Have you ever wondered whether there were any settlements in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) before it was established? Hall is one of the last few remnants of what was New South Wales (NSW) bushland before the capital was established. The historic village of 298 (2021) has a distinct identity and resembles a classic Australian rural town, but is in fact only separated from the Canberra suburbs by about a kilometre of countryside.
Hall was proclaimed in 1882, over 30 years before Canberra. It was named after NSW farmer Henry Hall. Today, that year is scattered around the small village in the names of stores, the museum, and on signs. It is nestled between the two large residential districts of Belconnen and Gungahlin with the New South Wales border to the north, making it disguised on a map. If you're driving between Melbourne and Canberra or Adelaide and Canberra or anywhere using the Barton Highway, you may notice brown tourist "Hall" signs, also hidden and discreet; this discreetness makes Hall a hidden gem of Canberra.
Get in and around
The first thing you will need to understand is that Hall is not on the beaten track, and the most practical way to get into the village is by car even though it's just 12 km (7.5 mi) northwest of Civic. There are no Transport Canberra buses that run to Hall, though there are NSW buses that stop by Hall.
There are only three roads that enter Hall, all of which are side roads off Barton Highway. Follow the A25 signs; however as signage is a dog's breakfast in the ACT, you might still see the now-decommissioned green and gold National Highway 25 signs or even incorrectly-signed black and white National Route 25 signs. The side streets are Victoria Street (one northbound, and one southbound) and Gladstone Street.
If you're coming by bus, then use NSW bus route 843. The route runs between Yass and the City Interchange in Civic, with stops in Belconnen and Murrumbateman. The route does not operate during weekends and only operates once a day each way. However, with the lack of accommodation in Hall, this only works as a day-trip from Yass. If you do not mind walking 2.5 km (1.6 mi), an alternate way to visit Hall would be to take a Transport Canberra bus to Gold Creek Village in Gungahlin via Transport Canberra bus route 24, and then walking north-northwest via the Bicentennial National Trail towards Hall. The trail may not be well signposted, but if you can't find the path, follow the path that parallels northeast of the Barton Highway. If that confuses you, this map should help you visualise the route.
If you walk or cycle, you can get to Hall on the Canberra Centenary Trail from Northern Border Campsite. Allow 5 hours to walk the 14.5 km. Hall is also a stop on the Bicentennial National Trail, a 5,330-km route from Queensland to Victoria.
Hall is tiny – not even 3 km2 (1.2 sq mi) – and you can pretty much get around by walking. You might want to take your car out to St. Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church, but otherwise, everything can be done on foot. Arguably, this may be beneficial as parking is somewhat limited in Hall (except for the few parking slots near the Canberra Centenary Trail), and you really wouldn't want to manoeuvre around in traffic during the markets, would you?
Hall Heritage Walk
Hall may not have much to see, and this would be the case for the vast majority. However, for those interested in meticulously exploring every single important historic site, the National Trust of Australia (ACT) has put together the Hall Heritage Walk, a heritage walk with 20 of Hall's historic sites.
The catch with this walk, however, is that many sites listed here only make it because these were the houses of some of the village's wealthiest early residents, or because something happened here. To prevent this article from becoming an overwhelming long drab list, only the most important sites are listed, but if you want to spice up visiting historic sites, the Hall Heritage Walk is a great way to explore Hall in detail.
As Hall is just a tiny village, there is not much to see, and nearly everything can be visited in an hour or two.
- 1 Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre, 17-19 Palmer St, email@example.com. Th 9AM–noon, Su noon–4PM, 1st Sunday of every month: 10AM–4PM. The small district's local museum housed in the former Hall Primary School tells the history of the first teachers at bush schools in Australia, before 1940. The museum also contains some historic photos from Belconnen, Gungahlin, and Hall during the settlement era.
- 2 St. Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church (St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church), 220 Victoria St, ☏ . Mass 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month at 8:30AM. It's a bit to the north of the town, this catholic church was built in 1910 and laid in 1907, which wasn't exactly when this town was established, but it was still three years before Canberra was. The architecture of the church still resembles the typical architecture of the early 20th century. Masses happen twice per month, but very few actually attend the masses. .
- 1 Hall Showground, cnr Gladstone and Hall Sts. The village's local showground is where the Sunday markets and events usually occur. The showground contains an equestrian park, but it's restricted to certain equestrian groups only. Apart from that, there is not much, and it looks like any other rural NSW town's showground.
- Bushwalk to 5 One Tree Hill Lookout: while this lookout is in Gungahlin, one of the two bushwalking trails that lead up to the lookout starts at the corner of Hoskins and Hall Streets, and gives an impressive view of Canberra from the north. The bushwalk should take about an hour (one-way) due to the ascent involved via the Canberra Centenary Trail. Just next to the trail is a small carpark, which doesn't have many spaces available, but few use that carpark in the first place.
- 1 Hartley Hall Markets, Hall Village Showground, Victoria St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. First Su of month (except Jan) 10AM–3PM. The historic village hosts a monthly market that raises money for local charity Hartley Lifecare. There are hundreds of stalls selling gifts, art, craft, baked goods, plants, furniture, clothing, pottery, and children’s toys. $2-5.
- 2 Farmer Brown's Free Range Eggs, 2 Alexandra St, ☏ . One of Farmer Brown's self-serve outlets that entirely sells free-range eggs. The hens here have a lot of room (for those concerned about animal ethics) and whilst it may be a bit pricey, they do taste great.
- 3 Hops and Vine, 6A Victoria St, ☏ , email@example.com. Tu–Sa 11AM–7PM; Su 11AM–5PM. A small but diverse store that has over 200 different varieties of Australian craft beer, mainly from the ACT and the immediate surrounding areas such as the Yass Valley or the Snowy Mountains. The building that it's located in formerly served as the town's village hall (yep, Hall's hall) and cinema; there are still some occasional workshops and events in what's now the former village hall.
- 4 JellyBug Treasures, 10 Victoria St, ☏ . Th–M 10AM–4PM. A small shop full of Australian-made homeware products such as pots, tins, clocks, frames, or candles, just to name a few.
Hall has a few places to eat, mostly along Victoria Street, the town's main street. Except for 1882 Hall, a reasonably sized mid-range restaurant, all the others are small cafes or places where you can buy specialised food.
- 1 1882 Hall, 13 Gladstone St, ☏ . W 5:30–10PM, Th F noon–10PM; Sa Su 8AM–10PM. Email via online contact form. With a name commemorating the year the township was established, the largest restaurant in Hall serves some of the best Canberran food, beer, and wine. Mains include posh fish and chips, duck confit, and pumpkin gnocchi. They also do a creative woodfired pizza menu for eat-in or takeaway – potato and rosemary or garlic prawns, anyone? Mains $30-40, pizza $23-25. Set menu (F Sa) 2 courses $55, 3 courses $65.
- 2 Daughters at Hall, 5 Victoria St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 6:30AM–3PM; Sa Su 8AM–3PM. A classic rural Australian cafe, best known for its Yes Mumma, that is, creamy oats with apples, cream, and crumbles. Other than that, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are also available. Mains $15-21.
- 3 Kynefin Cafe, 2-4 Victoria St, ☏ , email@example.com. W–F 8:30AM–3PM; Sa Su 8AM–3PM, last orders 2PM. A small cafe with lots of tasty British pastries. The name of the cafe is inspired by the Welsh word cynefin, meaning "habitat", reflecting the quaint, familiar feeling of both the cafe and Hall.
- 4 Sugar Plum Fairy Cakes, 2/8 Victoria St, ☏ . Tu–F 7AM–4:30PM; Sa Su 7AM–2PM. It's not very large by any means, but they make a delicious and fancy range of cakes (particularly cupcakes), plus coffee. Cookies $5, 6 cupcakes $40, cakes from $150.
There are many places to go wine-tasting surrounding Hall, but only one within Hall. The rest are in Murrumbateman, Wallaroo and its surrounds but in New South Wales, and hence not covered in this article.
- 1 Capital Wines, 13 Gladstone St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Th–M 10:30AM–5PM. Has wine tasting in some of the Australian Capital Territory's few wine regions with lots of Canberra labels on there. The wines are from the few surrounding wineries (in NSW), making it a great place to go to if you'd like to try the local wine.
Telstra, Optus, and even Vodafone have good 5G coverage in Hall, owing to its close proximity to the residential districts of Canberra. However, there are no CBRfree public Wi-Fi locations in Hall.
|Yass ( interchange) ← Murrumbateman ←||NW SE||→ Gungahlin / Belconnen → North Canberra|