Marulan is a small town roughly half way between Sydney and Canberra – but, with cute houses and a cool back story, you’re definitely going to want to check it out…
When we decided to stop at the small town of Marulan on the drive between Sydney and Canberra, it was purely because I had read that it was one of the closest towns to the Hume Highway, the road you drive between the two towns.
We weren’t looking for ‘places to see between Canberra and Sydney’ when we choose our stop; we were just looking for somewhere quick and easy to grab a snack and take a break from the drive before heading off to write our guide to quirky Canberra – but what we found was the prettiest historic town centre with a fantastic unique quirk – and we didn’t have to drive miles out of our way to find it.
Our quick stop soon turned into an hour of wandering, photography, shopping – and this blog post on why, I think, Marulan is the best stop on the Sydney to Canberra drive…
The Unique Thing About Marulan
It’s located at a point on the earth known as the 150-degree meridian – this means it’s exactly in the middle of Australia Eastern Standard time – and, on the equinox (around March 20 and Sept 20 each year), the sun rises and sets here at exactly 6 o’clock.
It’s the only town in the world that that happens – which makes it pretty unique.
The town is pretty proud of their claim to fame and has various plaques, clocks and other time-related gubbins around the area to commemorate it.
The most important of these is probably the Meridian Arch, a piece of artwork by local artist Sebastian Meijbaum, that was installed at the entrance to town in 2003 – and which I completely managed to miss as it’s not located on the main street.
You’ll find it in Meridian Park just by the roundabout where you enter or leave the Hume Highway.
The town also holds a kite festival (insert Time Flies joke here) on the day of the September equinox – so, keep an eye out for that if you’re in the area that day.
Check Out These Old Buildings
The first thing I noticed as we drove down George Street, the main thoroughfare in Marulan, was the amazing old buildings.
It was the type of little town I always hope to find on my travels, but never do.
Normally I end up in places that are cute – if you want to buy your own body weight in trinkets or jam – but that have lost their traditional feel – Marulan was totally different. You could feel the history in each bit of flaky paint or wrought iron roof panel.
I didn’t know what was cutest – the bright red antique shop with its old rocking horse in the window, the butchers, the Royal Hotel which used to be the old pub and has retained its intricate facade or the old, currently empty – and therefore before a bit faded and shabby – General Store which looks like something from the Wild West – and is fantastic to photograph because of it.
Look closely in gardens and you’ll also see bits of old farm machinery, faded advertising signs and some cool old cars.
The town developed around 1880 when it was known as Mooroowolen. It wasn’t the plan for the town to develop here, the original settlement was a little bit to the south but the location of the station (which opened in 1868) made this side of town far more desirable location.
At this time the trains didn’t go all the way from Sydney to Melbourne. Instead, people had to get off and change to stagecoaches – and Marulan was where this happened.
A thriving community grow up and, many of the buildings are still intact.
The Historic Marulan Walk
All in all there are 16 buildings on the historic Marulan walk, and plaques alongside many of them fill you in on the history.
You can also download a brochure here – I wish I had done that before we travelled as I did miss a few things.
You can find out a bit more about the town, old and new, at the Discover Marulan site.
The fact that so many original buildings still stand – in whole or part – is just fantastic. And the details on the plaques give you heaps of information about what life in Marulan was like way back when.
I now know that that one very plain looking stone Victorian building once had a skating rink outside, that there’s a 100-year old palm tree in town – and that the original name for the butchers was Feltham’s Butchers and that crowds would line up by the window to be served by Granny Feltham.
I’d quite like to have met Granny Feltham. According to the Marulan Meats Facebook page she started the shop in 1878 and kept serving there until she was 93.
Like everywhere else Marulan can’t escape progression entirely and modern buildings are springing up in town including a new looking shopping centre off the high street.
Even this has a hidden gem in it though – a shop called The Shed. This place made Mr Differentville, who likes all things secondhand (and preferably broken so he can mend them), very happy. It’s full of things that prove the saying One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure.
Personally, I’m lucky I got out of there without buying a piano as they had two upright ones in there for just a few hundred bucks – unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to manifest the house large enough for me to have a piano room in it yet. Hopefully, they’ll still be there once I do!
In fact, if you like vintage goodies, there’s a few shops selling ‘pre-loved’ goodies in town which could be another reason to make it your main stop between Sydney and Canberra.
Himself was desperate to get into New and Then which is located in the old post office and describes itself as selling ‘rescued, renewed, quirky bits and bobs and odds and ends’ but it’s only open at weekends (and sometimes Fridays according to the sign). There are also two antique shops.
Where to Eat in Marulan
While the Royal Hotel above might no longer function as a pub, you’re not going to go hungry or thirsty in town. We saw four potential eateries along George Street.
There’s the Marulan Bakehouse which is perfect if, like me, you think no road trip is complete without a sausage roll.
You could also choose the Marulan Cafe which is located in what’s the new newsagent and post office, The Terminus Hotel (aka the current pub) – or a bit further down, the Meridian Cafe.
The latter had been my original plan as it has the amazing Pooch Wall which contains pictures of 500 dogs – both from the town and around the world.
People now pay to have their dog’s photo added to the wall and the cafe have raised over $10,000 for charity through the idea.
Unfortunately, we were there on a Wednesday – and guess what day they close? So, the Marulan Cafe got our custom – and I can definitely recommend their BLTs as the perfect light snack to fuel your journey.
Is There a Toilet?
There’s probably two reasons most people need a stop on the Sydney to Canberra drive – food/caffeine and to use the bathroom – and I’m pleased to tell you that not only is there a public toilet in Marulan, it’s also decorated with a super cute mural with a possum on one side and a whale on the other.
Admittedly, this was the site of some controversy as this new block replaced an old one which had been painted by members of the local Lions Club – and there were even petitions attempting to keep the old block in place. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but the new mural is pretty cute and was a lovely surprise to find in the park.
It was painted by Goulburn artist Matthew Thompson and is said to reflect day and night – viewed from the side it’s supposed to look almost 3D like with the whale swimming in an aquarium and the possums in a nighttime terrarium.
Yes, I should have read that before I arrived in town too – then I could have photographed it from the side and you could have seen the full effect
But, I guess that just proves what a surprising town Marulan really is. History, art, pooches, vintage treasures and good bacon sandwiches. Not bad for a stop picked totally because it meant we didn’t have to drive too far off the highway!
Where on the Sydney to Canberra Drive is Marulan?
It’s just a little bit past halfway on the 285km journey if you’re travelling along the Hume Highway – aka the M31.
Marulan is located around 165 miles from central Sydney and around 120 miles from Central Canberra.
If you’re looking for another good stopping point not to far off the drive, you might want to consider the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary which is close to Sydney.
See what happened when we stopped there here.
Who Writes Differentville?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author living in Sydney.
My travel articles have been published in titles including The Australian, Body & Soul at the Sunday Telegraph, RAC Horizons, Jetstar magazine and more.
I like the weird, the wonderful and anything that makes me jump and down with glee like I’m about three. That’s what you’ll find here.
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