Lesbians go bush: Australia’s queer country idyll

there’s lesbians in them there hills: the rise of lesbian daylesford

Lesbian Daylesford

Lesbian rural idyll

Around 100 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, lies Australia’s queerest country town: the very lesbian Daylesford.

The Daylesford area is traditionally owned by the Dja Dja Wurrung people. During the 1850s goldrush, it was settled by Europeans. With the discovery of mineral springs in the 1860s, Daylesford then began to attract spa tourists who came to ‘take the waters’. Alternative lifestyles began to blossom which experts (me and Mrs Jones) suggest may have led to the lesbian rush of the 20th century, during which the Daylesford area was settled by lesbians.

According to the 2011 Australian census, 3.6% of all couples in the Daylesford area are same-sex couples. That might not sound much, but the state average is only 0.7%. And of course that doesn’t include all the single ladies! The local council (Hepburn Shire) is supportive of lesbians and gays. It was the first local council in the state of Victoria to make a stand on same-sex marriage, passing a resolution to lobby the federal government in favour of it. (Get with the program, federal government!)

Lesbian Daylesford

There’s a couple up there

If you want to get in on the lesbian rush in Daylesford – maybe you’re interested in a bit of lesbian prospecting? – you won’t need too many special tools. You’ll hardly need to fossick very deep. Daylesford lesbians are visible, above ground, ripe for the picking. Yes, there’s lesbians in them there hills!

cafes, shops and other cool places

Daylesford is set in dry scrub which we Aussies called ‘the bush’. (If someone in Australia asks you to go ‘up bush’, it may not mean what you first think.) It’s a harsh, dry environment, but I find the straggly eucalypts and the reddish earth quite beautiful. And Daylesford is something of an oasis, offering cosmopolitan culture in a rural setting.

Australian bush

Aussie bush

As well as the mineral springs and spa treatments, Daylesford features a thriving art scene, cafes and quaint bed and breakfast accommodation, plus wineries, cideries and all sorts of artisan food producers. Not to mention its abundance of lesbians. There’s also lakes, bushwalks, farmers’ markets, antiques and collectibles. And did I mention lesbians?

Great cafe in the Daylesford area

Great cafe in the Daylesford area

One of our favourite cafes in the Daylesford area is Red Star cafe. It has a casual vibe, some comfortable couches and walls lined with nostalgia-inducing books, like old Enid Blyton novels and strange cookbooks from the 1970s. It is also likely to contain traces of lesbians.

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Love wall at Portal 108

A new fave with the lesbians is Portal 108, a shop run by a couple of women selling all sorts of lifestyle ware that happens to be popular with lesbians. Pick up a new fedora (the must-have hat for your lesbian country escape) or a baseball cap. How about a bag or wallet made of fire hose? There’s t-shirts and jewellery by local designers and lots more. The shop has a quirky yard out front too which is fun to explore. If you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship, grab a piece of chalk and write your name on the Love Wall. Congratulations to Debbie and Loreana who’ve been together for 32 years! And Cindy and Nicky who had a one night stand – they’re probably living together by now.

and, of course, chillout festival

Gay Daylesford

The whole town goes rainbow

Every year on the Labor Day weekend in March, Daylesford hosts an annual queer festival called ChillOut.

ChillOut is the biggest rural lesbian and gay festival in Australia. It draws huge numbers of lesbians and other queers from the cities of Australia and nearby towns. The program of events seems to get bigger every year, featuring lesbian bands, comedy shows, drag shows, dance parties, sporting activities, bushwalks and lots of eating and drinking opportunities.

Mrs and Mrs Jones were there this year and loved it. Stay tuned for our wrap-up of various ChillOut events, including roller derby, art at the Convent Gallery, the Gaylesford Film Festival, ChillOut Pride March and the headline event: ChillOut Carnival which runs all day Sunday.

practicalities

The best way to get to Daylesford is to drive. Hire a car or campervan or try get a lift with someone if you don’t have transport.

Gay travel Daylesford

The exclusive Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat welcomes rainbow travellers to ChillOut

A wide range of accommodation, from self-contained country shacks to spa suites, is available through Daylesford Getaways website. There’s no need to worry too much about gay-friendly accommodation, especially if you visit during ChillOut when the whole town is draped in rainbow flags to welcome the pink dollar, I mean gays and lesbians.

For more affordable accommodation, try the caravan park. The caravan park is particularly convenient for the ChillOut Carnival which happens right next door. It’s very popular so book early or you’ll be sleeping in your car.

ChillOut runs every year on the Labor Day Weekend, which is the weekend of the second Monday in March.

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