If you are wanting to touch the real Australian desert outback then a trip to Marree in South Australia, a town with an incredible history, will provide you with a memorable experience.
Marree sits on the edge of the outback. If you plan to go any further north then you need to be very well prepared. Whereas the drive up from the south, while lengthy, is mainly on tar. There is gravel road above Lyndhurst, however it is not all that long and is well maintained. We even drove it during a bit of rain (a pretty rare occurrence) and had no trouble travelling at a sensible speed.
The town has an incredible history. The aborigines recognized the availability of water and the first european explorers also tapped into the springs.
Marree became an important maintenance point for the Overland Telegraph and, at its height in the middle of the 20th century, was the railhead for the transport of goods and livestock brought down out of the desert from the Northern Territory and western Queensland. Its easy to imagine the joy of the camel train drivers, many of whom were of Afghan descent, and the drovers when they would first sight the Marree date palm trees!
We elected to stay in the original section of the historic hotel, built in 1883. Its not 5-star, but sitting on the balcony watching the sun go down is an experience that you wont get anywhere else!
The other 2-story structure in town is the Lake Eyre Yacht Club whose slogan is “the world’s most exclusive yacht club”!
Call in, as they have some great photos of Lake Eyre filled with water – which happens only a few times a century.
Lake Eyre (indigenous name Kati Thanda) is in fact a few hours out of town, with the 2 access points associated with Marree being Level Post Bay (the closest at just under 100kms) or Halligan Bay. We elected Level Post Bay, which is via a private property called Muloorina Station. The owners are happy to have you come through and have established a camping area up towards the national park.
Kudos to the station managers – they must be very smart with their cattle and sheep as the fields are definitely not lush!
The road up to the camping area is fine, however becomes sandy (and sometimes muddy) on the final 46kms up through the national park section – 4WD recommended.
The photo above was taken when we stopped to open the gate in the dingo fence, that amazing structure that runs all the way from the Daring Downs in south-east Queensland to the Nullabor (see the post Entering Queensland).
As you can see, you’ll need to bring your own food and water for this day trip as there’s not a lot out there …
… but interesting none the less …
… and beautiful in its own way!
Another way to see Lake Eyre is by plane, with a number of scenic flight services operating out of Marree.
Its definitely easier to get to the airport from your accommodation than in Sydney or Melbourne!
So, where do you go from here? If you are an adventurer, then it’s a matter of stocking up at Marree …
and tossing the coin … will it be up to Queensland on the Birdsville Track, or to Alice Springs via Oodnadatta?
If we only had the time!