ESTIMATED to be more than six million years old, Mount Diogenes – also known as Hanging Rock – is a volcanic mamelon, created when the earth’s magma leaked through the crust and cooled into a solid mass. The cooling process created the cracked columns, and extensive weathering wore the rocks into the formation they take today. The ‘hanging’ rock specifically refers to one of the formations in which a large boulder is suspended between two others. This creates the entrance to a path that visitors can use to explore the area on foot.
Although relatively new by geological standards, the area around the Rock has been inhabited for more than 26,000 years. It is believed that the rock itself was a ceremonial meeting site for members of the Wurundjeri, Taungurong, and Djadja Wurrung tribes, and ceremonies initiating the young men into full manhood were also carried out there. The last known ceremony took place in 1851; however, by that time, many of the traditional owners had either been forcibly removed or had died of introduced diseases, such as smallpox. The traditional names for the Rock have been lost, although the word “anneyelong” is sometimes proposed.
Despite this considerable history, Hanging Rock is most well known as the setting for the 1967 novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the 1975 derivative film. The mystery story details a Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900, attended by staff and students of the fictional Appleyard College (in the real nearby town of Woodend). During the day, four of the girls walk off into the bush, but only one returns, traumatised. A teacher also disappears during the day. On the advice of her editor, author Joan Lindsay deleted the final chapter, in which the drama is resolved, and an aura of mystery remains around the story as Lindsay also cultivated a sense that the disappearance may have been factual. Despite there being no evidence of this, visitors to the Rock continue to call out for the book’s main character, Miranda, when they explore the area.
In recent times, the grounds around the rock have been used for a variety of different events, including concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen, and there are picnic grounds, bush walks, and fishing in the dam to make a visit worthwhile. The Rock is 70km outside of Melbourne, in the Macedon Ranges.
Physical address: Hanging Rock Reserve, South Rock Road, Newham, Victoria
Phone number: +61 418 373 032
Business hours: 9am – 5pm daily (closed December 25)
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