The Convent at Daylesford
Daylesford is an interesting place. With a population of just over 3,000, to an American, it might seem like a sleepy, conservative, little town. Daylesford is pretty progressive though, as is Australia in general it seems. After all, this is a country whose political parties include Labor, Liberal, Greens, and Democrats. They all sound liberal, right? I’m not sure that Australia has anything comparable to the American conservative right. I don’t really understand Australian politics, but that’s a subject for another day. Back to Daylesford.
Daylesford is a spa town and a center for “alternative lifestyles”. Aside from traditional spa treatments, you can find reiki, aromatheraphy, reflexology, and other forms of alternative and spiritual healing. It appears to have a thriving GLBT community and a Pagan one as well. It has one of the best Pagan shops I’ve ever seen called earthly rites, which offers workshops and tarot readings on top of an excellent selection of goods, and an awesome 14-room bookstore called Paradise Bookshop that houses both new and second hand books as well as comics, magazines, and ephemera.
We spent most of our time in Daylesford visiting the Convent Gallery. It has its origins in the 1860s gold rush and was the private residence of the Gold Commissioner until the Catholic Church purchased it in the 1880s and made it the home of the local priest for the next ten years.
In 1892, the building became the Holy Cross Convent and Boarding School for Girls, home to the Sisters of the Presentation Order. Due to its difficult upkeep, it closed in the the 1970s and passed into the hands of the Daylesford community becoming a popular center for community arts and education. In 1988, local artist Tina Banitska purchased the property.
Today the Convent houses eight art galleries, some parts of the original convent have been restored including the chapel, and there’s a museum dedicated to life there during the time of the nuns. There’s also a shop and two eateries – the Bad Habits Cafe and the Altar Bar & Lounge. Clearly, they have fun with the theme. The Convent hosts conferences and weddings and even has accommodations. It has a really lovely energy.
Admission into the Convent Gallery is only $5. It’s well worth it and I highly recommend tea at the Bad Habits Cafe.