Background The native Australian fly Drosophila serrata belongs to the highly speciose montium subgroup of the melanogaster species group. It has recently emerged as an excellent model system with which to address a number of important questions, including the evolution of traits under sexual selection and traits involved in climatic adaptation along latitudinal gradients. Understanding the molecular genetic basis of such traits has been limited by a lack of genomic resources for this species. Here, we present the first expressed sequence tag (EST) collection for D. serrata that will enable the identification of genes underlying sexually-selected phenotypes and physiological responses to environmental change and may help resolve controversial phylogenetic relationships within the montium subgroup. Results A normalized cDNA library was constructed from whole fly bodies at several developmental stages, including larvae and adults. Assembly of 11,616 clones sequenced from the 3' end allowed us to identify 6,607 unique contigs, of which at least 90% encoded peptides. Partial transcripts were discovered from a variety of genes of evolutionary interest by BLASTing contigs against the 12 Drosophila genomes currently sequenced. By incorporating into the cDNA library multiple individuals from populations spanning a large portion of the geographical range of D. serrata, we were able to identify 11,057 putative single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), with 278 different contigs having at least one "double hit" SNP that is highly likely to be a real polymorphism. At least 394 EST-associated microsatellite markers, representing 355 different contigs, were also found, providing an additional set of genetic markers. The assembled EST library is available online at . Conclusion We have provided the first gene collection and largest set of polymorphic genetic markers, to date, for the fly D. serrata. The EST collection will provide much needed genomic resources for this model species and facilitate comparative evolutionary studies within the montium subgroup of the D. melanogaster lineage.