Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Marree SA


Postcode: 5733

Marree is a small town located in the north of South Australia. It lies at the junction of the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track, to the south of Lake Eyre.

The area is the home of the Dieri people. The first European to explore the area was Edward John Eyre, who passed through in 1840.

Originally called Hergott Springs, this German town name was changed to Marree during the time of World War I. The Central Australia Railway reached the town in 1884, and the town became a major railhead for the cattle industry. The railway then continued north from the town to Alice Springs (completed in 1929). This was the route of the passenger train known as The Ghan. In 1957, the line south of Marree was rebuilt as standard gauge on a flatter alignment to support moving coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. This made Marree a break-of-gauge on the Ghan as the remainder was still narrow gauge until 1980 when the Adelaide to Alice Springs line was rebuilt much further west and Marree lost its railway completely.

The town was also the home of the legendary Tom Kruse, one of the men who drove the mail trucks from Marree to Birdsville in Queensland, a distance of some 700 kilometres. This route crosses some of the most challenging sandy and stony desert country in Australia, and it was a remarkable feat for fully loaded trucks to make the run at all.

The name “Marree” was referred to briefly around the world when in 1998, a chalk figure etched into the landscape 60 km west of Marree was discovered, dubbed the “Marree Man”. Calls were made to turn it into a state icon but an unimpressed native population preferred to let it fade naturally back into the landscape.

Marree is in the federal Division of Grey and the state Electoral district of Stuart. It is outside of council areas, and administered by the Outback Areas Community Development Trust.