Taking a peek at Mt Macedon

View from Camels Hump, Mt Macedon

View over Hanging Rock from Camels Hump

Mt Macedon, the peak, as opposed to the village on its slopes, is just over an hour’s drive from Ballarat — less from Melbourne — and has become a rather handy day trip.

Highlights so far:

Mr. This cafe is in the town of Macedon. I pulled in the first time because of the sign saying ‘all day breakfast’, and went back the second because the food was excellent and the staff friendly. (The only blooper so far, a failure to deliver a juice.) They have a beetroot fritter that is to die for, serve pancakes with fresh berries and honey comb, and have some of the best coffee.

Koala at Camels Hump, Mt Macedon

Koala at Camels Hump

Cross Memorial, Mt Macedon

Cross Memorial at Mt Macedon

Camels Hump.
This short but steep walk leads to a viewing platform atop granite cliffs that looks across Hanging Rock. On the most recent visit, we saw an echidna, a koala and two wild goats.

Top of the Range cafe and gallery. This cafe, near the Memorial Cross, is open 10am till 4pm seven days a week and has a veranda with a wide view. It has a resident peacock called Kenneth, as yet unseen by me. It also has friendly staff, delicious scones and a very tasty iced coffee, as well as handcrafts and souvenirs. The memorial itself is a large (rebuilt) cross, 21m tall, commemorating the dead of World War I, with other campaigns acknowledged at the start of the path. Melbourne is visible from the site, if the haze and smog allow. It is surrounded by dense eucalypt forest and manicured flower garden. There is also a memorial to a 1948 aircraft crash nearby, the Kurana memorial,in which the crew of an ANA DC-3 were killed and the air hostess honoured for her bravery. On one visit, visitors paused to allow a brown snake to cross the path.

Sanatorium Lake, Mt Macedon

Sanatorium Lake

Sanatorium Lake. The parking area closest to the lake is at the end of an attractive dirt road bordered by huge pine and gum trees. The small lake was built to service a tuberculosis sanatorium — one had already been established nearby in a former hospital, since destroyed by fire, but plans to build a newer, bigger one were scuppered. But the lake remains, and is only 200m or so from the car park through forest, and its stillness offers a lovely spot for, ahem, reflection.

Forest Glade, Mt Macedon

Forest Glade

Forest Glade Gardens: We ambled through these impressive private gardens in Mt Macedon for about 2.5 hours, and still hadn’t covered all the trails. The garden offers a variety of flora, from manicured gardens to Aussie scrub, as it spills down terraces that can make steep going at times. But there are plenty of flat trails and lots of shady seats, with sculptures ranging from myth to kids at play to portraits and more. The site is also home to the Stokes Collection, but you need to book, and pay extra, to see this private antique collection. The gardens are open daily and cost $8 by honour system at the gate — limited street parking and no public toilets or water on site. Well worth the visit, even for someone like me who doesn’t know their flowers at all. Also, we saw an echidna in a garden bed abutting the house — very cool.

More pictures of Mt Macedon


Branching out in the Dandenongs

dandenong ranges

The overcast day wasn’t the most photogenic but an afternoon’s drive up the Dandenong Ranges provided a reminder of just how magnificent the forests up there are. And so close to Melbourne, too.

There are enough man-made attractions to occupy visitors, whether the sculptures of William Ricketts or the parking-challenged tourist trap of Sassafrass — yeah, I got tired of looking and drove on — but it’s the air and the leaves and the incredible soaring trunks of Dandenong Ranges National Park that took my breath away. We eschewed the $5 per car fee to take a happy snap from the Sky High outlook and contented ourselves with the free Kalorama view before negotiating the trail down to the Olinda Falls. Fresh air for the soul, this, even on a cool, cloudy day.

The picture shows Dad and Kirstyn checking out one of the long-time local residents. Some more photos here.

A weekend of peace at Olvar Wood

Zoe, Veronica, Helen and myself at Olvar Wood

Zoe, Veronica, Helen and myself at Olvar Wood

It already seems like years ago, though it was only yesterday…

My Corpse writers, just the four of us, spent the weekend at Olvar Wood at Palmwoods on the Sunshine Coast. Olvar Wood is a gorgeous, secluded retreat set on 20 acres of native bush, reached by a narrow, fairytale path overshadowed by branches and trees. The building is eco-friendly, boasting four bedrooms, separate dining, living room, wrap-around veranda with a view of either treetops or the Blackall Range, a massive kitchen and separate office, even a laundry. An atrium-style tropical garden with water feature is a centrepiece with glass walls, and a gorgeous unpolished pole occupies the landing between the dining area with its Jimmy Possum table and the generous lounge with its wood-burning heater and leather lounge suite.

Very occasionally, the sound of birdsong and wind-whispers is broken by a vehicle on the invisible access road. It is idyllic for writers, with no televisions at all, just a CD player in the sumptuous timber living room with its floor-to-ceiling glass walls and doors opening onto the veranda. Each of the four bedrooms — one is detached with en suite, two small ones share a bathroom and toilet — has a desk and dictionary. I scored the Hemingway Room, with its amazing flower-petal fan, dark timber bed, shower and spa bath, separate toilet and walk-in robe, and a wall of louvres offering a view of nothing but trees and sky.

Only a short, secluded drive from the village of Palmwoods, Olvar is ideally placed at the foot of the Blackall Range. Palmwoods has a superb Asian restaurant and pretty darn fine pizza cafe, with a couple of other cafes and greasy spoons and a bakery with superb pepper steak pies if you can get there early enough. There’s a bottle shop and an IGA and a pub and a funky shop or two, a chemist, a servo: all you need, really. The adventurous can scoot up the range to the tourist villages of Montville and Maleny or hit the concrete apartments and shopping precincts of the coast, but that wasn’t what this trip was about.

desk at Olvar Wood

desk at Olvar Wood

I confess I slept a lot. It took a while to leave the drudgery of everyday life behind — time and a few glasses of red, anyway. And then the words and ideas dribbled forth. Nothing another week of such serenity wouldn’t have helped.

This description doesn’t do the property justice. The kitchen is amazing, the gully with its rocky waterfall, the attention to detail right down to the dragonfly motif running from floor mats to tea towels to vases, the pantry large enough to lock children in … the whistle of the red kettle on the gas stove announcing the water’s hot, come and get a coffee and have a chat; the organic food and the organic toiletries, the smell of wet earth and leather and wood smoke … it’s special, all right, and highly recommended for the writer on the run who needs a space to stop and take stock. And maybe even get some words down.

More pictures  of Olvar Wood