An ancient and evocative feature in the landscape, the extinct volcano formation known as Hanging Rock is a sacred site for its traditional owners, the Wurundjeri people, but everyone is welcome to take the strenuous 50-minute climb up and down the path to the 1800m summit. Many myths and legends surround the rock – the most enduring being its association with the Joan Lindsay novel Picnic at Hanging Rock – and many feel an eerie energy when they visit here.
Joan Lindsay's novel was written in 1967 and was subsequently made into a hugely successful film by Australian director Peter Weir in 1975. It chronicles the lead-up and fallout from the disappearance of a group of schoolgirls at the rock on Valentine's Day in 1900. Though entirely fictional, the story has become folkloric since its publication and many visitors to the rock feel as if they are following in the actual footsteps of Miranda and the other girls.
The walk-through Hanging Rock Discovery Centre explains the rock's history and geology. Although there is a cafe on-site, most visitors choose to emulate the schoolgirls and bring a picnic; there are plenty of picnic tables and a number of gas barbecues that are free to use.
The rock is a 10-minute drive from Woodend. There's no public transport; a taxi from Woodend will cost around $30 one way.