Discover Hanging Rock Reserve
Hanging Rock became internationally famous after Peter Weir's 1976 movie Picnic at Hanging Rock
. The image of lost girls in virginal white frocks climbing the eerie rockscape with its crannies and looming boulders hangs in one's psyche like the low-lying clouds above Hanging Rock.
Most people have been to Hanging Rock, but if you haven't, the most popular activity is the 60-minute Hanging Rock Summit Walk
. Allow extra time to gaze at the nooks and crannies and Gethsemane-like boulders. The climb is steady at first, with short steeper sections toward the summit. The stunning views are worth the scramble.
The Base Walk
takes about 30 minutes, and the path is accessible. There are ranger lead night walks in the warmer months to spot wildlife.
Where to Eat: Stop at Hanging Rock Cafe for good meals and coffee. Or pick up produce from local suppliers and providores to create your own "Picnic at Hanging Rock". The area has many award-winning bakeries. This year's Autumn Pie & Tart Trail
featuring flaky pies and delicious tarts at 41 venues across the Macedon Ranges, is sure to provide some inspiration.
But Wait, There's More
The haunting story is what initially attracts people to Hanging Rock. But so many visit-worthy places have mushroomed in "The Rock's" orbit that even if you have been here previously –now is the time to return.
Hanging Rock Views (2.3 km from Hanging Rock)
With so much to do in the region, I decided to stay overnight. Staying at nearby Hanging Rock Views, it was easy to focus on The Rock.
As the accommodation name suggests, the iconic volcanic outcrop looms so close you feel you could reach out and touch it. Although I'd be lying to say there was nothing between me and Hanging Rock," I counted at least 50 kangaroos grazing in the paddock.
When you stay at this property the views are everywhere: from the floor-to-ceiling windows, or outside from the sun deck, formal garden, BBQ area, and fire-pit area.
The property has four suites, each with an ensuite and a well set-up kitchenette with a pod coffee machine, induction cooktop and microwave.
Suites may share walls but are separate and self-contained. When you walk into the building, there's a communal lounge area and a larger kitchen area.
Or just relax inside your expansive room.The architecture is modern, but the decor is comfortable, almost homely, with good-quality furniture, rugs, beds and bed linen.
I rejoiced in the personal touches, such as the posey of hand-picked flowers and the basket of breakfast goodies, including homemade muesli and local produce.
Hanging Rock Views is home to wombats, deer, and birds such as kookaburras, eagles, and parrots. The 135-acre property also has many species of native flora, as well as cascades and a waterfall on site you can visit on short walks of the property.
Need to know: The King Suite at Hanging Rock Views is the property's premier room and is wheelchair accessible. Rooms are suitable for couples or solos. With four suites (3 Queen Suites and 1 King Suite) on offer, this would be an ideal place to book for a family reunion or a group stay. If you wish to book a suite or the whole property contact Relax Holiday Rentals.
Relax Holiday Rentals.
Relax Holiday Rentals is run by Chris Nicholson. Most holiday rental companies don't go beyond helping you book accommodation. So I really appreciated Chris's suggestions for wineries, restaurants and walks especially as he is a local so visits all these places himself.
I followed his suggestions almost to the letter. All of the following places were near my accommodation and close to Hanging Rock.
Lyons Will Estate
Our first stop was Lyons Will Estate in Lancefield, about 21 minutes from Hanging Rock or just over an hour from Melbourne. When I saw the turn-off I thought, "This is what arriving at a winery should be like, a country laneway and a dog doing his job: coming out to greet guests before going back to sleep."
So different from my recent experience in the Yarra Valley, where major wineries have driveways off the busy highway to catch tourists on their way through. Turning in is a pain, and then there is the hell of trying to crawl back into the ant procession heading back to Melbourne.
At Lyon's Will, it was 11 am, and we had the place to ourselves for a seated tasting. The new cellar door has expansive windows that perfectly frame the vineyard's lines of vines. We shared a pre-booked cheese and charcuterie platter, and I'd recommend doing this. Such a great introduction to the region's produce with cheeses, meats, pickles and olives. This was my first taste of Barfold Olives - so good I hunted down a jar when shopping in Kyneton.
Lyons Will's owners don't buy or sell their fruit and utilise the grapes within their fence lines. They don't use acids, tannins or colourants and have moved away from commercial yeasts and bacteria. Lyons Will is known for its riesling made in a traditional Germanic style; Pinot Noir initially matured in French barrels and Gamay. But I walked out with a bottle of the Rose because I loved the blush hue and the promise of summer with a hint of strawberry and cream on the nose. After all, wine is about what you like, and I loved this one.
Details: Lyons Will Estate cellar door is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 am - 5 pm. The seated wine-tasting experience is $15 per person, with a local produce platter for $45 (pre-book), or just pop in for a glass of wine. 0403 725 826.
Mount Monument Winery (8 minutes drive from Hanging Rock on Romsey Road)
In my notes, I jotted down, "Wow, I would not have missed this winery for the world. A cross between Hobart's controversial art museum MONA and Point Leo Estate's Sculpture Trail. Owned and designed by Nonda Katsalidis, the architect behind some of Australia's most influential buildings, including Hobart's MONA and Melbourne's Eureka Tower. The restaurant is opening next weekend, and I would love to return for a meal."
That was a few weeks back, and I did return recently for a better look around and a meal. It was like dining in a mini-MONA seated underneath Katsalidis's private collection of quite out-there artwork from his private collection.
The menu was based on local produce and presented with artistic flair by the young local chef Ben Salt who is in tune with Katsalidis's ecological concerns, such as minimal waste. His innovative menu complements the cold-climate wine varieties by Ben Ranken, an award-winning local viticulturist who produces minimal-intervention, French-style wines.
The architecture is eye-catching, especially in the late afternoon when the light creates geometric shadows from the brilliant brutalist architecture of red oxidised steel and dark grey concrete. Stand still for a moment, and rainbows of light play on your clothes. Guests can also wander in a sculpture paddock viewing the significant large-scale works including several of Katsalidis's sculptures.
Wine tasting $15 per person. Friday 11 am - 8 pm Saturday and Sunday 11 am - 4 pm. The restaurant is open during the same hours. The four-course shared tasting experience costs $75 per head. Vegan options and GF options available.
When I bragged to a resident in my apartment block that I had tasted Australia's best sparkling because I'd visited House of Arras in Tasmania, he replied, " No, you haven't. The best sparkling is from Hesket Estate, just outside Melbourne."
Chris Nicholson from Relax Holiday Rentals also recommended visiting Hesket Estate, so we called in. What a beautiful experience: sitting out on the decking looking out at the foliage. The atmosphere was again unhurried and quiet. This winery is so boutique we met the ultra-friendly owners Alex and Elizabeth (Hudspeth Stevenson) and heard about some of the wines named after their daughters Edwina and Sarah.
Hesket Estate specialises in the cool-climate varieties of Sparkling, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. It uses barrels sourced from a range of French forests, enhancing the naturally occurring flavours and tannins. In recent vintages, they have used a wild yeast ferment. And yes, their 2017 Hesket Estate Blanc de Noir Sparkling is worth bragging about. So that was another bottle or two added to my boot. Now I know where that saying comes from: "full as a boot."
Details: Hesket Estate is a four-minute drive from Mount Monument, and both are in Romsey Road, where you will find the turn-off for Hanging Rock Views accommodation and Hanging Rock Reserve. Opening Hours. Weekends 11.30 pm-4.30 pm or by appointment.
**Hanging Rock Winery
With so many wineries within reach, I was fortunate to stay overnight. Not just for more tastings but for art. Hanging Rock Winery is located 3km from Hanging Rock. Their Art in the Vines - Sculpture Exhibition run from Nov to April each year.
This early regional winery was established in 1983. The winery's focus has always been wines from the Macedon Ranges and Heathcote, but the family also brings in fruit from other regions so they can offer a range of wines covering most styles and price points.
Today there are over 20 wines on tasting.
My wine tasting was a joyful and well-guided experience rather than being overwhelming, meaning I added even more bottles to my boot. Pro Tip: Manu of the wineries in the area are predominantly open on weekends. As a larger concern Hanging Rock Winery is open daily, 10 am-5 pm, except Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Also Worthy of a Visit
I have spent a bit of time in the Macedon are recently. Here are a few places I didn't get to this time, but I would recommend.
Mount Towrong Vineyard i
s a small, family-owned and operated vineyard serving excellent rustic Italian food. Breathtaking views.
Big Tree Distillery
despite its name, this is a cute little gin distillery. It has the advantage of being open on Mondays for those enjoying a long weekend in the countryside.
Mount Macedon Winery
is increasingly popular as a lunch destination. Enjoy a rustic setting and innovative food. A great place to take overseas visitors to show them a good example of the great meals and atmosphere in Country Victoria.
in Woodend. Well-known and offers restaurant cuisine and award-winning craft beer brewed on-site. The taproom is open daily. Close to Woodend Station for those wishing to visit the area by train.
Other things to do in the area - Mount Macedon, a few miles away, is home to some of the country's most significant historic gardens. In the 19th century, the social elite built estates on the mountain because of the coolness of the slopes. Many grand homes and stunning gardens remain. Some are open to visitors- historic garden tours to others. Walks and treks traverse the side of the mountain, a regional park—up to the Memorial Cross.
Leading l lamas on treks, Silver Brumby
(horse rides catering for the mature rider) through the Wombat Forest.
Quirky Things To Do
Take a look at Straw's Lane
and follow the instructions to see your car roll uphill. This is near Hanging Rock. And some say it's the magical pull of the rock.
The food writer Richard Cornish wrote a story for the SMH that included a suggested driving itinerary taking in some of Lancefield's boulder-strewn scenery. I have done this drive, and it is quite incredible, if a little off the beaten path. Here is the link.
And some of my photos below.
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