Who’d have thought that a tiny outback town like Marree could have such a fascinating story!
Marree was a cultural melting-pot of Afghan cameleers, European settlers and local Aboriginal peoples – the Guyani, the Dieri and Arabunna.
Although the different cultures intermingled in the town’s shops, coffee palaces and railway station, they lived in separate areas. Even the cemetery was separated by culture. You can still see this today by reading the cemetery’s gravestones.
Winding back a bit, in 1859 German botanist Joseph Albert Hergott discovered some springs whilst on an expedition with explorer and surveyor John McDouall Stuart. The springs made it possible for the area to be settled and so a town grew up.
The ‘Afghan’ cameleers arrived in 1866. Most of them actually came from Baluchistan. Strings of 100 camels began carting food and supplies up and down the Birdsville Track. They provided a vital service for settlers further north.
Marree was laid out in 1883 but it was then called Hergott Springs. In 1884, the railway began to operate and Marree became both a telegraph station and the base for the Birdsville Track.
In 1914 World War I broke out and Hergott Springs was renamed Marree.
Marree boomed around 1957 when it became the transhipping location for everything going by rail to Alice Springs. The railway line north to Alice was narrow gauge and the track south of Marree was standard gauge, so everything had to be taken off one train and put on another.
In 1981 the railway line was diverted through Tarcoola and Marree became a tiny settlement of 70 people.
For more information, see the Things to do in Marree page.