If you’re looking for a quick escape to the country, a trip to the Macedon Ranges might be just the ticket. Located only an hour Northwest of Melbourne, this area has it all, from great food, country culture and even some primo hiking spots. Here’s a few of the best things the area has to offer, right down to the accommodation. Day trips are definitely possible, but weekends are more fun, so knowing where to stay is definitely handy. There’s even a few pet friendly options. First of all though, let’s take a look at some of the big natural attractions.
See the Sights
The Macedon Ranges marks the beginning of the Great Dividing Range, so naturally there are a bunch of notable mountains and lush hiking areas. Here are a few of the top spots.
Hanging Rock via Google Image
If you know much about Hanging Rock, it’s likely that your first introduction to it would’ve been through Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock, and its film adaptation of the same name from 1975. The story is a bit of a spooky one about schoolgirls disappearing from the mountain, but don’t let that deter you – the rock is actually rich with Indigenous history, and there’s even a little section dedicated to this, along with wildlife information from the local area, built right into the rock itself. The views at the summit are absolutely breathtaking, and you can see all the way out to the Melbourne city skyline and beyond on a clear day. The mountain is made almost entirely of volcanic rock that was hurled across the area, creating insane shapes and formations to explore, all the way up to the top. Don’t miss this one.
Sanatorium Lake via Visit Melbourne Website
Located at Mt Macedon, Sanatorium Lake is a verdant hiking area that provides the perfect escape from the daily grind. The stand-out hike of the lake is Murmuring Walk which is situated within Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung land. Enjoy the peace and birdsong as you trek your way through, or take advantage of the free audio guided walk on your personal device as you escape into nature.
Macedon Regional Park
Macedon Regional Park via Google Image by Henriee
On Wurundjeri land, Macedon Regional Park is basically an extension of Sanatorium Lake (above). Have a romantic lunch at the Sanatorium Picnic area, or speed things up through the cycle trail – just make sure you’ve got a decent mountain bike through here, things get a little offroad! If you can get access to horse, there are even some great trail riding areas weaved through the park; there’s truly something for everyone here.
Mt Macedon Memorial Cross Hike
Mick Charkas via Google Images
A trip to the Macedon Ranges would be incomplete without a walk to “The Cross”. This one holds a bit of personal significance too – as a kid I spent ages up at the cross, as my family used to own the little Devonshire Tea House next to the cross car park. Lots of great memories were borne from this beautiful spot. These days the Tea House has changed hands as my family went on to other ventures, but I’ve heard that the food is still top-notch, and it well worth a visit after finishing the big hike to the top of the mountain. Ample Car parking and pathways makes this quite the accessible nature walk, and history buffs can even check out Kurana memorial on the way up the mount. Take a detour to Major Mitchell lookout, then head to the cross itself. You won’t regret the hike, just pack for cold weather. Mt Macedon is notorious for being a little bit nippy, and even sees snow at certain times of the year.
Forest Glade Gardens
Located in Mount Macedon, the forest glade gardens comprises 14 acres of manicured lawns and gardens. Within the gardens there are four themes: the English garden, the Japanese section, the woodland section, and the fern gully. This garden is open 7 days per week from 10 am-4.30pm, making it the perfect place to visit before or after lunch on your trip through the Ranges. Forest Glade was tragically destroyed in the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983, but with hard work and determination has now been fully restored, and is a wonderful place to relax and even book a tour for a few hours during your local stay.
Have a Bite to Eat
Now that you’ve seen the sights, you’re probably wondering what to do about that grumbling tummy! The Macedon Ranges are a trove of nice little eateries and restaurants with spectacular views. Here are a few of our favourites.
Kuzu via Google Image
If you’re after Japanese fare in a formal setting, look no further than Kuzu. Kuzu is the joint brainchild of Head Chef Eriko Pannam and Front of House Sensei Gareth Rowlands. This restaurant is located right in the heart of Woodend, so it’s a great place to stop at if you’ve just been on a day trip of Hanging Rock. The flavour palate is Japanese, fused the creativity of Western trained chef Eriko.
Fook Shing via Google Image
Fook Shing is nestled in the iconic Piper Street, in Kyneton. Originally a pub, the restaurant claims its name from the local detective of the area, a former police officer that also patrolled Melbourne’s famous Chinatown district. Fook Shing is a light, airy place filled with wall-to-wall art and delicious asian-fusion meals.
Miss M’s via Google Image
Also in Kyneton, Miss M’s boasts a restaurant in addition to a cocktail lounge. There’s also a wine bar on site, so you’re in for quite a treat if you want to make a night of the place. Book in for dinner before the fun, or jump across after a meal at Fook Shing to delight in the local cocktails.
Gisborne Telegraph Hotel
Gisborne Telegraph Hotel via The Telegraph Hotel Website
Located in Gisborne, “The Tele” as locals call it is the perfect place for traditional pub fare. Enjoy the pot belly stove at the front of the house, the beer garden, and frequent bands at this classic location. Gisborne is right at the beginning of the Macedon Ranges if you’re headed there from Melbourne, so it might be the perfect place to call into when you first arrive. Their Pot Pies are particularly good.
Yoshiki Yamamoto via Google Images
Bourkies is an absolute institution of a bakery, particularly if you’re into your vanilla slices. It’s again located right in the heart of Woodend, and really easy to find, just opposite the supermarket and petrol station. The vanilla slices here are multi award winning and come in a variety of flavours including strawberry and passionfruit, along with the more traditional vanilla. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Wineries, Local Businesses and Markets
Gisborne Peak via Google Image
In my younger years, I spent many a summer afternoon tending to the vines at Gisborne Peak, so I feel that I can give you a pretty good idea of what to expect here. This winery is local produce at its finest. Located on Short road, Gisborne, Gisborne Peak even has on-site cottages, so if you have a little too much fun, they’ve got your back.
Holgate Brewhouse via Google Images
If you like a good beer, Holgate is the place to visit in the Macedon Ranges. Located in Woodend, either head there after a good lunch time feed at Bourkies, or grab yourself a counter meal. You will see the brewery to your left as you first enter Woodend from Melbourne – you really can’t miss it. Definitely worth a squiz.
Where to Stay
Relax Holiday Rentals
Relax Holiday Rentals via Google Images
If you’re after a private place to stay with family, you can’t look past Relax Holiday Rentals. Think AirBnB, but locally run and a little more down-to-earth. They manage properties all over the ranges, including one right near Hanging Rock, all through Macedon and Mount Macedon, Trentham, and Kyneton. Our personal favourite is Treetops at Mount Macedon – a private, off-the-beaten track country A-frame style house that’s still surprisingly close to town for the amount of serenity you’re getting.
Macedon Ranges Hotel and Spa
Macedon Ranges Hotel & Spa via Google Image by J G
Macedon Ranges Hotel and Spa is more of your traditional accommodation, and boasts both a restaurant and, you guessed it, a spa. If you want to really treat yourself to the full package, check out this place for sure. The restaurant has spectacular views right across the mountainside, and you can even go for a mani-pedi afterwards. This is your luxury Hotel option in the Ranges.
Rooks Edge B&B via Tripadvisor Website
Located in Bullengarook just past Gisborne, Rooks Edge Bed and Breakfast is the perfect pet-friendly option from this list. There are three rooms available, each with their very own wood fire. Transport options to and from accommodation and events can be provided for an extra fee too. This Bed and Breakfast is also a Sheep Stud Farm, so you’re definitely going to get a genuine country experience here!
So there you have it. If you didn’t know much about the Macedon Ranges area before, you definitely know a little about it now. Go for a cruise out of Melbourne and give it a go. Be it for a mind-blowingly good vanilla slice at Bourkie’s or a cold frothy one down at the Holgate Brewhouse, the local produce is going to be the cherry on top as you scale mountains and see the views in the gorgeous area just an hour out of the city.