• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

Iconic Trains of Australia

The vast country of Australia can be explored using various different means – by road, by air, by sea or by rail. Often, a combination of these is preferable, either to see more of the country in a limited timeframe, or to enjoy different experiences and landscapes along the way.

There are a number of iconic trains of Australia, which were built to transport goods as well as to provide a lifeline to many of the remote outback communities found there. Taking one or more of these rail journeys provides a chance to meet the locals, realise the sheer vastness of the country and to enjoy the varied and beautiful landscapes at leisure.

The Ghan

Originally named the ‘Afghan Express’, the route took its name from the migrant cameleers that created a trail into the Red Centre over 150 years ago. The first Ghan train departed from Adelaide in 1929, bound for Stuart (now called Alice Springs). In 1980, a new standard gauge rail track was opened alongside the now obsolete original narrow gauge track. In 2004, the link from Alice Springs to Darwin was completed, and it became possible to travel length of the country by rail. Taking three nights and four days, covering 2979 kilometres, the Ghan now runs from Darwin in the north of the country to Adelaide in the South. With stops in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy it is possible to take the whole journey or just a section of it.

There are three key classes of travel to choose between – Red Service, Gold Service and Platinum Service. For those on a budget, Red Service offers a reclining seat and communal facilities. However, if the budget allows our recommendation would be to opt for Gold or Platinum Service. Gold Service offers a private cabin with upper and lower berths, en suite facilities, meals, selected drinks and off-train excursions included. Almost twice the size of the Gold Service Cabin, and in addition to the Gold inclusions, a Platinum Service Cabin provides ample space to relax in, double or twin beds, transfers at the start and end of your rail journey, in-cabin breakfast and access to the Platinum Lounge.

A journey on the Ghan can be easily combined with a self-drive itinerary between Adelaide and Melbourne (taking in Kangaroo Island, the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road), or from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon and Ayers Rock to explore the Red Centre.

Trains of Australia

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

Indian Pacific

As the name suggest, this rail route links the Indian Ocean in the west with the Pacific Ocean in the east. The route began with two separate routes – one from Perth to Kalgoorlie and one from Port Augusta to Sydney but in order to improve accessibility to the remote colonies of the west, it was determined that a track be run between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta to complete the route. In 1917, the middle section was completed enabling the west and the east to be connected. Originally, passengers had to change train at least five times between Perth and Sydney due to different rail gauges but in 1969 this changed, and it was finally possible to travel from the breadth of the country uninterrupted. The Indian Pacific train took its first journey from Sydney in 1970. Taking three nights and four days, covering 4352 kilometres, the Indian Pacific runs from Perth in the west of the country to Sydney in the east. With stops in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide and Broken Hill en route, it is possible to take the whole journey or just a section of it.

As with the Ghan, the same three key classes of travel are available – Red Service, Gold Service and Platinum Service. A journey on the Indian Pacific works perfectly dove-tailed with a self-drive itinerary at either end, or perhaps alight in Adelaide and explore South Australia.

Trains of Australia

Picture courtesy of Great Southern Rail

Queensland Rail

In Queensland, there are a number of iconic train journeys to consider. These include:

  • The Spirit of Queensland runs from Brisbane to Cairns covering 1681 kilometres in 24 hours
  • The Tilt Train connects Brisbane with Bundaberg and Rockhampton, taking 4.5 hours for the former and 7.5 hours for the latter.
  • The Spirit of the Outback takes passengers from Brisbane to Longreach – connecting the coast with the outback. It covers 1325 kilometres in approximately 24-26 hours.

Other routes include The Westlander, The Inlander, The Kuranda Scenic Railway, The Gulflander and The Savannahlander. Whichever route you choose in Queensland, there are a number of classes of travel to choose from, as well as beautiful scenery to enjoy. These can be easily combined with a self-drive in Queensland or New South Wales.

In summary, Australia offers a fantastic range of beautiful rail journeys – to include one or more in your Australia holiday will enhance your experience and is easily combined with travel by road and by air.

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