Just an hour Northwest of Melbourne lies a former volcano at the beginning of the Great Dividing Range. We know this place as Hanging Rock or Ngannelong in the original language. This is a beautiful part of the country to visit, and you can spend about half a day climbing the summit and exploring the rock itself. The question is, what next? The answer is that there are plenty of other great attractions nearby, and we’re going to help you explore those now.
Picnic At Hanging Rock
Right off the bat, you’ll find a lovely set of picnic areas at the base of Hanging Rock itself. The picnic area is located just across from the car park and includes multiple areas with free barbeques if you get in quick. It’s a great place for big family meetups and romantic lunches alike. “Picnic at Hanging Rock” also lends its name to a book and film that was made on this monument, back in 1975. The film drew wide acclaim, and there are many tributes to it built into the tourism centre within the heart of the rock.
Live Music At Hanging Rock
Last year the Rock was lucky enough to host Nick Cave and Courtney Barnett for a live show right at the mountain. If you are interested in what this performance looked like, it can now be found as a mini documentary on the ABC. The area is no stranger to live music performances, with upcoming gigs slated for March of next year. The most recent music event was the Macedon Ranges Music Festival, which featured artists including Joe Camilleri & the Black Sorrows, Vaudeville Smash, Velvet Bloom and One Spirit Africa. Frontier Touring handles the area’s bigger artists, so keep an eye out there too,to see what’s coming next for music at Hanging Rock.
Hanging Rock Winery
Source: Bec Sparn via Google Images
If you’re looking for a place to cool off and kick back after a sweaty climb to the summit, be sure to check out Hanging Rock Winery. Open 7 days, 10am-5pm, the venue features a gorgeous cellar door overlooking picturesque farmland, just a few minutes drive from the main attraction. If you’re over 18, they’ll provide you with a complimentary wine tasting on arrival, so that you can sample the best that the area has to offer from Chardonnay to Shiraz. Cheese platters are available too, so you can really make an afternoon of it. If you’re lucky enough to visit between October and April, you can also treat yourself to their exhibition of “Art in The Vines”- an annual sculpture exhibition involving over 26 local artists along their iconic sculpture trail. Never fear if you aren’t there within these months though; they have a selection of permanent sculptures on the grounds here too.
The winery is also home to Speckle Park Beef, meaning that it’s not just wine and cheese on offer here! At Cellar Door visitors have the opportunity to purchase a variety of beef cuts sourced from grass fed animals that’re two years old. These cuts come with information, to what you would find on a wine label, including details about the animals age, breed, tasting notes and recommendations for wine pairings. Additionally they offer cured meats like pastrami, pastirma and bresaola. On occasion you may also find pies for sale.
Hanging Rock Summit Walk
Let’s get down to the real nuts and bolts of this trek. Hanging Rock Summit Walk is classed as in intermediate level hike, so it isn’t really wheelchair accessible, but it’s still very possible for newbie hikers and even well supervised older kids, with the aid of a good hiking pole and shoes – just make sure you leave your pets at home, as dogs are not permitted here due to the native fauna you’ll be treated to see on your way around. The full summit trek will take you around 45 minutes to get around, with a total circuit length of 1.57km. There are a large number of great rock formations to see here, and some absolutely breathtaking views near the top, making it a truly memorable day out. While the walk is free, it costs $10 per car to enter the site, so if you can convince your mates to come along for the ride, carpooling can be a really great money saving option here.
Hanging Rock Cafe
Source: Kunjal Patel via Google Images
If you didn’t pack a picnic lunch, it might also be worth checking out the local Hanging Rock Cafe. Conveniently located at the base of the summit and close to the car parks, the cafe is open every day except Tuesday and features fresh and seasonal cafe-style food, drinks, and even a nice cold beer. Have a go at some corn and zucchini fritters, or stop by for a spot of tea with scones, cream and jam. The cafe has something for everybody, including a kids menu and gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options.
Hanging Rock Races
If hiking isn’t for everyone in your party or you’re more into the social scene, come and check out the annual Hanging Rock races on January 26. Similar to the Melbourne Cup, the Hanging Rock Cup is an action-packed day of horse races, frocks, and fascinators – with beers and champagne as well of course. Gates open at 11am on the day, and the festivities carry on into the afternoon. The Hanging Rock Cup is held at South Rock Road in Woodend, a mere 2 minute drive or 7 minute walk from the summit. Be sure to wear your best suit or dress to this event, but beware the stiletto heel – opt for something with a broader shoe base if you want to avoid sinking backwards into the soft turf underfoot!
Hike The Mt Macedon Memorial Cross
If you’re not out of steam after hiking at the Hanging Rock summit, you can take a quick 15 minute drive back towards Melbourne to have a crack at the hike to the peak of Mt Macedon. This is another locally significant trail, with a grand war memorial cross at its peak and a number of wonderful lookouts along the way. The mountain tends to trend cooler than neighbouring areas, so if you’re there in winter you might even be treated to snow at the summit – just watch your footing! It also means that it’s a great place for a trek in the warmer months too, just keep an eyeon the current fire danger warning levels in the area.
Forest Glade Gardens
Image source: Forest Glade Gardens via Google Images
If you’re after a slower-paced and more accessible walk on your way home, drop into the Forest Glade Gardens at Mt Macedon. Adults can enter this private garden for a mere $10, with children 16 and under, and disabled visitors and their carers all admitted for free. The gardens offer a smoother, paved option for all ability levels to enjoy, along with an onsite gallery including the works of many of the area’s local artists.
More About Hanging Rock Reserve
Situated within the territory of the Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Peoples, Hanging Rock holds great cultural significance to the traditional owners of this land. Alongside the Wathaurung and Boon Wurrung peoples, they collectively form the federation known as the Kulin Nation. Their connection to this land spans back at least 10,000 years and probably more, establishing a lasting and deep-rooted bond between people and country.
Hanging Rock is often misinterpreted as a volcanic plug but in reality it is a mamelon formed by rock emerging from beneath the Earth’s surface. Its geological history stretches over a span of 6 million years. For the Kulin nation, this site has been revered as grounds where tribal initiation rituals for young males were conducted. However with the arrival of settlers in the mid 1800s, these Indigenous communities were displaced to make way for Melbourne’s development and gold mining.
During the gold rush era Hanging Rock served as a hideout for bushrangers, like Dan “Mad Dog” Morgan. Additionally another bushranger named McDonald utilised it as a lookout spot. Disputes concerning fencing and entry fees eventually prompted the government to acquire the surrounding land.
What truly put Hanging Rock on the map globally was the captivating film “Picnic at Hanging Rock ” directed by Peter Weir and based on Joan Lindsay’s book. This movie tells the story of three schoolgirls and a teacher who mysteriously disappeared during a Valentines Day picnic at Hanging Rock in 1900. As time passed Hanging Rock has evolved into a destination that seamlessly combines beauty, cultural heritage and an air of mystery.
With such a rich landscape full of heritage and beauty just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the Melbourne CBD, it’s well worth a visit to see the views and breathe in the fresh country air.