Marree – the edge of the outback

by Steven Chater from Trip Plan Australia. Check out Trip Plan’s free Itinerary Planner that will help you make the most of your next road trip through regional and outback Australia.

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.

Road trip planner Australia - town view from Marree Hotel balcony

View from Marree Hotel balcony

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!

Road trip planner Australia - Historic Marree Hotel

Historic Marree Hotel

The other 2-story structure in town is the Lake Eyre Yacht Club whose slogan is “the world’s most exclusive yacht club”!

Road trip planner Australia - Lake Eyre Yacht Club Marree

Lake Eyre Yacht Club, Marree

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.

Road trip planner Australia - Muloorina Station Camping

Muloorina Station Camping

Kudos to the station managers – they must be very smart with their cattle and sheep as the fields are definitely not lush!

Road trip planner Australia - cattle on Muloorina Station

Cattle on Muloorina Station

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.

Road trip planner Australia - at the dog fence Muloorina Station

At the dog fence Muloorina Station

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 …

Road trip planner Australia - Lake Eyre salt pan Level Post Bay

Lake Eyre salt pan, Level Post Bay

… but interesting none the less …

Road trip planner Australia - parks of Lake Eyre sign Level Post Bay

Signage at Level Post Bay

… and beautiful in its own way!

Road trip planner Australia - edge of Lake Eyre at Level Post Bay

Edge of Lake Eyre at Level Post Bay

Another way to see Lake Eyre is by plane, with a number of scenic flight services operating out of Marree.

Road trip planner Australia - view to the airport from Marree Hotel

View to the airport from Marree Hotel

Its definitely easier to get to the airport from your accommodation than in Sydney or Melbourne!

Road trip planner Australia - Lake Eyre from the air

Lake Eyre from the air – a recommended experience

So, where do you go from here? If you are an adventurer, then it’s a matter of stocking up at Marree …

Road trip planner Australia - Marree service station and supplies

Marree service station and supplies

and tossing the coin … will it be up to Queensland on the Birdsville Track, or to Alice Springs via Oodnadatta?

Road trip planner Australia - Oodnadatta Track sign

Oodnadatta Track sign

If we only had the time!