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Mount Macedon, VIC

An Australian 'hill station' and six kilometres of impressive, cool climate gardens

Mount Macedon boasts some of the most impressive, and substantial, European-style gardens in Australia. By any reasonable assessment it is an intensely beautiful area. The "town" is actually six kilometres of winding road (up a valley with rivulets, plenty of rain and rich volcanic soil – the mountain is an extinct volcano) edged by some of the most spectacular gardens in Australia.
It is essentially a “hill station” where, in the 19th century, the wealthy of Melbourne retreated from the summer heat (just as their friends had done in India) and planted extravagant gardens with sweeping lawns, statues, fountains, pavilions, huge houses and winding pathways.
Although the drive to the lookout (and up to the huge cross at the top of the mountain) passes literally dozens of handsome gateways and well hidden gardens, only one (Forest Glade Gardens) is open all year.
At the foot of the mountain is the quiet township of Macedon and, part way up the hill on a winding road, are the tree-lined streets and gardens of the village of Mount Macedon which has a general store, a restaurant, chic accommodation and a pub named the Mountain Inn.


Mount Macedon is located 66 km north-west of Melbourne via the M79.


Origin of Name

Mount Macedon was named by the explorer, Thomas Mitchell, in 1836. He climbed the mountain and named it after Philip II of Macedon (359 BC-336 BC), father of Alexander the Great.


Things to See and Do

Forest Glade Gardens
Located at 816 Mount Macedon Road, Forest Glade Gardens is a 6 ha wonderland which includes a Peony Walk, Bluebell Meadow, Topiary Garden, Daffodil Meadow and a Japanese Gardens and a Bonsai House.
There is a home hidden behind the gardens. It is private and modern and not open to the public. The original home was burnt down in the Ash Wednesday Bushfires in 1983.
The gardens are open most days of the year (in 2019 it cost $10 entry) and, regardless of the season, it is an idyllic place to spend an hour or two. It is so peaceful and relaxing. There seem to be a myriad of birds in the trees and, like every great garden, it is full of surprises. Around each twist in the perfectly maintained pathways there is a surprise – a wall of hydrangeas, some stepping stones across a pool in the Japanese section, some amusing topiary animals surrounding a statue of a young boy.
It is superbly maintained. The last owner, Cyril Stokes, gifted the gardens to a charity – the Stokes Collection – and they employ three full time gardeners and two part-time gardeners who are kept busy. For opening times and more information check out https://www.forestgladegardens.com.au or tel: (03) 5426 1323.

The Gardens of Mount Macedon
Mount Macedon is basically a sublime collection of European-style gardens. The temperate conditions, rich and varied soil types and high rainfall of the southern slopes, have proven ideal for the cultivation of extensive, ornamental and exotic gardens. For over one hundred years Mount Macedon has been a magnet for wealthy Melbourne professionals who have established summer retreats with gardens inspired by the fashionable Romantic models of Europe. The Romantic allusions persist in the gardens despite distinctly non-European creek names such as Willimigongong and Turritable. The gardens have considerable botanical and horticultural significance and are an interesting reflection of the prevailing social attitudes of the wealthy in late 19th-century Australia. Some of the individual trees and gardens are now registered with the National Estate, including 'Alton', 'Cameron Lodge', 'Duneira', Durrol' and 'Hascombe'.
The original 'Matlock' homestead was built in 1919 for G.W.P. Creed who founded Woolworths (Australia) and it was used to intern the Japanese consulate in the Second World War. 'Cameron Lodge', built for William Cameron (who erected the original memorial cross on the mountain's summit), has vast lawns and impressive stands of deciduous trees. The enormous mansion of 'Sefton' (50 rooms) is set in 12 ha of gardens with oaks, poplars and elms.
Other gardens are opened up periodically to raise money for charities and as part of the Australian Garden Scheme. A number of the gardens are available for inspection on October 25 as part of the Legacy weekend and some gardens are opened when the Mount Macedon Horticultural Society holds its two Flower Shows in spring and autumn.
For the latest information on which gardens are accessible, ask at the general store (tel: 03 5426 1471) or the Woodend Visitor Centre which has a list of all the gardens and information about their scheduled opening times, tel: (03) 5427 2033. A good starting point is https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/see-do/the-great-outdoors/open-gardens-macedon which provides information about Open Gardens.


Other Attractions in the Area

Camel's Hump
Beyond Mount Macedon, on the Mount Macedon Road the visitor reaches the summit where there is a signposted turnoff into Cameron Drive. A short distance along is a car park, an information board and a map. This is the starting point for a steep 500 metre walk to the summit of Camel's Hump (1010 m), an isolated extrusion of solidified lava which is very popular with climbers and abseilers. The formation is known as a mamelon. It is a volcanic feature which was formed six million years ago when lava was squeezed through a narrow vent. Check out https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/sites/the-camels-hump-trail-head- for more details.

Cameron Memorial Cross
Located at 405 Cameron Drive (at the summit of Mount Macedon) is the huge Mount Macedon Memorial Cross which was constructed between 1932-1935. The 21-metre Memorial Cross is positioned on a 12 metre plinth comprising terra cotta tiles and set amidst trees (specifically snow gums) and gardens. A local landowner, William Cameron, who had lost his son in World War I, established the cross as a tribute to "the Glory of God and in memory of Australia's sons 1914-1918". Part of his plan was that the construction would employ people who were unemployed during the Great Depression. It deteriorated over time, was hit by lightning in 1975 and was fenced off from the public in 1983. Then the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 damaged the cross and ruined the gardens. The cross was replaced in 1995 after being constructed at the factory of Bruno and Rino Grollo in the Melbourne suburb of Preston. The excellent Victorian Heritage Database notes: "The Cameron memorial cross is important for reasons of spiritual, symbolic cultural and social reasons as a memorial for those who lost their lives in the First World War, and became for many a symbol of courage and survival after the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. The custom or function of commemorating the war dead is observed at a dawn service held at the base of the cross annually. The size, simplicity of the design of the Cameron Memorial Cross, along with its siting on Mount Macedon, is a rare example of a memorial commemorating those who died in the First World War. It is able to demonstrate an association with important events in Victoria’s history, the First World War, and it demonstrates the use of particular material in the form of Wunderlich tiles which, because of their reflective nature, are able to enhance the simplicity and symbolism of the cross, and enable it to be viewed from considerable distances." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4665 for more details.

Walking Trails on Mount Macedon
There are short and longer walks from the car park at Mount Macedon. Check out the map and information at https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Macedon-Regional-Park-visitor-guide.pdf. The network of short walking trails includes the DC3 Kurana Memorial, the Western Lookout, the Major Mitchell Lookout and the Mount Macedon Survey Cairn - all of which are in easy walking distance of the car park. Major Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor General of New South Wales, climbed the mountain in 1836. Having sighted Port Phillip from its summit he named the mountain after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. The panoramic views from the summit, which take in Port Phillip Bay, the You Yangs and Mount Dandenong, formed the basis of Arthur Streeton's famous painting Australia Felix.

Other Walking Trails in the Area
There is an excellent website (https://www.alltrails.com/australia/victoria/mount-macedon) which lists six trails in the area - and provides lots of useful comments:
* Chute Road and Mount Macedon Circuit - 7.9 km - Moderate
* Mount Towrong and Camel's Hump Loop Trail - 15.8 km - Moderate
* Hemphill Track, Sanatorium Lake - 18.8 km - Moderate
* Camel's Hump - 1 km - Easy
* Macedon Ranges Walking Trail - 8.2 km - Easy
* Camel's Hump and Sanatorium Lake - 7.7 km - Moderate

Hanging Rock Reserve
Located 11 km north of Mount Macedon 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 some evidence that the rock was a hideout for bushrangers during the goldrush era.
The rock became a popular picnicking spot for day trippers 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/.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the mountain was home to Wurundjeri Aboriginal people who spoke the Woiwurrung language.

* In 1824 Hamilton Hume and William Hovell sighted the mountain and named it Mount Wentworth.

* In 1836 Thomas Mitchell became the first European to climb the mountain. Having sighted Port Phillip from its summit he named it after Philip of Macedon.

* Timber cutters were the first Europeans to occupy the area.

* The wood was used for some of Melbourne's early homes and in the goldmines of the 1850s. As the timber began to disappear there were calls for controls on timber cutting and fruit orchards were developed.

* A log chute, Barbours Tramway and Log Chute, was built on the northern slopes of the mountain in 1856.

* Bushranger Frank McCallum (alias Captain Melville) was active in the district in the 1850s.

* The Mount Macedon school was opened in 1857.

* In 1861 a railway to Melbourne was opened along the western foothills of the mountain.

* In 1869 the newspaper proprietor, David Syme, built Rosenheim.

* A post office was opened in 1870.

* A government-run nursery was opened in 1872.

* In the 1870s the beauty and coolness of the slopes began to attract members of Melbourne's wealthy social elite. It became a 'hill station' for Melbourne society.

* During the 1870s the government released some blocks on the south side of the mountain and a number of grand Victorian homes were built as summer residences.

* In 1873 Derriweit Heights was built by Charles Ryan.

* A state primary school was built in 1874.

* In 1886 Rosenheim was acquired by the Victorian Government and used as a summer retreat for State Governors.

* At the peak of the resort's popularity in the 1890s some of these gracious residences were turned into guesthouses. However, the major legacy of the era was the establishment, around these mansions, of extensive ornamental gardens. Taken as a whole, they are considered to be one of the most important collections of 19th-century gardens in Australia.

* The Macedon Sanatorium for Consumptives was opened in 1898.

* Distinguished artist Frederick McCubbin purchased the residence known as 'Fontainebleu' in 1901 and painted and lived there with his family.

* In 1922 a horticultural society was established.

* In 1934 the house used by the Governors of Victoria was sold for £5,600.

* In 1935 the impressive memorial to soldiers in World War I was built at the top of the mountain by local resident William Cameron.

* In February 1983 the Ash Wednesday fires destroyed 499 homes, burned out 30,000 hectares of forest (including 80 ha of snow gums) and farmland and killed eight people.

* In 1986 the Cross at the top of Mount Macedon, which had been damaged by the bushfires, was rebuilt.


Visitor Information

The closest Visitor Centre is at Woodend. The Woodend Visitor Information Centre, High Street, Woodend, tel: (03) 5427 2033, 1800 244 711.


Useful Websites

There are useful websites for the district. Check it out at https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/macedon-ranges-destinations and https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/village/mount-macedon.

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2 suggestions
  • Mount Macedon’s first hotel, The Waterfalls Hotel, was opened in 1864. It was initially called the Mountain Inn and was right next door to The Mount Macedon Hotel’s current location. The Waterfalls Hotel was built by local carpenter William Watson. It traded under the name Waterfalls Hotel until circa 1911. It was renamed by a following owner to The Oriental Hotel when a new weatherboard building was erected right on the boundary between the old and new. The Oriental Hotel burnt to the ground in March 1931 due to a “Kitchen fire”. It was rebuilt soon after as the brick building that stands today as The Mount Macedon Hotel.

    Marcus Verheyen
  • Great article, thanks for sharing! We recently visited and found that Honour Avenue gets pretty popular during peak autumn season. See our guide and tips here – https://2cupsoftravel.com/mount-macedon-melbourne-day-trip-autumn/

    2 Cups of Travel