sandy outback road

Marree - South Australia

Where the history of the inland was written


Marree is a fascinating tiny settlement in Outback South Australia. The town is situated on a barren gibber plain a few kilometers from the Hergott Springs which gave the town its initial name.

railway buildings in marree
Abandoned railway platform and locomotives in Marree

The town is only about 685 km north of Adelaide, but it seems to be in a different world. Despite the desolate surroundings it is a good place to stay before you go on either the Oodnadatta Track or the Birdsville Track.

Marree's proximity to Lake Eyre also attracts many visitors, especially when there is water in the usually dry lake. It can get fairly busy then.

Believe it or not, this is one of my favourite Australian Outback towns. Actually, I already visited this wonderful place three times, and it never bores me.
There are always changes, good and bad, but I am convinced the locals will continue in their struggle for keeping the town on the map.

You can easily spend a day or more exploring the relics of the town's heydays as a thriving railway settlement. The history of these remote Outback towns fascinates me a lot.

Take your time, relax and have a chat with the locals and fellow travellers.

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Marree's History

historic sign
Follow the Old Ghan Heritage Trail
A camp near the Hergott Springs was built to support workers on the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1870s. The town Marree was established in 1883, but it was called Hergott Springs until 1916. When the Ghan Railway reached Hergott Springs in 1884, the settlement developed rapidly to a population of 600, and into a major centre in the area.

Fettler cottages were built for railway workers. They are the oldest surviving railway buildings in town.
Cattle was driven down from Queensland and the Northern Territory and then transported to Adelaide by train.
Camel trains carried supplies from the railhead to stations and settlements further north. A large community of Afghan cameleers and their families settled in their own "Ghantown". These Afghan cameleers played an important role in opening up the harsh inland of Australia. Some of their descendants still live in Marree.

When the Ghan line was replaced 200 km to the west in 1980, the town's population went down to around 100. Thankfully, Marree is still on the map today, and a wonderful place to stop for adventurous travellers to the Outback.

Quick Facts

Population: 70 (2006 census)
Location: Approx. 680 km north of Adelaide on the Oodnadatta Track
State: South Australia
Post Code: 5733
Elevation: 49m
Time Zone: Central Standard Time (CST), Daylight Saving between October and April
Climate & Best time to visit:
Marree has a hot & dry climate. Summers will be very hot, with average maximum temperature over 30°C from November to March. More than 40°C is not uncommon during summer. Winter has warm days and cold nights.
The rare rainfalls can happen anytime during the year. Although there are only 30 rain days on average per year, the heavy downpours can close roads in the area.
April to October is the best time to visit.
Facilities include:
Hotel, Cabins, Caravan Park,
Petrol Station, Supermarket,
Health Service, Police Station, Internet & IT Centre

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Points of Interest

  • The Great Northern Hotel (1883), also called Marree Hotel, is the oldest stone building in town.
    Don't miss the opportunity of having a cool drink and a chat with the locals in this unique Outback pub.
    The hotel also has air-conditioned rooms with ensuite and shared bathrooms.
    Check out the Marree Hotel
  • Museum Park opposite the hotel has a collection of memorabilia right in the town centre. See the old mail truck which Tom Kruse used for many years to bring the mail from Marree to Birdsville.
    There are also information boards about the great Australian basin, and the mound springs that supply water in this region.
  • Railway station - You'll be surprised to see the huge concrete platform in a tiny town like this. Imagine how busy the station was when a train arrived once or twice a week. The railway was the connection to the bigger towns down south, a true lifeline for people in the remote Outback.
    Locomotives & railway carriages are spread around town, some are even used as homes today
  • A replica of an Afghan mosque, made from bush materials, reminds on the early days of the ghan town. Descendants of those Afghan cameleers, who helped to build the Overland Telegraph and the Ghan railway line, live still in town.
    Unfortunately, the mosque was pretty much fallen apart on my last visit. Hopefully it will be restored one day as a wonderful reminder of the past.
  • The Camel sundial is made from old railway sleepers and shows the exact time! It's another reminder on the Afghans, Australian camels, and the impact the had on developing the Outback.
  • Arabunna centre - The museum and community centre of the local Aborigines is worth a visit. Arabunna Aboriginal tours, operated by Reg Dodd, show visitors the natural and heritage beauty of the Lake Eyre region and the Oodnadatta Track.
Don't miss to visit the Hergott Springs and the cemetery, both are only a few kilometres drive from the town.
  • Hergott Springs, one of many artesian springs along the Oodnadatta Track. The artesian springs helped the early explorers to push further into the Australian Outback.
  • The cemetery is a place of special interest. There are three sections which represent the town's cultural groups: European, Aboriginal and Afghan. It is still in use.

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Events in Marree

Marree Picnic Races and Bronco Branding held on the Queens Birthday long weekend in June, with the Bronco Branding following the next weekend.

The Camel Cup held in July.

Marree Gymkhana in October is a fun day for horse riders and families.

Impressions of Marree

old outback pub
The Great Northern Hotel
wooden camel
Wooden Camel Sundial
old locomotive in the outback
Old Ghan railway locomotive
old grave stones
Marree Cemetery
waterhole in a barren outback landscape
Hergott Springs

Drive outside town to feel the isolation and loneliness. Marree's wide streets wear off in the desert, you just feel overwhelmed by the immense vastness.

Follow my journeys along the Oodnadatta Track or hit the Birdsville Track from Marree

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