Marion Island is a youthful intraplate shield volcano in the Southern Ocean, generally considered to represent the location of a mantle plume. New K–Ar age determinations on 37 whole rock samples of so-called older grey basalt from the island range from 450±10 to ~30 ka. The lavas are remarkably fresh and holocrystalline, appearing to be ideal for dating. The age results from two almost vertical sections, where relative age relationships are not in doubt, are in accord with the stratigraphy. A third section gave aberrant ages that indicate the presence of inherited or excess radiogenic argon. This is highly unusual for subaerial flows on an oceanic island. We therefore urge caution in accepting K–Ar ages on samples without stratigraphic control. Volcanic activity on Marion could have been essentially continuous during the last half million years but on the basis of local unconformities and gaps between the measured ages it is considered more likely to have been episodic. Eight periods of effusive activity at approximately 450, 350, 240, 170, 110, 85, 50 and <10 ka ago can be distinguished with varying degrees of confidence. Glacigene deposits that are intercalated with the lavas can be correlated with glacial stages 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 of the Pleistocene time scale based on the marine oxygen isotopic record. Indications are that at least some of the earlier volcanic activity coincided with glacial stages but the two most recent episodes, including the Holocene one extending up to the present, are clearly interglacial.