HANGING AT THE ROCK
Take a sightseeing tour inspired by an Australian classic
On Valentine’s Day, 1900, a group of schoolgirls goes missing on a day trip to dark and brooding Hanging Rock, which rises ominously out of nowhere an hour’s drive northwest of Melbourne. So goes the storyline of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 classic, Picnic at
Hanging Rock, the novel reimagined for television in a new miniseries having its world premiere on Foxtel tonight. The production puts Victoria’s landscape and historic attractions in the spotlight.
1 HANGING ROCK
Sacred to Aboriginal people for millennia, and popular with tourists since the 19th century, this distinctive volcanic rock formation became famous when Lindsay’s story was published in 1967. A key location for the new miniseries, its craggy towers rise out of nowhere an hour’s drive northwest of Melbourne’s CBD. Walk under the actual hanging rock suspended in a crevice by taking the steep stairs leading to the lower summit (also accessible via an easy ramp). Continue to the peak’s maze of boulders and views across pasture and bushland. There’s a cafe at this mini mountain’s base, and barbecues, tables and lawn for picnics. Piper Street Food Co in nearby Kyneton make gourmet picnic hampers named after Lindsay and her mysterious schoolgirl, Miranda.
This regional town, which the novel’s Edwardian schoolgirls passed through on the way to their picnic, remains the launching pad for Hanging Rock, just 10 minutes’ drive away. Woodend’s main road has a welcome mix of shopping and dining; best bets for picnic treats are Bourkies Bakehouse, Maloa House Gourmet Delights and The Milko. Relax after a Hanging Rock workout at Holgate Brewhouse, a family-operated pubbrewery offering classy classics like soft-shelled crab burgers, and eight house beers on tap. Try them all with a tasting paddle, or get cosy with the chocolate porter on chilly days. The lively Woodend Winter Arts Festival returns June 8-11.
An hour further west, this charming town is the miniseries’ Woodend. The main street’s heritage architecture is so intact that the crew only needed to put sand on the bitumen and cover signs with vintage reproductions. Find old-fashioned lollies at Widow Twankey, antiques at Time Travellers, vintage threads at Bower Birds, and well curated bookshops in one of the world’s few official Booktowns. The annual book festival, which attracted 18,000 people in 2017, is on this weekend. For a small country town, Clunes does impressive food. Quigley and Clarke serve hearty, elegantly presented meals among bare brick, chandeliers and a wood fire, and Bread & Circus Provedore’s breakfasts, like pesto scrambled eggs, are city-sational. Steps away is Hillcrest, a new Daylesford Getaways property. This Victorian-era home’s rustic-chic makeover is designed for snuggling, but the broad veranda also beckons starting with morning coffee amid magpie warblings.
4 SANATORIUM LAKE, MOUNT MACEDON
Through TV magic, the miniseries’ picnic scenes aren’t at Hanging Rock, but several kilometres away by this small, secluded lake surrounded by lush ferns and tall eucalypts. It’s 250m from the carpark, or take the 2.5km looped Eco Trail from the picnic ground. Sanatorium Lake links to the 29km Macedon Ranges Walking Trail, so rambling and hiking options abound. Get picnic supplies in nearby Mount Macedon village – perhaps Mount Macedon Trading Post’s plump quiches and cakes – or settle in at Mount Macedon Hotel. Atop the mountain itself, take tea and fluffy scones with panoramic views at Top of the Range tearoom.
5 LYSTERFIELD PARK
Numerous scenes of horse-drawn vehicles rumbling along country roads were filmed at this remnant native bushland on Melbourne’s eastern fringe. Grazing grey kangaroos are a common sight at Lysterfield Park, which is popular for watersports, horseriding and mountain biking (it was the sport’s 2006 Commonwealth Games venue). Gentle walking trails include an 8km circuit around Lake Lysterfield, whose tan sand beaches make the ducks and salt-free air seem curiously out of place. Joan Lindsay’s house, the National Trust-operated Mulberry Hill, is 40km south.
Australia’s oldest continuously active artists’ community was established in 1934, in what’s now Melbourne’s outer northeast. The focus of Montsalvat’s five informal hectares is a cluster of buildings, including a chapel and great hall, constructed from natural and recycled materials such as 19thcentury gargoyles and massive wharf timbers. Over the decades, residents have made beautiful and intriguing additions to this eclectic place, where picturesque exteriors and a stable’s interior were filmed. There are exhibitions, workshops and concerts, and artists can often be seen at work. Visit the cafe and giftshop with objects made here, from jewellery to ceramics.
7 WERRIBEE MANSION
This grand 1870s sandstone house provides the imposing facade and lawn of the miniseries’ boarding school. Now on Melbourne’s southwestern edge, Werribee Mansion was originally home to wealthy pastoralists. A third of the furniture and paintings, often expensively imported from Europe, is original to the house. Remnants of the vast estate now host additional daytrip inspiration including Shadowfax winery, Werribee Open Range Zoo and the State Rose Garden. Extend the experience at Mansion Hotel & Spa, which fills the large seminary built onto the mansion from 1923. Earthy tones bring its lofty spaces into the 21st century. Smoked ingredients are a feature of the finedining restaurant menu while even a 30-minute spa treatment can spark a holiday mood. Wake to a birdsong symphony and stroll to Werribee River or along the sculpture walk before the park opens to the public.
8 COMO HOUSE
This gracious, mid 19th-century white mansion was central to a century of Melbourne high society. Lindsay’s parents were engaged here, and she became a visitor too, while the TV adaptation used the formal grounds for a garden party, as well as several rooms. Como House’s history and heritage are remarkably intact because everything, from the ballroom’s crystal chandelier to paintings of the property, were acquired from the long-time owners by the National Trust. Some of these riches are in storage during an old-meets-new fashion exhibition, closing July 1. Horses have been replaced by delicious food, including the kitchen garden’s produce, at The Stables of Como. Options include high tea with free-flowing bubbles and divine chocolate mousse, the “guy tea”, and picnic hampers. The other inner-Melbourne National Trust properties used for filming are Rippon Lea and Labassa.
THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF DAYLESFORD & MACEDON RANGES TOURISM AND MANSION HOTEL & SPA
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK HAS ITS WORLD PREMIERE ON FOXTEL TONIGHT AT 8.30.
Dramatic countryside and historic charm set the scene for an iconic Aussie mystery.