I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published February 23rd 2016
Magical Mountain Autumn Colours
It may not be official yet but those in the know in the Macedon Ranges will tell that the area, if not the state, is in for a very early autumn this year. Already the Heritage Listed Pin Oaks along Macedon's Honour Avenue are changing colour. The upper reaches of the Mount Macedon Road have an early yellow tinge and some of the great old gardens on the Mount are showing signs of an early transition to the magical gold and yellow hues of autumn. We're coming into one of the very best times of year to visit this part of Victoria.
The really good news is that the Macedon Ranges are right on Melbourne's doorstep, less than an hour's drive north of the city or just an hour away by comfortable V-Line regional trains.
From February through to May each year the Macedon Ranges explode in a fabulous display of Autumn colour. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Each year countless Victorians and hundreds of tourists come to Macedon and Mount Macedon for the autumn colours and a host of other attractions the district has to offer.
If you're keen to see the area and enjoy a good walk a great option is to start in Macedon, stroll down Honour Avenue and take the Waterfalls Walk, up Waterfalls Road to Stanley Park, then on to Mt Macedon village, the Trading Post and the hotel. After a breather and perhaps some refreshment or a light lunch continue up the hill past the CFA Fire Station and you'll come to one of the truly great gardens of Mount Macedon, Forest Glade. All in all it's a 5.4 kilometre walk, mostly uphill but featuring a number of highlights along the way.
Macedon township is tiny, just a pub, the CFA Fire Station, a supermarket and small shopping strip but Victoria Street features some excellent eateries including Ida Red and Olive Jones Of Macedon.
Carry on down the hill past the Catholic church and police station before turning the corner and making your way past the cemetery to the intersection of Victoria Street and Honour Avenue. Here you'll turn right to make your way down to The Waterfalls Road. Ahead of you is the avenue of 154 Pin Oaks planted to commemorate the 154 men and women of Macedon and Mount Macedon who served in the Great War of 1914 to 1918.
One of the highlights of Autumn in the Macedon Ranges is Honour Avenue, a Heritage Listed site honouring the 154 local men and women who served in World War 1. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Just 1.4 kilometres up The Waterfalls Road you'll find Stanley Park, its waterfall, playground and BBQ rotunda.
If you're driving there's a car park on the northern side of the park off Salisbury Road.
The Stanley Park waterfall is a popular attraction with both locals and visitors alike. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
From Stanley Park the Mountain Inn Hotel and Mount Macedon Trading Post are a further 1.2 kilometres up the hill via Salisbury and Mount Macedon Roads.
Mount Macedon's first hotel, The Mountain Inn, was opened in 1864 just two doors up the road from its present location. Built by a local carpenter, William Watson, it became The Waterfalls Hotel and traded under that name until 1871 when it was renamed the Oriental Hotel and a new building was erected on the site of the present day hotel.
The Oriental was burnt to the ground in 1931 by a fire which started in the kitchen and spread rapidly. The burnt out ruins were quickly replaced by a new brick building on the same site. It reopened, again as the Oriental, became Gowings Mount Macedon Hotel for many years and then reverted to its original name of the Mountain Inn Hotel in 1987.
The original Mountain Inn building lay dormant for many years before being destroyed in the Ash Wednesday fires of February 1983.
If you can drag yourself away from the pub the stunning Forest Glade Gardens and the Stokes Collection are just 1.2 kilometres up the hill.
With 5.6 Hectares (14 acres) of landscaped European plantings it's all the more amazing because it was totally destroyed in the Ash Wednesday fires and rebuilt in the years following by owners Cyril Stokes and Trevor Bell.
Forest Glade is one of a number of the stately old homes on the Mount Macedon Road who open their magnificent gardens to the public. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
While the gardens are amazing Forest Glade is also home to what is widely regarded as the greatest private antique collection in the Southern Hemisphere.
Including the finest collection of antique porcelain in the Southern Hemisphere the fabulous Stokes Collection simply has to be seen to be believed. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The Stokes Collection is the life's work of Cyril Stokes and comprises an incredible array of 18th and 19th century porcelain, tapestries from a South American palace, priceless Oriental works of art, antique French furniture, statues, marble works and many Boulle pieces, intricate French furniture fashioned in tortoise shell and brass.
As you make your way from room to room marveling at this world-class collection it's difficult to imagine it all started back in 1954 when a young Cyril Stokes purchased his first painting for just two pounds.
Open 7 days a week between 10 AM and 4.30 PM (except on total fire ban days) access to the garden costs $8 per adult.
Because of the extent of the collection and the time needed to view it individual tours of the Stokes Collection are not available. Group tours require a minimum of 8 starters and take about two and a half hours to complete. Cost is $30 per person and gives access to both the garden and house tour. Advanced bookings are essential.
If you can't get a group together and your dates are flexible you may be able to be included in an existing group. Contact Jan on 5426 1323 Monday to Thursday for details.
Now if you're walking you probably won't be inclined to continue on up the increasingly steep Mount Macedon Road but if you're driving you'd never forgive yourself if you didn't visit the Mounts most readily identifiable feature, the Memorial Cross.
Standing 21 metres high and 1001 metres above sea level the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross is considered the second most significant war memorial in Victoria after Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.
The original cross was erected in 1935 by William Cameron, a wealthy local businessman, as a memorial to all those Australians, including his own son, who lost their lives in the Great War of 1914 -18.
the many parks and picnic spots throughout the district make the Macedon Ranges an ideal spot for a relaxed family day out. Photo: Ian Gill / footloose PhotoBank
Weathered and storm damaged over the years it suffered fire damage in the devastating Ash Wednesday bush-fires. Reconstructed in pre-cast concrete in 1995 it was gifted to the people of Victoria by prominent Melbourne businessmen Bruno and Rino Grollo.
Just a short distance from the Memorial Cross the Major Mitchell Lookout affords spectacular views to the north west of Mount Macedon. It was named after Major Thomas Mitchell, thought to be the first European to ascend the mount in 1836.
Nearby you'll find the KURANA Memorial, commemorating the loss of the Australian National Airways Douglas DC3 airliner, VH-UZK, 'KURANA' on 8th November 1948.
At the northern end of the Reserve, on the exit road, is a stone pillar, all that remains of the original survey cairn built on the site in 1853 and which was the reference point for all surveys conducted in the Macedon Ranges.
Mount Macedon is an hour's drive north of Melbourne via the Calder Highway. Alternatively V-Line trains running on the Melbourne – Bendigo line service stop at Macedon frequently.
154 Heritage Listed Pin Oaks planted in remembrance of 154 local men and women who served in the 1914 – 18 War.