Spa Country started from humble beginnings nearly 20 years ago when owners Chris Malden and Wayne Cross visited the region in search of a weekend retreat in Daylesford. Just over an hours drive from Melbourne, the pair saw Daylesford as an escape from their busy city lives. Their search for a peaceful haven led them to a rundown Tudor style reception centre/café in Hepburn Springs which they purchased and began to restore.
By the mid 90’s, Chris and Wayne were creating more weekend getaway properties in the region, in what was the beginnings of their first business venture in Daylesford. They realised their contemporary, architectural-based style was just what the region needed as savvy city dwellers flocked to the region seeking elegant and contemporary properties for weekends away.
As the business grew, Wayne’s parents Brian and Heather Cross were recruited as property managers and Dayget, then Daylesford Getaways, was officially launched, an accommodation booking service providing guests with Australia’s first complete online booking and payment system. With a rapidly growing portfolio of holiday rental properties, Chris and Wayne moved permanently to the area to focus full time on their expanding business.
In 2000 they took the opportunity to improve accommodation options in the region further with the purchase of the historic 1930’s icon, The Mineral Springs Hotel in Hepburn Springs (now Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel). Over the next 15 years they redeveloped the hotel and transformed what was a traditional country pub into a 4 star boutique hotel featuring 40 accommodation rooms, an award winning day spa, The Mineral Spa, and a chef’s hatted restaurant, The Argus Dining Room.
In 2006, they acquired one of Hepburn Springs most iconic buildings, the heritage listed ‘Villa Parma’ built in 1864 and once described as ‘an ornament to the road’. Adjacent to the hotel, Villa Parma and its extensive gardens were incorporated into the hotel grounds following a substantial refurbishment of the villa under the guidance of Heritage Victoria.
Chris and Wayne have since added farming to their repertoire, developing a 400 acre farm Vale Hill, at their home in nearby Smeaton. The vision was to supply home grown produce to the restaurant and hotel in Hepburn Springs.
Today, with over 100 head of rare breed cattle and sheep, over 400 fruit tees, citrus trees and a large vegetable plot producing seasonal favourites, they are able to offer guests of the hotel and restaurant a true ‘paddock to plate’ experience with quality, home grown produce used throughout the menus at The Argus Dining Room and Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel.
From humble beginnings in the 1990’s with just a handful of staff, today Spa Country operates seven iconic businesses across Daylesford & Hepburn Springs and employs over 120 staff.