I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published July 16th 2019
Melbourne's Mountain Hideaway
Welcome to my backyard. I've been fortunate enough to live in Victoria's Macedon Ranges for more than 20-years now and know only too well that the lifestyle, natural attractions and amenities available throughout the region satisfy even the most discerning of visitors and make the district one of Victoria's premier tourism destinations. Little wonder that the Macedon Ranges and 'the Mount' in particular have been a popular getaway for Melbournians for more than a century.
Macedon's Centennial Park .....
..... and Sanitorium Lake are just two of the many great picnic sites scattered throughout the Macedon Ranges. Photos: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Early development here followed the gold rush with diggers heading for the Castlemaine and Bendigo fields. Small settlements sprang up along the way at Diggers Rest, Gisborne, Middle Gully (Macedon) and Five Mile Creek (Woodend).
Middle Gully's grog shops and stores were the last stop before the Black Forest and its marauding bushrangers. The infamous Dan 'Mad Dog' Morgan operated from a hideout on the western side of nearby Hanging Rock and travellers would thank their lucky stars if they made it to 'woods end' at the Five Mile Creek without being bailed-up. Following the gold rush, many wealthy Melbournians built grand houses on Mount Macedon to take advantage of the clean air and cooler summer temperatures. Today the area is renowned for its magnificent gardens.
One such property, Forest Glade, is an amazing 5.6 hectares of themed plantings, fountains and statues, all the more remarkable for the fact that the original home and gardens were destroyed by the Ash Wednesday fires of February 1983.
Forest Glade Gardens are one of Australia's very best private gardens. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Following a long and complete rebuild after the fires Forest Glade Gardens are undoubtedly one of Australia's best private gardens and are open to the public every day of the year except on total fire ban days.
The property is also home to the world-class Stokes Collection of antiques and artworks including the largest private collection of antique porcelain in the southern hemisphere, some pieces dating back to the 17th Century.
Tours of this amazing collection are available for groups of 10 or more and by appointment only.
Accommodation throughout the Macedon Ranges is plentiful and varied.
A host of quality B&B's and farm-stays are scattered throughout the district offering a broad range of accommodation and levels of service.
When it comes to wining and dining in this part of the world choices are virtually unlimited.
The village of Macedon boasts three quality restaurants within a 100-meter stretch and the Mountain Inn, the iconic 'Mount Pub' is a popular local watering hole just up the main road.
Nearby Gisborne, Woodend, Riddells Creek and Romsey also feature good restaurants, coffee shops and sandwich bars.
Lovers of great Japanese cuisine won't want to miss Kuzu at Woodend, tucked away behind Holgates Brewhouse.
Kyneton, once Victoria's agricultural hub, has reinvented itself as a booming culinary tourism destination. Piper Street, with its 19th Century building facades, offers a variety of wining & dining options including Colenso, award-winning Source Dining, the Albion Hotel, Home Grown on Piper and a long-list of bakeries, cafes and tea rooms.
Kyneton's Piper Street will amaze you with the diversity of its specialty shopping and wining & dining options. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Vineyards in the Macedon Ranges date back to the mid-1800's and today small boutique wineries predominate in one of the mainland's coolest wine-producing regions.
Mount Towrong is a small family-run vineyard and just a little different to others in the region in that it specialises in producing a range of traditionally grown Italian varieties.
Migrating from the Veneto region of Italy George and Deirdre Cremasco planted their first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in 1996. These were followed in 1999 by Nebbiolo and Prosecco in 2005.
Mount Towrong Cellar Door is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM for tastings, sales and light meals. There's also live music on the first Sunday of each month.
Mount Towrong wines are a little different and attracting a great deal of interest. The venue is becoming very popular but seating is limited so you will need to get in early and book. There's ample parking on the property.
Just 7-Kilometres from Kyneton, at Carlsruhe, you'll find Paramoor Winery. In a past life the property was home to Clydesdale working horses and their former barn complete with smithy's forge, tack-room and stalls now houses the cellar door for Will & Kath Frazer's hugely successful wine-producing venture.
The former stables, complete with blacksmiths forge, make for a very different tasting room at Paramoor Winery. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
With a swag of awards for its range of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz & Merlot and with the plaudits of wine judges and commentators ringing in their ears Paramoor is a 'must visit' attraction for anyone who appreciates a great drop.
But, in an area renowned for its wines it's good to see that beer drinkers haven't been totally forgotten.
Woodend's Holgate Brewhouse ticks all the boxes with its traditional brewery, public bar, restaurant and hotel accommodation all under the one roof.
The brewery produces a year 'round range plus seasonal brews and special releases. Holgate's TEMPTRESS was ranked number 4 in the Critics Choice Top 100 Beers of 2011.
Meals range from bar served 'pub grub' to stylish a-la-carte dining in a relaxed restaurant environment.
Beautiful Woodend with its clock tower and old Post Office is home to Holgate Brewhouse and Kuzu Japanese restaurant. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Local attractions include Hanging Rock, best known for the movie telling of the mysterious but totally fictitious disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher during a Valentine's Day picnic in 1900.
Hanging Rock remains popular with visitors today and is well known for the picnic races held on New Years Day & Australia Day. The 'rock' is a great family day out with plentiful picnic sites, an abundance of wildlife and an excellent Discovery centre.
Best known for the fictitious disappearance of a party of schoolgirls in 1900 Hanging Rock has also hosted some of the world's greatest musicians for a series of outdoor concerts. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Another favourite is the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross.
At just over 1,000 meters above sea level, the original Cross was erected in 1935 by wealthy local resident William Cameron, a memorial to his son and all those other young Australians who died in World War 1. The 21-Meter high cross was restored in 1995 following years of weathering and damage from the Ash Wednesday fires.
Views from the Cross to Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay & beyond are spectacular and to participate in the ANZAC DAY Dawn Service here is an awesome experience.
Spectacular views from the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross extend to Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and beyond. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The Macedon Ranges is one of the most diverse regions in Victoria, literally offering something for everyone. Picnic grounds abound surrounded by magnificent natural bushland full of native wildlife.
Macedon's Stanley Park and its waterfall have off-street parking, a BBQ shelter and children's playground. It's not uncommon to see Kangaroos, Koalas and Wombats just meters from the playground and picnic area.
The waterfall at Mount Macedon's Stanley Park. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Bushwalkers, trail-bike and mountain bike riders are spoilt for choice with a seemingly endless selection of tracks suitable for all fitness levels and in winter the mount enjoys a covering of snowmaking it an ideal family day out for winter fun & games.
Winter snow blankets Days Picnic Ground Mount Macedon. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
And all so close to Melbourne. There really is no excuse not to visit the magical Macedon Ranges.
Getting There .....
Mount Macedon is less than an hour's drive north of Melbourne, 40 minutes from the airport, via the Calder Highway. Alternatively, V-Line trains running on the Melbourne-Bendigo line stop at Riddells Creek, New Gisborne, Macedon, Woodend and Kyneton.
Why? Visit one of Victoria's most attractive tourism regions featuring spectacular bushland, panoramic views, picnic and playground facilities and some truly great wining, dining and accommodation options.
When:Anytime is a great time to visit the Macedon Ranges. Mount Macedon's gardens are spectacular in spring and autumn and in winter the mount becomes a snow covered playground ideal for family fun.
Phone:Macedon Ranges Visitor Information Centre (03) 5427 2033