There are a handful of places that are iconic to the Australian outback landscape, the Devils Marbles sit high on that list. They appear seemingly out of nowhere amongst scenery that, for the most part, is pretty flat. They’re magical, cryptic and a must-see landmark for the Steward Highway.
For us, they were a taster of what was to come with them being our first big stop after leaving Darwin in the Direction of Uluru and eventually, Adelaide. This ancient location blew us away and is another argument for why an outback road trip is a good idea!
Join us while we reminisce about our visit to the Devils Marbles and try to unearth their origins!
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Our experience at the Devils Marbles
By the time we reached the Devils Marbles, we had already been away from civilization (the East Coast) for almost two weeks.
It was hot and we hadn’t showered for what felt like a lifetime when it had probably only been days. It’s amazing what the heat of an Australian Outback summer can do to you.
As we drove South down the Stewart Highway, the landscape began to change and we slowly started to see boulders appearing in the desert around us.
We had arrived at the Devils Marbles without even realising it. We very nearly missed the turning. The first thing that came to my mind as we drove down the entrance track was just how many of them there were!
I had seen photos, but it always seemed to be the same few boulders when in fact there were so many more lining both sides of the track and they were huge.
It was the middle of the day but the lack of shade around the Devils Marbles wasn’t about to stop us exploring. This was a destination that a few years ago I would have only dreamed about visiting, never mind driving here ourself to stand beneath them!
Split Marbles in Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve
After spending some time at the fossil museum in Queensland, we had a better understanding of how these huge carvings came to be around and how they were once part of an ocean floor.
It’s hard to comprehend exactly what type of ‘monsters’ would have once roamed above them while they were flat shelves of the sea bed, not knowing that one day they would become mammoth circular boulders hovering above dry land.
When we pulled up at the car park I eagerly jumped out of the van and ran to the nearest stack of marbles. Stack, you ask. Yep.
Some of these almost perfectly round boulders are stacked on top of each other because apparently being perfectly round in the middle of the desert isn’t law-defying enough as it is!
Walking around the Devils Marbles my mind wandered – as it often does at places like this – to what it must have been like, being an aboriginal, or even an early western explorer, and coming across these for the first time.
They blew my mind even though I had a vague understanding of why and how they were here. Back then they had none of that. I think that’s why I find their dream time stories oddly comforting even though they’re not my beliefs.
After an hour of exploring the Devils Marbles, it became clear to us that it was one of those places that if you looked hard enough you would always find something new and interesting. No matter how many times you’d been before.
Me with the Devils Marbles in Australia
Where are the Devils Marbles in Australia?
The Devils Marbles are both easy to find and hard to get to. Which is what makes them such a unique place to visit and one not that many backpackers do without a tour.
They’re located on the side of Stewarts Highway – the road linking Darwin with Adelaide that passes straight through the arid Red Centre – 11 hours South of Darwin and not quite 20 hours North from Adelaide, so the Devils Marbles are not exactly day trip material.
If you want to visit here, you have to really want it and be prepared to take a road trip through some gnarly conditions.
If you’re flying to the Red Centre to see Uluru and contemplating a ‘quick visit’ to the Devils Marbles from here, be aware that no matter where you fly in to, it’s a bit of a drive.
– Devils Marbles to Uluru is almost 9 hours one way
– Devils Marbles to Alice Springs is 4 hours one way
So while it’s doable, it’s still going to need an overnight stop. Thankfully, there is a campsite at the Devils Marbles but more on that soon!
The road that leads through the Devils Marbles in Australia
Why are they called Devils Marbles?
If you’ve ever seen photos of the Devils Marbles in Australia, the reasoning behind the name is clear.
What many don’t know is what they’re really called and that’s Karlu Karlu.
Karlu Karlu is what the Aboriginals named this site years before western settlers stumbled upon it. It translates to round boulders – again, a name that is clear once you see them.
They became known as the Devils Marbles when they were referred to as such by John Ross, an explorer who was overseeing the Australian Overland Telegraph Expedition – parts of which are still standing and can be seen along Stewarts Highway.
This is the Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place! – John Ross, explorer
Dec with the Devils Marbles in Australia
How were the Devils Marbles Formed?
The Devils Marbles in Australia are an epic example of what happens in nature over time. They’re a geological wonder and like nothing else in the area, which is what makes them worth seeing if you’re driving in the outback!
If you didn’t know, the Australian Outback used to be completely underwater – made clear by the sheer amount of Marine Fossils found in the area. Over millions of years, water levels dropped and the ground was lifted, the granite slowly eroded and the Devils Marbles were formed.
They range from being just 60cm across to a whopping 6 meters! They’re forever changing and what we saw in 2018 may not be the same as what you’ll see in the future.
The Dreamtime story of the Devils Marbles in Australia;
The most fascinating thing about driving through the Australian Outback is learning about Aboriginal Culture and their beliefs.
Whether you chose to believe the same things or not, the Dreamtime stories of how our world became the way it is are really interesting.
The Dreamtime story of the Devils Marbles speaks of an ancient ancestor ‘arrange’ who walked through this area while making a hair string belt – a traditional garment worn by Aboriginal men – and as he did so, he dropped clumps of hair that eventually turned in to the huge red boulders we see today.
Another Dreamtime story that you might have heard is the one about the rainbow serpent and the boulders being her fossilized eggs. This is incorrect.
While it seems like the best story of the two, the rainbow serpent isn’t linked to Karlu Karlu in the Dreamtime stories in the same way it’s linked to Uluru and a few of the local rivers.
If you want to learn more about the Dreamtime stories and the real story of Karlu Karlu, you can do so here.
Our full video of our outback road trip
What to do at the Devils Marbles in Australia?
You’ve driven all this way to see the Devils Marbles in Australia, but what is there to do there?
One of the best things to do at the Devils Marbles is to simply walk around and explore them. Head away from the crowds and discover new boulders that haven’t seen the insta-worthy limelight.
There aren’t any official walking tracks around the Devils Marble as such, but there are plenty of well-worn tracks that you are encouraged to explore, including one that takes you 2km around the boulders and has a few signs scattered along the way.
If you have time on your outback road trip, stay to watch the sunset over the Devils Marbles. Find a high point within the park (but please don’t climb on the boulders) and as the sun goes down you’ll see the rock begin to change colours from a vibrant red to a muted orange. It’s beautiful!
Camping at the Devils Marbles
Camping at the Devils Marbles is highly encouraged but despite its extremely rural location, it still gets really busy in the winter months.
Luckily for us, we were crazy enough to visit the Devils Marbles in the middle of summer and while we didn’t stay overnight, we once again found ourselves to be the only ones walking around there.
The cost of camping is $3.50 per person per night which is paid via envelopes at the site. You’ll find the Devils Marble campsite easily by following the entrance road all the way to the bottom where it’s tucked away in the shadows of a big pile of boulders.
I would say that for those of you who are travelling in massive rigs, camping at the Devils Marbles is still ok! It’s certainly not a site that’s reserved for only smaller vans. However, there’s only enough space for around 20 campers so if you’re huge, park with others in mind!
There’s a free campsite 5km South of the Devils Boulders if you’re here in summer and want something a little more out of the way but I can’t guarantee that it will be much quieter.
If you need a little more comfort for your nights sleep, check out the Devils Marbles hotel!
Best time to visit the Devils Marbles in Australia
Unless you enjoy cooking inside your vehicle – and I mean you’re what’s cooking – you’re probably best to visit during the winter.
As I mentioned previously, we visited the Devils Marbles during summer and while it’s still to this day the best road trip we’ve done, I’m not sure I would do it during December again.
Having said that, the middle of winter is the busiest time to be in the outback because it’s so bearable. So with all this in mind, my ‘professional’ experience would be to visit during autumn or spring, at a ‘midway point’ between too hot to handle and too busy to move.
Me and my trusted scarf at Kata Tjuta National Park
What to take to the Devils Marbles
Water, water water. If you’re driving through the outback you need water. Plenty of it. We had 2 30ltr containers in/on the van, along with 2 personal water bottles each. We filled everything up at every chance we found even if we had only used a couple of litres since the last top-up.
Layers. I mentioned before that there’s very little shade at the Devils Marbles. That doesn’t mean you have to burn to a crisp though. By taking thin layers around with you, you will always have protection from the sun if you start to feel like you’re burning. I wouldn’t have survived in the outback without my thin scarf. I took it ev-ery-where with me and in many of the photos we have – like the one above – I can be seen with it wrapped around one part of my body or another.
Your Camera! You didn’t come all this way to see the Devils Marbles and not take any photos, did you? Even if its the one on your phone, you have to take at least one photo of the Devils Marbles to remember your time there.
Important things to know about the Devils Marbles;
- Please don’t climb on them! Much like Uluru, they’re sacred to the Aboriginal owners and they ask that tourists please don’t climb on them for photos. Not only that, but you wouldn’t want to be responsible for damaging something that’s taken millions of years to make, would you?
- While they’re open 24/7, if you visit in winter please be mindful of the others around you. I’m sure everyone wants to enjoy a bit of serenity while they soak up the magic of this sacred place, don’t be the person who spoils it for everyone.
- There is no fee to enter the park but don’t ‘forget’ to pay you camping fee if you choose to spend the night. Camping at the Devils Marbles only works if everyone is honest.
Are you tempted to visit the Devils Marbles in Australia now? I hope so because it’s an incredible part of the country it really is, and I haven’t even mentioned how amazing the people are out there! Let us know in the comments what you think about driving through the outback, would you ever do it? Maybe you’ve done it already? We’d love to hear your stories!
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Such an interesting sight to visit! I especially liked learning about the Dreamtime stories, the myth and stories behind a destination always adds to the sense of adventure and mystery while travelling there. And loved your photos too, thanks for sharing 🙂
They do, don’t they! I think it helps make you feel a little more connected to a place. Thanks for reading Mohana!
Karlu Karlu is such an amazing place to visit. We spent some time there back in 2016. That was in late August and was still warm during the day! I take my hat off (and then put it straght back on!) to you for doing a road trip down the centre in December. Sorry to be that person, but it’s actually Stuart Highway. Cheers and thanks for a top read.
It’s great, isn’t it! Not sure I’d go back in the middle of summer. Do’h, I knew that! Thank’s for catching that for me
In New England, USA we have glacier erattics, which maybe similar. These random huge boulders are randomly sitting on mountains where they were left by glaciers a long, long time ago.
That’s so cool! The thing with the Devil’s Marbles is there are no mountains nearby. Not even big hills. It’s completely flat for miles.