There are many nice day trips you can take from the Melbourne area such as taking a ride on the Puffing Billy train, exploring historic Bendigo, or hiking the scenic Werribee Gorge. However, there isn’t a day trip as spooky as a visit to Hanging Rock can be:
Hanging Rock is only about 70 kilometers North of Melbourne and can be reached in under an hour by taking the Calder Highway (A79):
From the Woodend exit on A79 you can drive to Hanging Rock in under five minutes. The 718 meter (2,356 feet) high Hanging Rock is a rock formation known as a volcanic plug or a mamelon that was created about 6.25 million years ago.
The rock that Hanging Rock is composed of, solvsbergite can only be found in Norway and Sweden besides this volcanic region of Victoria.
What makes Hanging Rock so spooky to Australians is because this rock is the location of one of the strangest disappearances in Australian history that became one of the most famous novels to ever come out of Australia, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The book was written by Joan Lindsay and published in 1967. The book tells the story of a group of school girls who travel to the rock in 1900 for a school trip. Four girls and a teacher decided to hike up the rock and one girl returned later in a hysterical condition. She had no memory of what happened to her, but the other three girls and their teacher were missing.
Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock.
A search was launched for the missing women, but they were never found. It is still unclear if Joan Lindsay made the whole story up or if it is based on any facts. She has never been forthcoming on this and no one has been able to prove for sure that this disappearance really happened. One thing that is agreed upon is that the local Aborigines used the rock as meeting point due to its easy identification because of its unique features. However, it is also believed that the Aborigines did not like to climb the rock because it was believed at may be haunted. This belief may have in turn been what helped inspire Lindsay’s novel. Sadly the Aborigines that once inhabited this area were rounded up in 1863 and sent to the Coranderk Aboriginal Reserve in Healesville due to conflict with pastoralists that were quickly clearing the land to graze sheep.
Anyway the mystery of the rock was enough to even fund a movie directed by the renowned Peter Weir and the allure of the place continues to draw tens of thousands of visitors every year. The first place visitors will see is the nice visitor center and cafe pictured below that sits right at the base of Hanging Rock:
The visitor center is actually pretty well done and informative and I recommend checking out the cafe. My wife and I had an excellent lunch there. Also near the visitor center there is a large picnic area for those interested in having making their own lunch after hiking up and then back down the rock:
However, for those looking to see native Australian wildlife while they hike, this is not the place to go because the only native wildlife my wife and I say was this magpie at the picnic area:
There is actually supposed to be four koalas that live in the trees around the rock, but my wife and I never saw them. If you want to see native wildlife, combine a visit to Hanging Rock with a trip to nearby Mt. Macedon is a great option because Mt. Macedon is a much larger wilderness area where native wildlife can be seen:
Mt. Macedon as seen from Hanging Rock
The trail up Hanging Rock begins just a short distance from the visitor center. Click this link for a great aerial view of the hiking trail. It is an improved trail that just about anyone should be able to hike up:
The trail starts by ascending through the surrounding forest before running parallel to a variety of strange rock formations next to the trail:
Looking at these rocks it is easy to see why the Aborigines thought this place was haunted:
Here is the point on the trail that Hanging Rock gets its name from because of this large boulder that sits suspended over the trail:
Finally on the top of Hanging Rock the trail levels out and it is actually not scary at all, but instead quite a pleasant place to hang out:
Even on the top of Hanging Rock there are a number of unusual rock formations:
I thought this rock formation was interesting because of the cross that it makes:
Some of the rocks make for a picturesque picture frame of the surrounding farm land:
The top of the rock also provides some spectacular views of the surrounding farmland:
It is these views that caused Hanging Rock to become the hide out for notorious
bushranger Mad Dan Morgan. With views like this who could blame him?:
Hanging Rock was first spotted by a Europeans when Major Thomas Mitchell during an expedition to explore Victoria in 1836 spotted this rock and named it Mt. Diogenes which kept with his theme of giving Greek names to terrain features in this area, such as nearby Mt. Macedon. Fifty years later Hanging Rock was purchased by the state government and became controlled by the local shire council. The council has since made Hanging Rock a popular location for horse races due to its adjacent horse track. The first race at this horse track dates back to 1909.
So if you are in the Melbourne area and have transportation definitely check out Hanging Rock and maybe even catch a horse race if your timing is good. You probably won’t find the lost girls here or have some mysterious experience, but I can assure you that you will have a great time.
You can learn more about Hanging Rock at its official website here.