Hanging Rock is a favourite day trip amongst Melburnians. It’s mostly visited by locals, so it is somewhat of a hidden gem. It’s only 1 hour from the city and even closer to Melbourne airport. The drive is easy and relaxing and once you’re there you’ll be taken aback by the natural beauty of the area. If you love geological wonders, or unique locations, then Hanging Rock reserve is for you.
How to get to Hanging Rock
Hanging Rock is most easily accessed by car. Alternatively you can take the train to Woodend and then catch an Uber. If you are enjoying a road trip to Hanging Rock, note that you will be driving on a toll road. Ensure you have an eTag or prepaid pass organised to avoid a fine.
Hanging Rock reserve is an easy 1 hour drive along the freeway from the Melbourne CBD. The turn off is well signed and the reserve is only a short drive from the freeway. It is definitely one of the easiest short trips from Melbourne.
What is Hanging Rock?
The site is a geological formation that is over 6 million years old. Additionally it is also a significant Aboriginal site. The reserve consists of a cafe, car park, bushland and the Hanging Rock formation itself.
Geologically speaking, it is a volcanic plug. A volcanic plug forms when lava hardens within the vent of a volcano. In fact, it is one of the best examples of this kind of geological feature in the whole world.
The volcano is now long gone, however the lava rock structure remains for you to hike, climb and explore. It is most certainly of the most unique day trips from Melbourne by car.
What to do and see at Hanging Rock Reserve
Hiking & walking within the park
Hanging Rock reserve is a great place for a hike as you don’t need to be particularly prepared to do so. All that’s required is a comfy pair of shoes and everyday casual clothing. If it’s a hot day a drink bottle is a great idea as there are no taps or amenities once you’re on the trail.
Hiking here is a one of the most relaxing things to do in Melbourne. The walk only requires a low to moderate range of fitness and it only takes around 25 minutes to reach the summit.
In addition to hiking to the summit there are a number of walking trails throughout the site.
Make sure to stop at the visitor's centre & cafe
There is a visitor’s centre adjacent to the carpark. The cafe serves hot and cold food and is a lovely spot to stop for lunch. There is also an interpretation site that explores the story of ‘picnic at Hanging Rock’.
Fishing is also available in the dam
Fishing is available in the dam. The dam is regularly restocked. A fishing license is required. Bring your own rod.
Keep your eye out for the native wildlife
Hanging Rock Melbourne is home to a variety of native animals. Kangaroos love to lounge around in the carpark. Look carefully and you may also spot wallabies, koalas and echidnas. Over 40 species of birds also call the bush their home. During the summer months rangers also offer guided night walks where you can spot possums and other nocturnal creatures.
Extend your stay by bringing a picnics or a BBQ
Hanging Rock reserve is equipped with picnic and barberque facilities. Visitors are welcome to bring and enjoy their own food. Please use the rubbish bins provided on site or take your rubbish with y
Hiking to the summit
You’ll begin your hike at the cafe and visitor’s centre, where you can learn a little more about the geological wonder, the region and the ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ mystery. It’s an easy paved ascent and about 5 minutes in you can select between the shorter but steeper, or longer but more gentle ascent.
Once you hit the rock, it’s all off path. At the summit you’ll find the volcanic rock has weathered and eroded over the years providing an excellent opportunity to channel your inner mountain goat as you scramble over, under and through crevices and boulders. Finding the highest peak is all part of the fun as you search for a foot hole and scramble the smooth rock.
You’ll be well rewarded it you’re brave enough to climb up for a look at the view, with sprawling green pastures, lush hills and tiny houses below come into view. It’s a great place to take a drink and a snack and sit with a friend as you enjoy the view.
The picnic at Hanging Rock mystery
Although it’s a fictional novel (also made into a movie), The Picnic at Hanging Rock story has become somewhat of a folklore tale in the area. In the story, two girls on a school excursion leave the group and go missing, never to be seen again. The story has been told and retold so many times that some wonder if there is an element of truth to the mystery and it is now ingrained in the history of the location.
What to know before visiting
Hanging Rock reserve is located at 139 S Rock Road, Woodend, Victoria. It is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. Opening hours are 9am – 5pm.
It is a cheap thing to do in Melbourne. Entry costs a reasonable $10 car / $20 minibus / $10 motorbike / Pedestrian or cyclist $4. Payment is via cash or eftpos at the parking machine next to the cafe.
The hike to the summit is closr on high wind days (gusts above 40km/hr) and the park closes on code red fire days. Check ahead if the weather is inclement.