If you’ve ever dreamed of travelling from one end of Australia to the other, this is the way to do it. From the food to the views, discover why a journey onboard The Ghan should be on your travel bucket list, especially if you’re a fan of iconic rail journeys.
1. The Cinematic Views
Be astounded by the different scenes outside your window as you move from the croc-filled waters of Darwin, to the burnt orange earth around Alice, the silvery scrubs of South Australia and flat-topped Flinders Ranges outside Adelaide. See the purple blaze of an Outback sunset and spy emus and kangaroos bouncing alongside the train.
2. Fine Regional Food
All meals on The Ghan are included and what the chefs produce from the swaying train carriages is truly amazing. (Just how do they get those sauce swirls so perfect!) The menus use specially selected ingredients from the regions you travel through – such as cherries from the Adelaide Hills and lamb from Kangaroo Island – so you can quite literally boast of having eaten your way through Australia.
3. To Go The Distance
The Ghan travels the 3000 kms between Darwin and Adelaide in 3 days – an incredible distance to cover considering you never feel hurried. The train stops at least once a day for guests to enjoy Off Train Excursions, so there’s plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and see the sights beyond the train windows. On our 3-day journey we stopped at Katherine, Alice Springs and Manguri. The Ghan Expedition (4 days/3 nights) offers longer Off Train Excursions including a visit to Cooper Pedy.
4. You’ll Travel In Comfort
Hands up if you don’t like camping? The Ghan, for non-campers like myself, offers the chance to see remote regions of Australia in absolute comfort. With Platinum Service your cabin comes with a double bed (which the staff kindly convert when you’re at dinner each evening) and a full en suite with hot shower and Appelles toiletries. Gold Service passengers sleep in bunk beds and all passengers on The Ghan are treated to wonderful service. Little touches like cold drinks and towels waiting at the train station when you return from excursions and the night cap that’s left in your cabin of an evening ensure you travel in pure comfort. As the train is so exceedingly long (on average 898 metres) there are buggies at each station that can ferry passengers to their carriage. (We preferred to use the opportunity to get some steps in – although never got quite to the 30k steps our restaurant manager Renée achieves in a day!)
5. And Travel In Style
If you like the finer things in life then you’ll love the Platinum Club. This beautiful carriage, decked out with leather booths and brass trimmings, is where Platinum passengers come for meals and socializing. Here you’ll also find games and books as well as a self-service bar with wine, beers and premium spirits. The Queen Adelaide Restaurant is where Gold passengers dine and this is also an opulently decorated carriage with all-inclusive meals and beverages.
6. For The Chance To Ride A Camel Like The Early Explorers
The Ghan is named after the Afghan Cameleers who made early inroads into outback Australia. Camels were introduced into Australia in 1840 and now there’s thought to be over a million of them roaming wild in the outback (although try as I might I never saw one from the train window). So it seems most apt that whilst on this experience one should ride a camel and that opportunity arises at Alice Springs. Pyndan Camel Tracks take you on a 1 hour ride with fantastic views of the MacDonnell Ranges and it’s a perfect way to learn more about the area. Don’t be put off by the humpy beasts either, getting up is the hard bit (remember to lean back), after that it’s breezy. (Don’t believe me? There were 2 ladies on our excursion aged 60 and 80 and they loved it!)
7. To See The Outback Stars Shine
Everyone should see the stars from the Aussie Outback at least once – you won’t believe how many there are! An opportunity to star-gaze is included in The Ghan itinerary via a late night stop at a remote rail siding in Manguri. Staff are on hand to guide you through the night sky and offer a tipple and chocolates around the bonfire too. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the night sky!
8. To Disconnect
There’s no wi-fi on The Ghan and for most of the journey you’ll be travelling through areas with no network service. This is a massive bonus in my books – with no distractions you can simply enjoy the scenery and good company. Something you can tune into is The Ghan audio commentary, where a series of interviews with Outback residents and the dulcet tones of Bruce the train manager tell you more about the areas you pass through as well as the locomotive leading you there.
9. To Make Friends
Before we even boarded The Ghan we met a passenger in Darwin who had just come off the train. “You’ll love it,” she said, “The company onboard is fantastic.” For many, a journey on The Ghan is the chance to while away the hours chatting to new friends about their life and travel experiences. There were a few solo passengers on our trip who had no problem flitting between different groups for dinner and making easy conversation. Platinum Club does offer the chance to dine à deux if you’d like a romantic evening with your partner, but most guests gather for pre-drinks in the lounge and enjoy a natter before dinner.
10. For A Once In A Lifetime Experience
The Ghan runs twice a week in each direction from June to August and just once per week the rest of the year. On our journey we were one of 205 passengers and you feel truly privileged to be one of the lucky few.
Now about that bucket list..
I used the term in this post’s title in its broadest sense – simply to mean this is a journey I recommended you experience once in your lifetime. But by all means do not wait until you are kicking the figurative bucket to experience it! I can see why The Ghan is more attractive to older passengers – the staff make it very easy for all ages and fitness levels to have a comfortable journey – and it is a spendy experience, but I can honestly say that it was no less enjoyable to my husband and I (who are in our early 30s) than it was for the other (slightly more mature) passengers. So if you have the budget and desire to cross Australia in style then don’t wait any longer!
I travelled as a guest of Great Southern Rail. Find out more about the The Ghan journeys here.