Are you a Melburnian or are planning to visit Melbourne? Here are some ideas for a great road trip into the beautiful Victorian countryside. A drive in the country is surely one of life’s simple pleasures.
This itinerary stays close to the city and will have you back in time for dinner.
Driving time: Three hour round trip. (Excluding time exploring the destinations)
Food Options: Plenty! Great selection of eateries in both Malmsbury and Taradale. Both take-away and eat-in.
Petrol Station en route? Yes. Taradale.
Highlights: Hanging Rock, the historic Malmsbury blue-stone architecture and Botanic Gardens and the impressive Malmsbury and Taradale rail viaducts.
Great day drives from Melbourne. First Stop – Hanging Rock.
Off we go!
Take the Calder Freeway in the direction of Bendigo and after you have been driving for around 45 minutes or so you will pass the first turn-off for Woodend. The exit you actually want is next up and is for Romsey. The actual road number you are after is the C324. Here you need to turn right and follow the signs to the rocks. Within five pleasant minutes drive you will be at the gates of Hanging Rock.
But don’t go in! (Well not this time at least)
Well of course you can go in – and should go in one day. A climb amongst these fabled rocks is almost a rite of passage in Victoria I would suggest. You will need to pencil in at least half-a-day for that and make sure you come on a ‘warmish’ day.
Hanging Rock seems to have it’s own micro-climate. Even on sunny days the summit can be bracing when you reach the top. So dress appropriately. Layering is best. The wind tends to swirl and howl here too. Perhaps it is whispering the answers to the many beguiling tales linked with these eerie rock formations.
But today – and this itinerary – is a road trip. Today we are here to view these volcanic rocks in all their grandeur. And the best spot to do so is a bit of a secret, but one that I’ll share.
Thirty Summers Insider’s Tip.
The best view of the rocks is well away from the main park entrance. In fact it is actually hard to see the rocks at all from the ‘front’. They are cloaked away beneath stands of verdant native fauna. To get simply amazing views you need to…
- Drive past the main gates by continuing driving along S Rock Road. The gates will be on your left.
- About 400 metres past the gates turns left into Straws Lane.
- At the intersection with Colwells Road there are great views back to Hanging Rock.
- Turn left into Colwells Road for further wonderful views.
- You will also have great views of the Hanging Rock horse racing track. In my opinion one of the most scenically located sporting facilities in the world.
Next stop. Malmsbury.
After some wandering and photography at Hanging Rock head back to the Calder Freeway. Rejoin in the direction of Bendigo and in about 20 minutes or so you will arrive at the charming village of Malmsbury.
Famed in the 19th Century for it’s blue stone it is a gem. Many of it’s historic buildings from this epoch still remain and a wander, or even a slow drive, around this compact village is a delight. Packed with history at every turn.
There is a relaxed and laid back atmosphere in Malmsbury these days. A far cry from when it’s major artery and main street – the Calder Highway – was the main thoroughfare between Melbourne and Bendigo. Laden with traffic and diesel-spewing trucks sitting next to it then for some al fresco dining wouldn’t have been an appealing option.
However that was then, this is now. The freeway has bypassed Malmsbury.
The trucks and traffic have gone and many fine eateries have sprung up in their place. Coffee-shops, cool cafes and even fine-dining restaurants are all options. If you would like to do some planning beforehand check out the Malmsbury food options.
Of course you could just head to the bakery for some yummy cakes or savoury treats and take your lunch to Victoria’s oldest Botanic Gardens.
Planted in 1850 these gardens are a place of serenity and calm. A place to stare, meander and relax. In the warmer months the venerable old trees provide much needed shade from the sometimes baking temperatures. Oh and take some bread with you if you would like to feed the ducks and geese.
Malmsbury Railway Viaduct.
Make sure you don’t miss the rail viaduct hidden away at the back of the gardens. Built between 1859 – 1860 and standing at 100 metres in length you can easily do a double take at finding such a grandiose monument here as part of such a small village. Good road trip hey!
Wait for twenty – thirty minutes or so and you will probably even be lucky enough to see a train cross. If you are a rail buff then simply visit this link for the Bendigo train timetable. You need to then select the times for Malmsbury station which is one minute up the track.
For much more information and photography about this wonderful hamlet click on this Malmsbury post.
Last but not least – Taradale.
A mere eight or so kilometres up the road is the tiny hamlet of Taradale. Both Malmsbury and Taradale were popular lay overs in the 1850 and 60s for those making their way from Melbourne to the Goldfields. They were busy hubs abuzz with miners from around the globe enroute to Castlemaine and Bendigo hoping to make their fortunes.
These days things are a little quieter. Taradale has a permanent population of less than 500 people but they are lucky folk. It is a restful place with one main street, a petrol station and a scattering of businesses along it.
One spot well worth a visit is Taradale Wine and Produce. You know, just in case you have gotten hungry or thirsty in the five minutes since leaving Malmsbury.
It is located at 120 High Street (Calder Highway) in what used-to-be the original Post Office. You can sample delicious preservative-free wines and scrummy olives and cheeses. Perhaps peruse some of the art on display in the small gallery before attacking the guilt-inducing sweet treats on offer.
Taradale walking trail.
As you happily walk, or possibly waddle, back outside and onto the main street have a look at your watch. If you have time I really recommend walking to-and-fro the next highlight. The Taradale Railway Viaduct. Nice way to nuke those cakes right? In fact it would be about a 1.5 km round trip on foot from where you are right now.
Begin your walk at the Taradale Spring Reserve just a few steps away across Jackson Street. Here in the Reserve, before you start your walk, you can sample some of the natural Taradale mineral-spring-water and also check the Information Board for specific details of the walking trail. From the Reserve you will saunter along the banks of, a probably empty, Back Creek all the way to the viaduct.
You will pass historic old miner’s cottages and be shaded by tall stands of mature trees along your way. It is a flat path and easy to negotiate with plenty to see on the way.
After a pleasant 15 minutes or so of ambling you will round a bend and before you will be quite a spectacle. If you thought that the Malmsbury railway edifice was impressive you may even find Taradale’s offering is even grander.
Taradale Railway Viaduct.
Constructed at a similar time to Malmsbury (1858 – 62) the Taradale viaduct is a very impressive 252 metres long. Made primarily of wrought iron it dominates the landscape around it. It almost seems out-of-place next to the chocolate-box village it looms over. It’s so powerful and straight juxtaposed against the soft undulations of the valley it straddles.
It is very industrial which is perhaps why it leans more to an urban context than a rural. All that said it must be one of Victoria’s greatest yet little known man-made sights. It really takes your breath away on that first sighting. You can’t help but think…
That. Here? Wow!
It is also a photographer’s dream. The rusty beams and wonderful geometric shapes that they form will keep you clicking for ages.
Time a visit in the late afternoon and the honey-golden sunlight make the girders almost sing with vibrancy. It is a very tactile object. Again it’s even more impressive when a train obligingly crosses for you.
After a suitable time here wander back along the pathway or simply drive to and from the viaduct along De La Beche Street. There’s a parking spot beneath it.
I hope your day has been divine.
Just before you head for home take advantage of the afternoon light and head for the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Davy St.
This church was constructed in 1859 and I’ve noted, on the occasions that I’ve been in Taradale, that it acts as a light-catcher to the glorious shards of the late afternoon sun. It’s honeycombed exterior simply shimmers in the soft light. (Click an image to enlarge)
And there you have it…
The first instalment in our great day drives from Melbourne series. Let us know by commenting below if you actually try this itinerary out or if you have any recommendations to make it even better. We’d love to hear from you!
Better still we’d love if you shared it with your fellow Melburnians and Victorians who are always looking for new adventures or activities to do on the weekend. Nothing better than a drive in the country and we’d be super grateful!
Til next time…
Taradale is included in the greater Castlemaine & Maldon Tourism website.