I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published April 12th 2021
High Country Heaven
Less than an hour north of Melbourne via the Calder Freeway, Mount Macedon is the prominent peak and centrepiece of the Macedon Ranges, the southern end of the Great Dividing Range and one of Victoria's premier tourism precincts.
Mount Macedon is the highest peak and the focal point for the Macedon Ranges. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Settlers began moving into the area in the 1830s, taking up selections on the southern side of the Mount, as well as at Gisborne, Bullengarook and Riddells Creek.
The onset of the gold rush in the early 1850s increased the tempo of settlement. Macedon, or Middle Gully as it was then, was the site of a minor gold strike in 1851. Once the gold petered out, the few settlers and traders who remained set about provisioning the diggers passing through on the well-trodden track from Melbourne to Diggers Rest, Gisborne, Middle Gully, Five Mile Creek (Woodend), Kyneton and on to the goldfields of Castlemaine, Bendigo and the Golden Triangle.
The Memorial Cross atop Mount Macedon was rebuilt after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983 - a gift from Melbourne's Grollo Brothers. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Middle Gully housed beer & coffee tents, a store and blacksmith's forge. A Protestant school was opened in 1859 and a year later the Middle Gully township was surveyed and a hotel built.
Gisborne became a veritable metropolis, home to harness makers, hay stores, blacksmiths, grocers & butchers, a brewery, eight hotels and two wine saloons.
Vast amounts of timber on the mountain brought timber cutters and sawyers to the district supplying a huge market for building materials in Melbourne and the goldfields.
The railway arrived in 1861 and the increased demand for timber saw Mount Macedon almost denuded of trees by the early 1870s.
A short walk from the Cross you'll find the KURANA Memorial commemorating the loss of the Australian National Airways airliner in 1948. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
At about this time the Mount Macedon, then known as Upper Macedon, became popular as a resort or summer retreat and several of Melbourne's wealthy elite set about establishing grand homes and gardens on the southern slopes of the mount.
Fast-forward more than 100-years to February 16th 1983, when winds in excess of 100 KPH drove a 7.5 Kilometre wide fire-front up the southern slopes and across the top of Mount Macedon. Seven people died, 461 homes and 38 other structures were destroyed and an estimated 7700 domestic and farm animals were lost. A total of 29,500 Hectares had been burnt out with the loss of thousands of trees and countless native animals. Just one small community's loss in the devastating firestorm that was Ash Wednesday.
Sanitorium Lake is a quiet hideaway at the top of Mount Macedon. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Today, 38-years on and fully recovered, the Macedon Ranges are a popular tourist attraction drawing visitors to a comfortable and relaxed country lifestyle featuring great natural attractions, outstanding accommodation, excellent food & wine and some of Australia's best private gardens.
One such garden is Forest Glade, destroyed on Ash Wednesday but today an amazing 5.6 hectares of themed plantings, fountains and statues.
Open to the public 365 days a year, Forest Glade is also home to the world-class Stokes Collection of antique furniture and artworks, including the largest private collection of antique porcelain in the southern hemisphere, the life's work of owner Cyril Stokes. Group tours of the collection are available by appointment.
Mount Macedon Road is renowned for its gardens and autumn colour. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Mount Macedon's most recognisable feature is its Memorial Cross, considered to be the second most significant War Memorial in Victoria after Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.
Standing 21 metres high and 1001 metres above sea level the original memorial cross was erected in 1935 by wealthy local businessman William Cameron in remembrance of all those Australians lost in the Great War of 1914 -18, including Cameron's own son.
Weathered and storm-ravaged over the years the cross suffered fire damage in the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires and was reconstructed in pre-cast concrete in 1995, a gift to the people of Victoria from prominent Melbourne businessmen Bruno and Rino Grollo.
Views from the cross to Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay are spectacular and to participate in the ANZAC Dawn Service here is a very emotional experience.
Just a short walk from the Cross the KURANA Memorial commemorates the loss of the Australian National Airways Douglas DC3 airliner 'KURANA' which crashed here on 8th November 1948.
Mount Towrong is one of several outstanding wineries on Mount Macedon and throughout the greater Macedon Ranges. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Nearby the region's townships are each quite unique and becoming increasingly popular as sought after residential addresses within easy commuting distance of Melbourne.
They're also popular with Melbournian's for day trips and weekend getaways, visitors drawn to the gardens, cafes, restaurants, wineries and craft breweries. Macedon, in particular, draws huge throughout autumn for the colour change and masses of autumn leaves.
Kyneton, once a prominent agricultural centre has reinvented itself as a booming culinary tourism destination. Piper Street, with its 19th Century streetscape, offers everything from artisans & craftsmen to produce markets, a casual café culture, historic pubs and first-class fine dining.
Woodend's Holgate Brewhouse ticks all the boxes with its traditional brewery, public bar, restaurant and hotel accommodation, all under one roof. The brewery produces a very popular year-round range plus seasonal brews and special releases.
Kyneton Museum is a treasure-trove of Macedon Ranges and Central Goldfields history. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Macedon and the mount have the iconic 'Mount Pub' plus several good restaurants & cafes and nearby Gisborne, Riddells Creek, Romsey, Lancefield and Malmsbury all feature good restaurants and coffee shops.
The district's annual Budburst Festival, held each November, (subject to any COVID restrictions) is a fabulous opportunity to sample the many great wines produced throughout the Macedon Ranges.
Turpin Falls at Langley, near Kyneton put on a spectacular display after heavy rain. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
High on the list of natural attractions is 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.
The rock, formerly an indigenous sacred site where tribal initiations were carried out remains a popular recreational area, well known for the annual New Year's Day and Australia Day picnic races and regular open-air concerts by some of the world's great musicians & bands.
Woodend's popular Holgate Brewhouse sits in the shadow of the towns famous clock tower. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The spectacular forests, history and creature comforts of the Macedon Ranges make this a great place to live but also an equally great place to visit for the day, weekend or longer. And we're a friendly mob up here so feel free to drop in anytime.
Getting There …..
Located in Central Victoria the Macedon Ranges are readily accessible from all parts of the State and just 45-minutes north of Melbourne via the Calder Freeway.
Macedon's Honour Avenue provides an annual explosion of autumn colour. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Why? Visit one of Victoria's truly great tourism precincts for its wealth of history and natural attractions as well as the opportunity to indulge in some the finest food and wine on offer in the State.
When:All year 'round.
Phone:Woodend Visitor Information Centre (03) 5424 2033