It’s been a few very long months for us Melbournians. I have stopped counting the days in lockdown but it certainly feels like forever. With our Covid-19 numbers finally looking promising, we may finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.
This lockdown has certainly been one of the hardest things we’ve experienced, and easily the most depressing. Staying at home day in, day out, while daydreaming of the places we’ve been or the places we’d rather be. However, now that we may be able to travel again soon (if only locally – baby steps), it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming weekend away, once we are given the go-ahead.
The Macedon Ranges is basically at Melbourne’s doorstep, making it one of the easiest places to head for a weekend getaway away. You don’t have to drive for miles to enjoy this region which is dotted with historic villages, tiny pastoral hamlets and vineyards. There is also a huge amount to do in the region, so start planning Melbournians. We’ve all earned a big breath of fresh country air!
How to get to the Macedon Ranges?
Travelling by car is the easiest way to get to the area, especially if you want to explore it properly. You can arrive within an hour of leaving Melbourne. It’s super quick, just follow Citylink signs in the direction of Bendigo. Take the exit for Gisborne, which is the first town in the South of the region. You can start exploring from there. Alternatively, keep going if you want to head straight to the northern part of the ranges. The back roads are way prettier than the highway, so if you have the time in Gisborne, get off the highway and try some of the less busy routes.
Note: You will need an E-tag to pass drive on the Citylink tollway. If you’ve hired a car, the hire company should provide one. If not, you can call Citylink on 13 26 29 to arrange a day pass, or arrange it through their website here.
V-Line’s fast train between Melbourne and Bendigo stops at Clarkefield, Riddells Creek, Gisborne, Macedon, Woodend, Kyneton and Malmsbury. Bear in mind that some parts of the region are not accessible by train, so this mode of transport will limit what you can see and do.
Tip: If you enjoy cycling and have a bike, you can take it with you on the train for free and explore your surroundings using pedal power! Be sure to travel outside of peak hours or the conductor may refuse to let your bike on the train.
What is there to do in the Macedon Ranges?
Explore the many small towns and villages in the region
The region is packed with towns, quaint little villages and beautiful old buildings full of historic charm. You’ll need longer than a weekend to see them all, or keep coming back (why not?). Here are our favourites.
Situated right the middle of the region, Woodend is the gateway to the Macedon Ranges. It’s a good place to base yourself, particularly if you don’t have a car. There are several hiking and bike trails nearby. If eating and drinking is more your thing, Woodend has plenty of good cafes, restaurants and even a brewery right in town.
Lancefield is picture-perfect. It has a broad high street that is dotted with trees, along with several attractive 19th-century buildings. Thanks to its arts, antiques and interesting cafes, this charming town has become very popular with day-trippers from the big city.
A few minutes south of Lancefield is the historic township of Romsey. This village is full of character and is home to award-winning wineries. Romsey’s main street is lined with classic old Australian architecture, such as battered corrugated iron structures and gothic bluestone churches.
In Kyneton, take a self-guided historic town walk. Pick up a map from the Kyneton Visitor Information Centre and check out this picturesque town. Kyneton was one of the first European settlements in Victoria and many of its original buildings are still standing. Some of them date back to as early as 1836.
The historic town of Malmsbury might be tiny but it has heaps to offer. The main street is lined with old-style country cottages as well as vintage and antique shops.
My favourite part of Malmsbury was a stroll through the botanic gardens to check out the cheeky geese and ducks, as well as the imposing historic railway viaduct made from bluestone. Established in 1850, the Malmsbury Botanic Gardens are the oldest in Victoria.
Hike to the top of Hanging Rock
If you’re into hiking then you have to climb Hanging Rock. This 105-metre tall volcanic formation is around six million years old. Its bizarre rock formations were created by the erosion of a steep-sided ancient volcano. The rock became famous when it was used as the backdrop to the 1975 film “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. Of course, nowadays it’s a popular place for picnics!
Hiking to the top takes about forty minutes to an hour depending on your fitness. There are spectacular views from the top over the Macedon Ranges and surrounding farmland.
Hanging Rock is also a popular spot for Australian birds and wildlife. You may spot an echidna, wallaby or kangaroos, who also like to hang out in the area.
Tip: Another good walk for wildlife spotting and imposing rock formations is at the Black Hill Reserve near Kyneton.
Indulge in local produces
The Macedon Ranges’s soil is rich, allowing local farmers to grow some amazing produce that you’ll find in the local restaurants, providores, gourmet larders and farmers’ markets.
The region has a farmers’ market every weekend. Click here to find out which market is active during your trip.
Make sure to indulge in some top-notch dining during your stay. Some of the best restaurants in the regions are Source Dining and Midnight Sterling (Kyneton), the Wine Collective, Mr Macedon (Macedon) and Kuzu Izakaya (Woodend).
If you want to stock up on produce for home, be sure to stop off at the Duck Duck Goose Larder in Kyneton.
Go wine tasting
The Macedon Ranges is home to more than forty vineyards located between 300 and 800 metres above sea level. This means that the region grows some of the finest cool-climate grapes in Australia. With over 21 grape varieties grown in the region, you’re certain to find a wine that you love; or two or maybe even three! It all starts with the wine tasting of course. Such hard work right?
Drive around some of the wineries and be sure to stock up on the region’s finest vino. Suggested wineries to visit are Hanging Rock winery, Gisborne Peak, Mount Macedon Winery, Granite Hills, Cleveland Wine Estate and Curly Flat.
Check out the change of seasons at the Forest Glade Gardens
The Macedon Ranges have many gardens that are waiting to be explored. The Forest Glade is a historic private garden renowned as one of the most beautiful gardens in Australia. Autumn and Spring are the absolute best time to visit these gardens, with a riot of colours in the maple trees in autumn and the rhododendrons, azaleas and peonies in full bloom during spring. But summer and winter also bring some lovely sights, so it’s worth a visit all year round.
Entry fee: AU$10
Head for some spa time in nearby Hepburn Springs or Daylesford
Although not technically part of the Macedon Ranges, Hepburn Springs and Daylesford are so close that they might as well be.
There is no better place in Victoria for ultimate relaxation than Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. The region is filled with natural mineral springs and is home to some of Australia’s best day spas. You can indulge in a range of therapeutic relaxation treatments, including massages, saunas, mineral water baths and therapy pools. With so many spa houses, it’s difficult to pick one to visit.
Heading to Daylesford on your weekend getaway? Click here to read more about it.
Where to stay in the Macedon Ranges?
Gisborne Peak Winery Cottages
Gisborne Peak Winery’s Cottages are a 15 minutes drive from Gisborne Centre. It’s just a five-minute walk from your cottage to the onsite restaurant and cellar door. Spend a lazy afternoon devouring delicious local produce while choosing a wine to take home for the night. Some yummy breakfast provisions are included in the nightly rate.
Book your stay at Gisborne Peak Winery here.