You can travel pretty much from anywhere to anywhere else on a train in Australia, however, there are a few classic trains that make it more about the journey than the route and are definitely worth planning your itinerary around.
We are looking at two journeys – The Indian Pacific and the Ghan Expedition. Although the itineraries are different each train shares similar hospitality so the details of the cabins/restaurants etc. will apply to both.
Why take the train?
These train journeys are not a cheap way of getting around – what they are, is a luxurious mini-break, a unique land-cruise with ever-changing views. They offer glamour, gourmet cuisine, stops in out of the way places and excursions which are often included. You get a choice of cabin grade and the option to socialise – or not!
Can I move around the train?
Indeed you can! This is the beauty of rail travel; Red Service gives you access to two cafes plus the Outback Explorer Lounge and you can buy off-train excursion tickets. Gold & Platinum guests have access to the Queen Adelaide Restaurant and Platinum guests have their own Club Bar as well.
Where do I sleep?
This will depend on the class you have booked – the more you pay determines your level of comfort – fact! The options start at Red Service going up to Gold Service and Platinum Service. Red gives you a seat with a 45 degree recline with decent leg room and communal shower/toilet facilities. Gold service provides you with a cabin that sleeps two (bunks) with a private shower/WC, by day this converts to a comfortable three seater sofa style seat with large window. Stepping up further to Platinum brings with it a cabin almost twice the size that converts to a double or twin beds by night; altogether a more luxurious offering that includes in-cabin breakfast service and access to the exclusive Club Car for dining and drinks much of which is included in your ticket cost.
How much privacy?
You can book a private carriage which accommodates six or eight people – it is up to you of course whether you fill it or not. The two private suites of rooms are named Sir John Forrest Carriage and the Chairman’s Carriage; you will find benefits such as a private dining room & kitchen, living area and twin/double cabins (ensuite mainly). Gold and Platinum level options have private cabins where you can spend as much time undisturbed as you wish!
The Indian Pacific – Sydney to Perth how far is it?
This epic railway journey from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean - covers over 2,700 miles in four days; it is the equivalent of John o’Groats in the Scottish Highlands to Marrakech.
How long will it take?
You will spend three nights on the train; it leaves around 15.00 on day 1 and arrives in Perth just after 14.00 on day 4.
Are there stops along the way?
Travelling from east to west your stops are:
Broken Hill with a two hour
Adelaide (or Barossa Valley) for almost 6 hours
Cook and Rawlinna of 2.5 hours
Can i get off the train at the stops?
Absolutely! If you are travelling Gold or Platinum service your off-train excursions are including in the cost whilst Red service guests can purchase them ad-hoc.
Broken Hill – Pro Hart Gallery or The Miner’s Museum
Barossa Valley – vineyard tour, Maggie Beer Farm Shop, cookery demonstration and two course meal
Adelaide City – walking tour
Cook – self guided walking tour
Rawlinna Outback Stop – Outback Lamb Roast dinner under Nullarbor skies
Straight or windy track?
The train does take in bends however it also incorporates the world’s longest stretch of straight track at almost 300 miles.
What are the scenery highlights?
You’ll be treated to every landscape that Australia has to offer; from the azure hue that lingers over the lush, majestic Blue Mountains to the desolate vastness of the Nullarbor Plain. You will pass through verdant, romantic vineyards and the pulsating cities of Melbourne and Adelaide.
The Mighty Ghan
This living legend of a train, symbolised by a camel in recognition of the pioneering Afghans, travels vertically through the Red Centre of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide a distance of 1851 miles.
Yes they are going through it down there too, and this epic journey has had its timetable slashed as of July 2016. The operation will become once weekly all year; if your planned trip was off-season it will probably make no difference to you. Also the generous concessions offered to Australian pensioners will be decreased so it is possibly this decision that has prompted the frequency reduction – apparently the fares attracted high numbers of time-rich over 60s.
How long will it take?
The Ghan Expedition from Darwin to Adelaide, takes 3 nights – it departs at 10.00 on day 1 and arrives at 10.45 on day 4. You can take a ‘faster’ train which is in fact just with fewer and shorter stops, this leaves Darwin at 12.15 on day 1 and arrives at 1730 on day 3
Are there stops along the way?
There certainly are, the Ghan Expedition (April to July & November to March) gives particularly long stops to allow for significant excursions:
Katherine 4.5hours on day 1
Alice Springs just short of 12 hours on day 2
Coober Pedy – almost 9 hours on day 3
Can i get off at the stops?
You can do more than that – there is plenty of time allowed for extended trips – a selection of which are included for Gold & Platinum Service guests:
Katherine – cultural experience
Katherine – Nitmiluk Gorge cruise
Katherine – Nitmiluk First Gorge Rock Art cruise
Katherine – canoe Nitmiluk Gorge – 3 hours self-guided
Katherine – optional twin parks scenic flight
Katherine – optional Nitmiluk Gorge helicopter flight
Alice Springs shuttle for exploring at leisure
Alice Springs Desert Park or Alice Springs Explorer
Alice Springs – optional scenic flight & outback BBQ
Alice Springs – Red Centre & outback bush BBQ
Alice Springs – Desert park & outback bush BBQ
Coober Pedy- explore 150million years of history plus opal mining
We’d highly recommend one or even two of these trips; you shorten the journey for example get on at Sydney and go as far as Adelaide on the Indian Pacific or travel from Darwin to Alice Springs on The Ghan. We love these journeys for their romance, individuality and at times spiritual ambience.
Think inside the tracks – take the train!