the bathhouse has been created with a minimal carbon footprint. Settling onto a chaise longue in one of the tranquil zones overlooking the creek, mineral supplements are unnecessary as nature's dispensary generously provides health and vitality. Whether it's for facials, food or cocktails with kangaroos, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are destinations that are worth the journey. Getting there: Cathay Pacific ( www.cathaypacific.com ) flies daily from Hong Kong to Melbourne. From there, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are an 80-minute, 100-kilometre drive northwest, on the Calder Freeway or Western Highway.