There is a mysterious appeal about The Ghan. Its reputation precedes it as a transcontinental rail trip of legendary status, a trip of a lifetime. But what is the journey really like as you disappear into Australia’s infamous outback, travelling from coast to coast.
Let’s start with the facts: The Ghan train traverses 2,979 kilometres travelling from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs and then in reverse. The train departs Adelaide every Sunday and takes a leisurely 6 days to complete the round journey.
Included in the journey are stops at Katherine where the outback meets the tropics, Manguri for a special night amongst the stars, Australia’s opal capital Coober Pedy, and the official halfway stop of Alice Springs, gateway to the Red Centre.
Whilst the majority of travellers will only travel one way, the various stops and excellent excursions on both the outbound and return leg lends a strong incentive to complete the entire journey.
The Ghan is a dedicated tourist train, one which many previous travellers correctly refer to as a mobile luxury hotel.
Traversing Australia aboard The Ghan is like a geography lesson in motion. Bluffs emerge from behind misted foregrounds; fields of tall maize sway like waves in the distance and tumble-weeds cartwheel by as red sand is whipped into tiny tornadoes.
You will gaze in wonder at many of Australia’s quintessential landscapes – it is almost like viewing a television documentary through the wide-screen effect of the carriage windows.
Empty ochre deserts to tropical grasslands, arid mountain ranges and vast swathes of scrub land will pass you by. And at the start and end of this mammoth overland adventure you can enjoy dip your toe into ocean blue waters of the Indian Ocean and Timor Sea.
Outback Australia is renown for its unforgiving landscapes, but unlike the pioneers of days gone by, you’ll sail through this harsh world in your deluxe, air-conditioned carriage.
This classic rail holiday is in fact a bewildering triumph of engineering. 127 years in the making with rails laid on some of Australia’s most desolate and flood-prone plains of Australia. It wasn’t until 2004 that the final section of the journey from the Red Centre to Darwin was completed.
Travel in Class
Gone are the days when economy sleeper seats catered for backpackers and budget travellers. Fully renovated as recently as 2016, now there are only two classes – the premium Platinum service or Gold service. Both classes provide cabins with air conditioning, and private en suite bathrooms.
Included in the price of your fare are some of Australia’s finest food and wines which can be enjoyed in the classically styled Queen Adelaide Restaurant Car. Almost every meal boasts a three course menu so you won’t go hungry in the desert. Platinum travellers also have the option to dine in the exclusive Platinum Club.
Ghan Travel Tips
The Gold cabins are not significantly large but they provide enough room for a couple to relax and enjoy the journey. At night-time the Twin cabins in Gold class are converted into bunks and one person will have to climb a small ladder to reach the upper bunk.
Single and Access cabins are available.
The spacious Platinum cabins are almost twice the size of Gold class and you’ll also enjoy a double or twin beds.
The majority of The Ghan’s travellers are aged 60 plus and all excursions are created with this age range very much in mind.
If you are a smoker, you might find the journey tough. There are no windows onboard which open and there are long stretches between stops – up to 18 hours after boarding on the first day from Darwin for example.
Don’t expect WiFi or TV, it simply (and possibly thankfully) doesn’t exist during this journey. But there are plenty of power sockets to keep your camera charged.
The Ghan rail journey can be the highlight of a much larger opportunity to discover Australia’s interior. Take advantage of the excursions or build a larger itinerary that may take in Uluru, or extend your trip to Melbourne and Sydney.
For a selection of Ghan travel options head to our Australia page.
The Ghan 3 days/2 nights, Adelaide to Darwin or vice versa taking you from coast to coast.
The Ghan Expedition 4 days/3 nights, is an extended rail journey including selected off-train excursions.
The Ghan – The Territory Complete 14 days/13 nights, rail package includes 4 day/3 night Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon tour, 1 day Palm Valley 4WD Safari tour and a 2 day/1 night Kakadu National Park and East Alligator River tour
For more in-depth details about The Ghan train prices, seasons, departures or other Australian train journeys feel free to Contact LOCO and we’ll happily answer all your queries.