Day trip to the remarkable Forest Glade Gardens, Mount Macedon

English fountain at Forest Glades Garden Mount Macedon

An exciting yet tranquil day trip spent exploring around The Forest Glades garden, Mount Macedon.

Are you ready to read about another elusive trail where the pictures do it no justice? We’re about to shed some light on the hidden gem of Mount Macedon, the Forest Glade Gardens.  

The breath taking garden views transport you to another world, far away from the bustle of the city. Yet this country treechange is only an hour’s drive from the Melbourne CBD, making it the perfect idea for a cheap and adventurous day trip.

Clear skys at Forest Glades Garden Mount Macedon
Here comes the sun on another lovely day at the forest glades garden

It’s not a hike, it’s a garden

Ok, I’ll be honest, the forest glades is not a hiking trail but just like any large park, it’s a place where you can create your own adventure and caters to all. The forest glades gardens are a historic private garden and span almost 6 hectares. It’s also a place you can easily rack up 10,000 steps for the day – or not.

The windy yet accessible paths of Forest Glades gardens have been mindfully designed to cater for everyone and enjoy the gardens regardless of their abilities.

Take the kids, take the grandparents, take your athletic friends – maybe don’t take them all once. There are endless combinations of walking tracks and trails to explore and vary in distance and terrain, making every visit a unique experience. The admission fee covers you for the whole day, so it’s ideal to take your time to truly enjoy the sights of the glades gardens.

With all the colourful flora and diverse landscaping, there is truly something for everyone at the forest glades. Along with all the trails, there are also plenty of spaces you can stop and take a breather if the hills get too much. Enjoy a picnic on one of the manicured lawns or relax in the gazebos.

Entering Imperial Gardens at Forest Glades Garden
Entering Imperial Gardens at Forest Glades Garden

Getting there

The glades are an hour away from the Melbourne CBD, there is no public transport in Mt Macedon, so you will need to drive or take a bus with one of the tour groups that visit the gardens. The good news is once you drive there, street parking is free. Just remember, you are in Mount Macedon on a 10% incline, don’t forget your handbrake.

The glades are a budget-friendly destination at only $10 entry a person – children are free – and you will feel good this money goes back into maintaining the gardens.

When you pay the admission fee, you will be welcomed to the garden with a free map. Two types of people visit the forest glades. The ones that use the map to track every step and the ones who shove it in their pack, go where the trail takes them and intentionally get lost. It’s worth noting, if you do get lost, not to be alarmed. All the paths are well marked and the directions sign makes sure you don’t stray too far of course.

What to bring

Be prepared for a day in the great outdoors and dress as per the weather. Mount Macedon is a few degrees cooler than the rest of Melbourne, keep an umbrella on hand for a rainy day and a tube of sunscreen in case it gets sunny out.

The glades are a hotspot for weddings and photoshoots. Photographers will revel in photographing all the delights nature has to offer. You may find yourself torn between being in the moment and dying to take photos of your amazing day in the gardens.

Timing is everything

Mount Macedon is bustling with early birds. Opening at 10am, families and tourists are usually here in the morning but if you want to enjoy the gardens in solace, the best advice is to go in the afternoon. The forest glade garden trails are open 7 days a week and the gardens are naturally a lot busier on the weekends and weather warms up.

The history

Unlike other gardens in Victoria, the glades started out – and remain to be a private garden.

In 1971, a fine chap Cyril Stokes and his life partner acquired the land and developed it into the dream you see today, although that was not without its setbacks. In 1983, Ash Wednesday bushfires torched the land and devastated Cyril with the burning of his life work. Nevertheless, both Cyril and nature’s resilience saw the rebirth of the glades gardens we see today.

In 2011, after Cyril passed away, the property was gifted to the Stokes Collection charity, with the intention of the gardens being maintained and enjoyed by the public for years to come.

English fountain at Forest Glades Garden Mount Macedon
Tranquillity at the English Fountain in the gardens.

Time for an adventure hike

I visited the forest glades last week in this weird November that still feels like August weather. Even though I have been to the glades, numerous times, the initial entrance never ceases to amaze me. That feeling like you’ve wondered into the garden of Eden with that mixed smell of blossoming flowers and birds fluttering in the background never gets old.

It had rained pretty heavy the night before my friends and I arrived for the trail walk and that probably should have deterred us but overcast days and the rain can amplify your experiences in this garden. These gardens really do come to life in the rain, everything looks 10x better with a thin sheen of mist on it. It almost makes up for the wet bench I naively sat on and spent the remainder of the day walking around with a wet bum.

Posing with Ballerina statue hiking at Forest Glades garden
Making the most of the day in a statuesque way

It’s hard to identify which part of the gardens are the best, there’s truly something for everyone. I for one, love posing with the English statues.

Or maybe it’s the vibrant reds and blossoms of the imperial Japanese garden that makes me want to visit Japan. Just a heads up, one part of the path of the Japanese gardens is a bunch of steps surrounded with water, watch where you step or you may be sleeping with the koi fish!

Leaping water steps hiking trail.
Watch your step in the Japanese garden.

My photography-obsessed friend also made sure we stopped at every. Single. Flower. In the gardens and did well capturing their beauty. Next time, I’ll get her to record some video so you can hear the happy bees buzzing in the background. The bees that pollinate these gardens, must make the best honey.

Pink bell flower on hiking trail
One of the thousands of flowers at the Glades gardens.

Align with the seasons

The glades are not a one-and-done affair. These gardens are so packed with plants, they offer much to see each season. Whether that be the beautiful blossoms in spring, the rich red and orange autumn leaves. The gardens are anything but deary in winter with plenty of evergreen plants on display. I’ll never forget coming here in August and seeing a meadow of bright yellow daffodils illuminating the silent winter gardens.

As my friends and I sat on the lawn to for a quick breather after clocking up 4,000 steps, we were mesmerised by the lush greenness of the forest glade gardens contrasting against the eucalyptus green bush backdrop of Mount Macedon. It’s then I know, there’s no place I would rather be.

For more Victorian hiking adventures check out Trail Navigator blog

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