5 Great Australian Rail Journeys
The sixth largest country in the world, Australia is a destination that poses a unique yet thrilling challenge for visitors keen to see as much as possible on a holiday Down Under. The sheer scale of the Australian continent can make it difficult to tick off multiple items on a travel bucket list in one holiday but there is one brilliant way to incorporate the ever-changing and dramatic landscapes of this country into the time it takes to travel between its cities.
Travelling by train offers a host of benefits for intrepid voyagers eager to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time and means that even the journey is a chance to see the sights. If the idea of rail travel in Australia appeals, discover the greatest Australian rail journeys, some of the best reasons to choose the train and more about the routes on offer.
Exploring Australia by Rail
Australia spans more than 7 million square kilometres. Whilst the size of the country contributes to its incredible geographic diversity and its indisputable abundance of natural wonders, it can also be a stumbling block for visitors who don’t have months to devote to traversing states or travelling from one end of the coast to the other.
Travelling by train is a great option here, not just because it reduces travel times, but also because it offers the opportunity to relax and enjoy the views at the same time. Taking a plane is a rapid way to travel but often this means visitors hop from one major city to another, missing out on sights that can’t be seen above the clouds. Driving is an option too, but when you’re focused on the road, it is difficult to appreciate the scenery that surrounds the highways and outback tracks. Rail journeys offer travel comfort and the ability to break up any journey, add stops, and create an itinerary that enables you to discover more of this beautiful and beguiling country. Travelling by train is also a fantastic way to socialise and share travel tales with other explorers.
Great Australian Rail Journeys
If train journeys in Australia appeal to you, read on to discover the five most iconic and incomparable trains on offer.
1. The Ghan
One of the most famous trains on the planet, The Ghan connects Darwin with Adelaide and provides visitors with access to one of the world’s most enchanting and majestic natural wonders, Uluru.
A four-day, three-night Ghan holiday offers visitors incredible opportunities to witness the rugged beauty of the outback and explore the vibrant cities of Darwin and Adelaide. The trip begins in Darwin and the first port of call is Katherine, where visitors are treated to a leisurely cruise on the Katherine Gorge before climbing back on board to enjoy dinner with sunset views. Day two is all about exploring Alice Springs and the boundless Red Centre. Perhaps the highlight is a classic outback barbecue at dusk with stunning views of burning red rock formations for company. Those who are eager to enjoy the best views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta can book a scenic flight.
The next stop is the world’s mining capital, Coober Pedy. A town that is packed with mysterious underground tunnels and caves, visitors will be blown away by the subterranean Serbian church and lunch will be served beneath the Earth’s surface, a truly unique experience!
Upon leaving Coober Pedy, passengers will be captivated by the other-worldly moonscapes that make up the Breakaways. The final stretch of the journey takes visitors from the scorched, terracotta hues of the outback to the lush meadows and farmland of South Australia. Your trip terminates in the picturesque, lively city of Adelaide. The Ghan Expedition offers adventurers the chance to travel in style, whilst appreciating some of the most spectacular scenery Australia has to offer.
2. Indian Pacific Train
Spanning more than 4,350 kilometres, the Indian Pacific rail route is like no other journey in Australia. A jaw-dropping, beautiful track which stretches from Sydney to Perth, this is a breathtaking voyage that takes in everything from deserts and mountains to mining towns and rolling green hills.
Starting a trip in the enigmatic harbour-front city of Sydney, visitors will make their way to the other side of the country to the pristine, sun-drenched beaches of Perth, taking in four days’ worth of views en route. After leaving Sydney, passengers will be greeted with vistas of the Blue Mountains before crossing lush farmland and whizzing past rustic mining towns to reach the glistening sands of the Nullarbor Desert.
On this route, there are scheduled stops in Adelaide, Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie, with the option to add excursions along the way. Leaving the southern states behind, the journey continues to Western Australia, where the glimmering coastline comes into view. Perth is a stunning city, which is bathed in warm sunlight for the majority of the year and from here it’s possible to explore the West Coast or to enjoy local excursions and outings. A day trip to Rottnest Island comes highly recommended.
The Indian Pacific itinerary runs in both directions, giving visitors the chance to travel from Perth to Sydney or vice versa. Passengers can explore the cities of Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, as well as gazing upon an ever-changing backdrop that showcases the diversity of Australia’s geographical landscapes. Hills turn to deserts, meadows turn to beaches and quaint, old-fashioned towns turn to cosmopolitan cities. The outcome is a fascinating itinerary that will not fail to impress.
Book your Indian Pacific rail journey today.
3. Great Southern
A new tour that encapsulates some of Australia’s most iconic sights, the Great Southern cuts through the coastal towns of New South Wales, the Hunter Valley and the Great Ocean Road.
Leaving the bright lights of Brisbane behind, passengers will head south to the charming coastal resorts of New South Wales, arriving just in time to enjoy an al fresco dinner with sunset views. The next day brings the chance to sample the award-winning produce of the verdant vineyards of the Hunter Valley, one of the most prestigious wine-producing regions in Australia. Explore the wineries, learn how to hone those tasting skills and most importantly, treat your taste buds.
Day three of this magnificent train journey is arguably the highlight. The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous road trip routes but it’s also accessible via rail. Upon reaching a local station, passengers will have the chance to travel to the Twelve Apostles, the most precious gem on the Great Ocean Road’s bejewelled coastline. Marvel at the beauty of the rolling waves that lap against the unique stone stacks and embrace the tranquillity. The coastline in this part of the world is staggeringly beautiful with a wild, rugged edge that distinguishes it from other segments of Australia’s famous shoreline. Towering cliffs, plunging gorges and intricately carved arches and coves linger around every corner.
The final stop on the Great Southern rail itinerary is Adelaide, a city surrounded by meadows and fields, which is ideally located to sample the wines of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale or take short trip over to Kangaroo Island to indulge in some R&R.
4. Spirit of Queensland
A bona fide example of luxury rail travel in the modern world, the Spirit of Queensland is the epitome of travelling in style on the East Coast. Taking passengers between Brisbane and Cairns, this route offers endless ocean views and the chance to explore bustling cities and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. Spanning 1,681 kilometres in 25 hours, this journey provides an incredible snapshot of the visually arresting state of Queensland.
The Spirit of Queensland offers rail beds and a Premium Economy service, with plenty of legroom, in-seat entertainment and on-demand movies. Refreshments are available, guests can use shower facilities and rail bed customers have power sockets adjacent to their seats.
One of the most popular reasons to ride the Spirit of Queensland is to discover the Great Barrier Reef, an underwater marvel that covers hundreds of kilometres off the Queensland Coast. Scattered with islands and packed with vivid reefs and all kinds of marine life, this is a watery wonderland that leaves lasting impressions. From Cairns, it is possible to take day trips to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and to join organised boat cruises and dive tours.
Plan your Spirit of Queensland rail holiday today.
5. The Overland
Connecting three of Australia’s most popular cities, the Overland route enables visitors to enjoy urban adventures in abundance. See the sights without hanging around at airports and enjoy awe-inspiring views en route. Travelling from Sydney to Melbourne to Adelaide, the Overland is a great option for those keen to combine beach days, wildlife encounters and outback exploits with city slicking.
An eight-day rail escape from Sydney on the Overland includes a three-night stay in the hip, modern city of Melbourne. After shopping up a storm and enjoying al fresco drinks and artisan markets on the South Bank, visitors can explore the quirky seaside treasure that is St Kilda and even walk in the footsteps of Kylie and Jason with a tour of the Neighbours set. Back in the heart of the city, there’s a host of bars, restaurants and live music venues to keep guests entertained. Animal lovers should take the opportunity to make the short trip to Phillip Island, which is the home of the much-loved penguin parade. Melbourne is also a haven for sports fans and there’s bound to be a game or a match of some sort on at one of the city’s many sporting venues.
After departing Melbourne and enjoying vistas of the Barossa Valley vineyards, passengers will arrive in Adelaide. Kangaroo Island is a popular day trip, wine tasting excursions are always a hit and Rundle Mall is a great place to stock up on souvenirs. Then, the final leg of this tour takes place on the Indian Pacific train and runs from Adelaide to Sydney. In Sydney, explore the harbour, take a trip to Manly Beach, climb the iconic bridge and catch a show at the Opera House.
Find out more about The Overland route.
Australia is a nation that is primed for exploration on its rail tracks. This vast country has so much to offer visitors who choose to witness it by rail. Enjoy the views, soak up the diverse scenery in comfort and travel in style on one of these great Australian rail journeys.