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Woodend, VIC

Charming historic town near 'Hanging Rock' of book and movie fame.

Woodend's claim to fame is Hanging Rock made famous by the book and movie, Picnic at Hanging Rock. In reality it is a charming, nineteenth century waterhole once famed for its elegant guest houses, gracious private homes (of which Campaspe is a superb example) and activities (golf, a racecourse) meant for wealthy people eager to escape the summer heat of Melbourne for the cooler atmosphere of a town some 560 metres above sea level. Today it maintains that "hill station" elegance with an excess of interesting galleries and craft shops and a number of good quality cafes and restaurants in the main street. Amusingly Woodend was named 'wood end' because it is where the Black Forest ended and consequently was a place where, in the 1850s and 1860s, prospectors, headed north to the goldfields around Bendigo, could feel that they were out of the reach of bushrangers who hid in the woodlands.

Location

Woodend is located 71 km north-west of Melbourne. It is set in the Macedon Ranges and stands at an elevation of 560 metres.

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Origin of Name

Woodend is a rather charming example of "the bleeding obvious". It was "wood end" because it was at the northern end of the Black Forest where, in the 1850s and 1860s, bushrangers hid eager to rob the miners and prospectors heading north to the Bendigo goldfields.

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Things to See and Do

Cycling and Walking Trails
The Woodend Visitor Information Centre is the sensible starting point for exploring the town. It has a number of brochures listing and explaining the cycling and walking trails in the district. The Parks Victoria Macedon Regional Park notes list and describe a total of 14 walks in the area. They can be dowloaded at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/315689/Park-note-Macedon-Regional-Park-walking-tracks.pdf. There is also a map with details of each walk.

Woodend Bridge
The Woodend Bridge, which is in High Street adjacent the Visitor Information Centre, is a single-span bluestone bridge faced with rusticated masonry. It was built in 1862 on the route to the goldfields and crosses Five Mile Creek.

St Mary's Anglican Church
Located at 15 Buckland Street, St Mary's Anglican Church is a fine bluestone Gothic style church dating from 1864 which is known for its outstanding stained-glass windows by William Montgomery. It has been a work in progress with the first tower being completed in 1898, the second tower in 1929 and the vestry in 1903. Check out http://www.woodendanglican.org.au/st-marys-woodend for more details.

Woodend & District Heritage Society
The local historical society, the Woodend & District Heritage Society,  is located in the 1870 Court House building in Forest Street. They have a family history resource centre and are open Wednesdays from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. It is closed in December and January.

Insectarium of Victoria
The Insectarium of Victoria is located at 534 Tylden Road, Woodend. It opened in 1993 and by 1998 had attracted 15,000 students and 8,000 members of the general public who were interested in learning about entomology. It is now the largest private insect educational science facility in Australia. As the website explains: "Numerous exhibits offer our visitors a wonderful opportunity to closely observe living insects and invertebrates in their natural habitats. Live exhibits are interspersed, so visitors can view both living and preserved specimens side by side. There are live plague locusts, stick insects, ants, spiders, cockroaches, scorpions, native bees, and European bees.  Our specially trained interpreters are always on hand to ensure that everyone enjoys their visit to the utmost and it is our reputation for providing a quality educational experience that keeps our visitors coming back." Check it out for more details at http://www.insectarium.org. It is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm on Sundays, tel: 0424 963 689 for details.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Braemar College
Braemar College is an important remnant of the great guest house era of Woodford. The two storey mansion was designed by the Italian-born architect Louis Boldini and used from around 1890 through to 1908 or, perhaps, even to the end of World War I. In 1919 it became Clyde Girls' Grammar School. It features an octagonal tower and a highly ornamental facade projecting outwards from a central gable. The students of the college attended picnics at Hanging Rock in the 1930s and 1940s and it is thought this inspired Joan Lindsay's novel Picnic at Hanging Rock. In the 1970s the college became Braemar College, a non-denominational and coeducational school for local students. It is located 7 km east of Woodend on Mount Macedon Road. Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, mother of Rupert Murdoch, is an alumni and during her lifetime was generous benefactor.

Forest Ecotourism Walking Trail
Beyond Braemar College and located at Days Picnic Ground, Lions Head Road (which runs off Mount Macedon Road) is the Forest Ecotourism Walking Trail. It is a short 2.8 km, 1 hour, easy walk which is particularly delightful in the spring and summer when the wildflowers are in bloom. The walk passes stands of tall eucalypts and moist gullies of beautiful ferns with interpretative signs along the way. There are over 150 species of native birds and a wide variety of mammals, including kangaroos, wallabies and wombats in the area and the trail links with the 29 km Macedon Ranges Walking Trail which passes Camels Hump, Memorial Cross and lookouts with outstanding views to Port Phillip Bay, the You Yangs and the Dandenong Ranges.

Hanging Rock Reserve
Located off South Rock Road north-east of Woodford is the privately owned Hanging Rock Reserve. The central attraction is a 6 million year old volcanic remnant, sometimes known as Mount Diogenes, which rises 105 metres above the surrounding plain. The lava has an unusually high soda content and is known to geologists as soda trachyte. A number of the formations have been given typically 19th century names - the Black Hole of Calcutta, the Eagle, the Chapel and Lover's Leap. There is also Camel's Hump on Mount Macedon.

There is some evidence that the rock was a hideout for bushrangers during the goldrush era.

The rock became a popular picnicking spot for daytrippers from Melbourne when the train reached Woodend in 1862. There is an interesting history of the rock at http://www.visitmacedonranges.com/natural-attractions/hanging-rock/the-history-of-hanging-rock/. It achieved considerable fame when it was used as the setting for Joan Lindsay's novel Picnic at Hanging Rock which was based on the St Valentine's Day picnic attended by the students of Clyde Girls' Grammar School (now Braemar College). The novel was turned into a successful 1975 movie by Australian director Peter Weir.

The Hanging Rock Reserve has over 100 indigenous flora species which burst into bloom in spring and summer. There are also over 40 bird species including bright rosellas and cockatoos. The reserve is also alive with goannas koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and greater gliders.

The Hanging Rock Discovery Centre has hands-on displays and focuses on the Aboriginal history of the area, the flora and fauna of the reserve, the rock's geological history and the mythology which surrounds the rock.

There are a number of walking trails through the reserve and it is possible to walk to the top of Hanging Rock where Mount Macedon can be seen to the south. There is also the Hanging Rock Picnic Cafe, barbecue and picnic facilities and expansive lawns. Contact: tel: (03) 5427 0295 or http://www.visitmacedonranges.com/natural-attractions/hanging-rock/.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area around Woodend was inhabited by the Woiwurung people.

* The district was first surveyed by Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836.

* In the 1850s and 1860s, prospectors, headed north to the goldfields around Bendigo, passed through the area.

* By the mid-1850s a township with inns and shops had grown up to serve the surrounding trade.

* In 1854 a post office was serving the local community.

* In 1862 the railway arrived connecting the town to Bendigo.

* In the 1870s and 1880s it developed as a resort town with guesthouses, hotels, elegant weekend homes with large private gardens, a golf club and a racecourse.

* In 1870 the local Court House began hearing cases.

* In 1893 the elegant Italianate-style Mechanics Institute was completed.

* The Woodend Clock Tower was completed in 1928 as a memorial to the local people who served in World War I.

* In 1975 Peter Weir made the hugely important film Picnic at Hanging Rock, partly filmed near the town, which attracted tourists to the district.

* Today the town is a prosperous rural centre and a popular day tripper destination from Melbourne.

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Visitor Information

Woodend Visitor Information Centre, High St (the Calder Highway), tel: (03) 5427 2033 and 1800 224 711. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.

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Useful Websites

The official Tourism Victoria site - http://www.visitvictoria.com/Regions/Daylesford-and-the-Macedon-Ranges/Destinations/Woodend.aspx - has  information about wineries in the area, accommodation and eating.

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Got something to add?

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2 suggestions
  • Woodend Golf Club (Registered 1908) making it one of the oldest golf clubs in Victoria.
    Macedon Ranges “Hidden Gem” 18 hole fully reticulated golf course with magnificent views of Mount Macedon, Hanging Rock & surrounding districts.

    Max Outen
  • Looking for information about Anslow Street, Woodend. How it was named and it’s history. Thank you.

    Darryn