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You don’t usually expect to see such incredible sights along the side of a highway, but that’s what makes the Australian outback even more surprising. The Stewart Highway runs right through the middle of the country, connecting Adelaide directly to Darwin and right around x is where you’ll almost drive right into the Devils Marbles.
These gigantic granite structures are truly unique and no matter how many photos you might have seen, you won’t be prepared for the scale of them and the vastness of the landscape. They hold a lot of significance to the Warumungu Aboriginal people and a visit to the Devils Marbles (traditionally named Karlu Karlu) is somewhere you can’t miss.
For myself, and I think many of you, this spot won’t be somewhere you’ll be passing through again any time soon, so I’ve put together this guide to help you make the most of your time visiting the Devils Marbles on your Aussie road trip.
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Take a closer look at the Devils Marbles in my video:
How were the Devils Marbles formed and why are they so important?
The structures you can see today started life millions of years ago when molten rock was pushed up to the earth’s surface and formed one giant slab of granite. Over time, cracks formed and rectangular chunks of different sizes dropped off and erosion gradually smoothed away the edges making them nice and marble shaped. The sizes vary massively and some are still more rectangular than others.
For the local Aboriginal people, the Devils Marbles, or Karlu Karlu are a key part of the creation story. It is a sacred site for them and the reserve is actually considered to be a dangerous area for many Aboriginal men and women. The Dreaming story of how the Devils Marbles came to be tells of the Devil man, Arrange, passing through the area whilst making a hair belt. As some of the hair fell to the floor as he wove the strands, rocks formed which are the boulders there today.
So, where are the Devils Marbles?
Some hot spots in Australia require you to spend half your day detouring to them. But some are located right en route – like the Devils Marbles. And when I mean right en route, I mean you really can’t miss them. These impressive structures are literally on the roadside, so whether you have time to stay overnight or not, you can really easily experience them. For us, they were the perfect spot to rest up for our trip to Uluru and then again, to Darwin. Yeah, they’re that awesome we visited them twice!
Distance from Alice Springs – 4.5 hours, 412km north of Alice Springs
Distance from Darwin – 12 hours, 1084km south of Darwin
Where to stay when visiting the Devils Marbles
The great news is, you can stay right in the middle of the conservation reserve, completely surrounded by the rocks. The Karlu Karlu campground is just a couple of minutes drive off of the Stuart Highway and costs just $3.30 per person per night. There are basic drop toilets and nothing else, but the location well and truly makes up for the simplicity. This is what camping is all about anyway! I recommend you get there early as it was packed when I stayed and many people travel in Caravans so require a large space. The campsite is really easy to find on Wikicamps, and if you’re new to the app, check out my guide here for some handy tips.
What to bring with you
You will probably be well stocked up anyway if you’re road tripping through the outback, but it’s important to note that there are no shops or fuel stations at the Devils Marbles at all. We came down from the North and the nearest facilities are in Tennant Creek, an hours drive away.
Aside from this, here’s what I recommend you bring:
Fly net – the flies were pretty bad when I visited in May, and no amount of vanity could make me not want to use one. They will drive you mad! The nets Tom and I bought had a hat attached to the net but they were a bit annoying and ill-fitting, so I recommend getting ones like these so you can wear them how you prefer.
Plenty of water – there is no water available here (drinking or non-drinking) so you need to make sure you have enough for flasks as well as cooking and cleaning. We have 2 x 20l jerry cans that we fill up whenever we can and have 2 flasks we carry with us while walking around.
Trainers/ walking shoes – The walks from the campsite are easy grades but I still recommend having shoes with a decent grip on them. I wore my Nike trainers and they were fine for the job.
Sunscreen – It won’t come as a surprise to you that the outback gets hot, and with limited shade at the Devils Marbles, it’s important to wear high factor sunscreen and plenty of it.
Hand sanitiser – You’re camping and the facilities are basic… you get the picture!
When is the best time to visit the Devils Marbles?
The great Australian outback can be excruciatingly hot in the summer months between November – February but in the winter can be a pretty chilly 20 something degrees. Of course, it can vary like crazy, especially as you’re in the desert. We visited in May and found our first visit to be nice and toasty, but the second time around we needed jeans and coats!
What to expect when you visit the Devils Marbles
Before I arrived, I was completely under the impression that there is a couple of these massive marbles and that was in. Oh, how Instagram is busy fooling us again! The Devils Marble conservation reserve actually 1802 hectares and the huge granite formations cover it – a far cry from the 2 rocks that usually get showcased. There are so many of the marbles to explore and a number of walking routes to choose from.
It’s important to note photos are not permitted in some areas of the park due to their spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people. Please take care to read the signs to be respectful travellers.
How to spend a day at the Devils Marbles
Be sure to arrive late morning at the Karlu Karlu campground as spaces fill up pretty quick. On your way in, be sure to pick up an envelope and pay the small fee for your permit to camp the night. I recommend parking a little way away from either of the 2 sets of toilets just for a little more privacy and peace and quiet. The campsite is easily one of the most beautiful ones we have stayed at, and there are some great walks that lead straight from the camp to help you explore the reserve. They aren’t massive walks so you can spend plenty of time just relaxing rather than rushing to fit it in.
From the campsite, start the Yakkula Walk which will take you on a loop around a good-sized section of the reserve, giving you a great feel for this beautiful area. As you walk around, take care to note any signs stating that photography is not permitted and be sure to stay on the route to respect the spiritual significance of the area.
Nothing beats a beautiful sunset over an incredible landscape, and that’s exactly what you get here. About an hour before sunset, take the Mayijangu walking route, a short track that will take you right through the most impressive part of the park. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the huge structures and leave you wondering how on earth some of them are balancing!
As the sun starts to go down, finish up at the Nyanjiki Lookout. Here you will be able to see for miles across the reserve and really get a hold on how big the area covers. The view from up here is amazing so sit back and enjoy it.
If you love stargazing, you’re in for a right treat here! Walk a little way back up the dirt track that you drove in on and you’ll be well away from all the light pollution and see nothing but stars!
The next morning
After a peaceful night under the stars, I recommend doing one last walk in the morning before it gets warm. The Nurrku walk loops you around the other section of the park, allowing you to see some different structures and a slightly flatter landscape. This track joins on to the Karlu Karlu walk and leads you over towards the day use area which has wifi if you want to connect up with the rest of the world (or show off your day to everyone)!