Side profile of Bell Rock
While a naturally formed rock jutting out of the surrounding earth may appear rather boring in the scheme of touristy things to do, let us just pause for a moment and consider that this rock has been around longer than any living creature on this earth, about 484-443 million years longer according to the St Arnaud Field Naturalists brochure on this rock.
St Arnaud is located approximately 240 kilometres north west of Melbourne and tucked away on a quiet back road is an impressive natural feature of the Victorian landscape. Bell Rock is located roughly at the end of Butcher Street, which starts out as a standard paved surface road before it becomes a gravel track.
We located Butcher Street via our GPS and from there. the GPS became confused, so instinctively and with much hope, we followed the track along to where we came to a Y junction and found a well disguised green Parks Victoria sign indicating Bell Rock was on the right branch of the Y.
We slowly followed the track as it was bumpy and narrow. The signpost, indicating where to turn left at the first side road we came across into the track to Bell Rock, was missing and we realised this after we saw the rock formation through the trees, so turned around.
The track into Bell Rock is reasonably accessible via car, but if you do not like to take your car on dirt roads, it is not recommended. The track can be a bit bumpy and if you miss the turn off, like we did, you will appreciate a four-wheel drive vehicle as the rest of the track is quite eroded from recent heavy rains.
Picnic table with Bell Rock in background
For the challenges of getting to the rock, it was worth the effort. The view of the surrounding area was quite breathtaking, overlooking farm and bushland alike. At the top of the hill, where Bell Rock is situated, there is a form of bush roundabout, so you do not need to worry about how you will turn your car around once you reach the top, along with a picnic table and parking for about three or four cars. Unfortunately, there are no toilet facilities there, but being only a short distance from town, it is recommended you go before your adventure.
Aptly named Bell Rock due to its similarities in shape to a bell, it is considered the tail end of the Great Dividing Range, which makes it part of the oldest rock formation in the state of Victoria. If you look closely at the exposed face of the rock, you can see the different layers of sediment that was being deposited when Victoria and even Australia was forming way back in the Cambrian era.
The area around St. Arnaud and indeed, all central Victoria, was known as the Goldfields of Victoria, in 1875 there was a gold mining company of the same name, Bell Rock Company, that was operating in the same area. We are incredibly lucky that the rock survived to present day and was not blown up in search of the elusive sheen of gold.
As always, when venturing into the Australian bush be on the lookout for snakes, wear sturdy footwear, take plenty of water, take any rubbish you bring home with you, and please stick to the formed walking paths and tracks to not only preserve our flora, but many of the surrounding bushland was well known for its gold activities in its heyday and while many old mine shafts were covered in, after heavy rains, there is the chance of re-opening poorly covered shafts.