Posted by: debrakolkka | December 7, 2010

Marree – outback South Australia

Marree sits on the junction of the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track – a very remote area in South Australia.  We stopped there to refuel and have lunch on our flight over Lake Eyre, the Channel Country and Birdsville.  It is not a big town, but it was very interesting.  Outback Australia is fascinating.

we were too late for the camel races

The town was laid out in 1883 and the railway reached the town in December 1883 and officially opened in early 1884.  The town was originally named Hergott Springs and was an important watering place and camp site, marking the parting of ways to the Northern Territory and Queensland.  The name was changed to Marree in 1918 as a result of anti German feeling in WWI.  Nearly all German names were removed from the map in 1918.  There would have been quite a few as there were many German settlers in South Australia. Very few of the old names have been restored.

the Marree Pub

The Marree Pub was built in 1884 in anticipation of the Great Northern Railway.  Until 1952 steam trains ran through Marree, when they were replaced with diesel- electric.  In 1957 Standard Guage came.  Marree was an important railway town and houses were built to accommodate at least 85 workers.  The town was effectively killed when in 1980 the narrow guage line was closed, thus ending the running of the old Ghan train.  Many railway workers had to leave Marree.   Most of the deserted houses were auctioned off and now only one train a week comes to Marree.  Today, instead of railway workers, people from all over the world come to the region to see Lake Eyre or travel the iconic routes that opened up inland Australia.

the start of the Oodnadatta Track

old railway sign

one of the old trains

even older

a bit of the old track

the largely deserted railway station

an old bullock wagon

remembering the camels

Camels with their Afgan handlers were an important part of the early days in outback Australia.

not much is left of the town

an open air museum

Tom Kruse's mail truck

Tom Kruse ( not that Tom Cruise) ran the Marree-Birdsville mail run until 1963 and P. Smith until 1975, when a weekly air service took over.  These men were known for their ingenuity in keeping the vehicles going in the most trying conditions – the mail must get through.

a splash of colour in Marree

evidence of a wet season

On the way into the town our pilot was kind enough to point out a plane that had crashed nearby.  Fortunately the pilot and all passengers survived, but it is not really what you want to hear about when you are flying about in a tiny plane. 

it is the white spot in the lower right corner

flying into Marree

The country around Marree would normally be all brown.  The splashes of green are a rare occurrance.


  1. The pictures are fantastic. Really fantastic.

    • Thank you.

  2. It really is very green for the outback at this time. Apparently I’ve been to Birdsville, although I was too little to remember…. my parents did a bit of an around Australia trip…., got lots of 1980’s version of Birdsville races but its good to see it again through your lenses.

    • We went to Birdsville as well – there will be a post on it soon.

  3. Ooh I am going to forward a link to this to Him Indoors, he is a steam train enthusiast and railways fanatic and he will find this very exciting. I am partial to the odd blast of the whistle as well… though we haven’t been doing much steam spotting lately. He’ll want to go to Australia now.. 😉

  4. Thanks for the great photos, and for reminding me…

    I drove the Oodnadatta Track about 20 years ago, also just after rain – a memorable experience, though rather unnerving too – not seeing another vehicle all day.

  5. That was kind of the pilot to let you know where the plane crash had been!
    You wouldn’t be able to stop my kids climbing all over that old steam engine, probably singing Thomas the Tank Engine as they did. I’ve never been that far west…lovely photos

  6. I travelled the Red Centre on a school trip in 1972. It seems not to have changed in 38 years!

  7. You are an amazing photogrpaher Deb, I love the clarity of the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that remote in Australia. Great photos!

  9. What a contrast to Bagni di Lucca! Beautiful in its own way, but so different.

    • Australia is huge and central Australia is incredibly beautiful -completely different from gorgeous Tuscany – but wonderful.

  10. Driving the Oodnadatta Track is another thing I’d love to do one day… and I completely agree about not wanting to hear about plane crashes while flying!

  11. Great photos. You really put us there. I like how the colors of the objects in the town seem to be a part of the natural earth of the land. Thanks for the history lesson too.
    I must admit, this doesn’t look like a town that you want your car to stall in. I’d start thinking I was Mad Max in ‘The Road Warrior.’

    • I will be putting up a post soon on Coober Pedy, where parts of Mad Max were filmed.

  12. […] flew in a light plane over Lake Eyre, full of water, and visited some iconic outback towns, Maree, Coober Pedy and Birdsville – what fun!  outback […]

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