Awesome days on board the Ghan Train
Travel across the vast outback from the south to the north of Australia (or vice versa) on the world’s longest north-south rail ride.
By Sue Gough Henly
One of the world’s greatest train excursions, The Ghan, (named after the Afghan cameleers who, from the 1860s to the early 20th century, helped explore and establish infrastructure in the outback) crosses Australia’s vast open areas.
It goes from the pastoral colours of the South Australian hills and plains to the reddish Red Centre and the tropical greens of the Top End.
On the route, you may see the iconic outback cities of Alice Springs and Katherine on whistlestop excursions.
There are two tiers of service: Platinum and Gold, both featuring sleeping cabins. Guests enjoy all-inclusive cocktails and eating in the Platinum Lounge (Platinum Service) or the Outback Explorer Lounge and Queen Adelaide Restaurant (Gold Service) (Gold Service).
You may travel The Ghan in either way between Adelaide and Darwin. You may also take half the route between Alice Springs and Adelaide or Darwin. If you go from Darwin to Adelaide between April and October, the trek takes an additional day and night and is termed The Ghan Expedition.
The Ghan Expedition travel includes an additional stop in South Australia’s Manguri for a day excursion to the world’s opal mining capital, Coober Pedy, where many locals live underground.
What to anticipate
See the huge open landscapes of the Australian outback
Have exciting off-train experiences in Alice Springs and Katherine
Enjoy the wonderful meals and drinks on board
Time: 3-4 days, 2-3 nights
Distance: 2,979 kilometres (1,851 miles) (1,851 miles)
Nearest major city: Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin
DAY 1: ADELAIDE TO THE OUTBACK
Board The Ghan in Adelaide at midday and have lunch as you witness Adelaide’s genteel suburbs roll into pastoral regions and rolling wine country before flattening into rough mallee bush.
Pass via seaside Coonamia and Port Augusta. Cross over the Dingo Barrier – the world’s longest fence, intended to keep dingoes out of southeast Australia – and race into the outback railway station at Cadney Homestead, at the entrance to the Painted Desert.
Look out over the little, rustic railway towns and enormous stretches of Aboriginal territory, where tribes have preserved their relationship with country for thousands of years.
Watch the sun sinking over the wide expanse of the outback as you meet new friends over drinks in the Outback Explorer Lounge. In the classically-styled Queen Adelaide Restaurant, dine on South Australian delicacies from an ever-changing menu that depicts the areas covered by the train.
Finish with a dish of local cheeses, which matches nicely with a substantial red wine from South Australia’s McLaren Vale or Clare Valley regions.
DAY 2: THE OUTBACK
Passengers alight the train at Marla in South Australia, which marks the start of the wild Oodnadatta Track, to watch the dawn and eat a light breakfast in the midst of the outback.
Back on the train, cross the Northern Territory border and travel via the little bush hamlet of Kulgera and across the normally dry Finke River before arriving in Alice Springs at around lunchtime.
Visit the Alice Springs Desert Park to discover more about the scenery that The Ghan crosses. Alternatively, take a tour of the town, where you may see the base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which supplies airborne medical help to Australia’s outback communities.
You may take an extra upgrade and experience a spectacular helicopter tour over the old red MacDonnell Ranges or ride a camel in the desert.
Reboard the train in the late afternoon and journey north into the desert while you have supper in the railway’s Queen Adelaide Restaurant.
DAY 3: KATHERINE TO DARWIN
The train speeds past the gold mining town of Tennant Creek while you’re enjoying breakfast. It stops in the historic pioneering settlement of Katherine, where several trip choices await.
You may take a leisurely sail through Nitmiluk National Park’s Katherine Gorge, and view towering sandstone cliffs and crocodiles lazing in the sun.
Alternatively, travel over to Katherine Outback Experience, owned by multiple Golden Guitar winner Tom Curtain. This excellent presentation celebrates life on the country with authentic horse-starting and working dog demonstrations intertwined with live music and funny bush stories.
Optional upgrades include a spectacular helicopter trip over the 13 gorges of Nitmiluk National Park or a 90-minute fixed-wing scenic flight over both Kakadu and Nitmiluk national parks.
Back on board, have a late lunch as the rainforest of the Northern Territory outback rushes past the window. Pass via the historic gold mine village of Pine Creek and Adelaide River, originally a World War II military headquarters. You’ll roll into the Northern Territory’s tropical capital of Darwin in the evening.
Topic: board the Ghan Train
I am arguably the most popular Australian writer of all time. I am from the town of Karrinyup in rural Western Australia. When I was young, I was fascinated by the unique landscape of Australia, and I decided to support himself by writing books about the Australian landscape.
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