From the outskirts of Melbourne’s urban fringe to the peak of Mount Macedon and beyond, there’s an awful lot to experience around the Sunbury and Macedon Ranges region, on the lands of the Wurundjeri people. And the best news is that it’s all so close to Melbourne that you can day-trip it, or plan for a longer, more immersive stay.

1. Organ Pipes National Park

On the outer edge of the urban sprawl, discover a fascinating volcanic phenomenon known as the Organ Pipes. The result of ancient lava flows, these stunning stone columns overlook pretty Jacksons Creek. Don’t miss nearby Rosette Rock, resembling the spokes of a giant wheel, or the Tesselated Pavement. Note: Access is via steep pathways that may not be suited to all abilities.

2. Animal Land Children’s Farm

When do you ever get the opportunity to visit a working farm and hold, pat, feed, ride or milk its inhabitants? Just a short drive from the city, Animal Land Children's Farm is your family’s opportunity to feed ducks, collect chook eggs, nurse baby animals or have a pony ride. Get hands-on with sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, donkeys, deer and more.

3. Historic Sunbury 

For an outwardly modern and thriving mini-city in its own right, Sunbury packs in a lot of history and attractions. Cricket fans won’t want to miss Rupertswood Mansion, credited as the birthplace of The Ashes. Sunbury is also the site of Victoria’s oldest homestead, the 1836-era Emu Bottom. There’s also acclaimed wineries to visit including Goona Warra (established 1863) and Craiglee (1864).

4. Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre

Stop in for a private tour (by prior arrangement) to learn more about an important but often misunderstood native Australian icon – the dingo. This breeding establishment run by the Australian Dingo Foundation is set on 40 acres and dedicated to educating the public about the many facets of Australia’s only wild canid.

5. Mountain Distilling

Gin is in, and boutique producers like Mountain Distilling make it easy to pop in for a cheeky tasting of their award-winning Mountain Gin via the cellar door just off the Calder Freeway at New Gisborne. There’s alternatives on hand for those whose tastes run to vodka, whisky, and tequila, too.

6. Mount Macedon Memorial Cross 

The highlight of a visit to the Macedon Regional Park is the stately memorial cross, a 21-metre-tall structure commemorating those who served in war and conflicts. It was originally erected in the 1930s, and replaced after it was razed in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. Enjoy the panoramic views from here or nearby Camel’s Hump, which is the park’s highest point.

7. Sanatorium Lake Eco-Trail

Adjacent to the memorial cross on top of Mount Macedon is Sanatorium Lake, a man-made waterway that once supplied water to a nearby sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. TB is gone, thankfully, and so is the building. But the serene lake amid pristine bushland remains for tranquil walks, via a well-established and easily accessible path. 

8.Hanging Rock

What secrets does Hanging Rock hold? The 105-metre-tall geological oddity with a mystical reputation is one of the region’s must-visit destinations. Take a bracing walk to the top (warning: some steep pathways) to explore among its bewitching boulders, and ponder picnics both past and present. Enjoy the pristine views – and there’s plenty of local wildlife to spot, too.

9.Woodend Wine Store

The Macedon Ranges is home to a bevy of fine wineries but if you haven’t got time to visit them all individually, wine expert Caroline Bailey has amassed a fine selection at Woodend Wine Store from the likes of Mount Towrong, Hanging Rock, and Mount Macedon wineries, as well as star selections from nearby regions such as Heathcote and Yarra Valley. There’s also a selection of local spirits and produce to peruse.

10. Holgate Brewhouse

Exploration is thirsty work so at the end of the day, pull up a stool at Holgate Brewhouse for a tasting paddle of their microbrewed selection of draughts, ales and lagers. Rustle up an accompanying feed as you wet the whistle and watch the world go by on High Street, Woodend’s thriving main drag. Or organise a brewery tour to see the magic happen at first hand.


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