The Indian Pacific, South Australia © Journey Beyondrail/Andrew Gregory
Australia's best train journeys
Romance awaits aboard Australia’s lavish long-distance sleeper trains.
By Amy Fraser and Krysia Bonkowski
A journey on a sleeper train feels like an adventure from another era, where time is marked only by the passing of the world outside your window. Train travel embodies the spirit of slow travel, reminding us that the journey is as important as the destination. As travellers embrace the romance (and in many cases, the smaller environmental footprint) of trains, it’s time to discover that Australia is made for exploring by rail. Step aboard these sleeper trains and gain a new perspective of our incredible backyard.
The Indian Pacific
Four days, three states, two oceans and one train. The Indian Pacific isn’t just any train journey, it’s an epic escape from day-to-day life, an adventure of a lifetime and one of the best ways to experience the true beauty of Australia. Picture the majestic Blue Mountains in New South Wales, the rolling hills and winding streams of Western Australia’s, the bubble-gum pink lakes of South Australia and the iconic Nullarbor Plain; you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled and your camera at the ready. Choose to hop on at any leg of the journey, or sit back for an epic four days from one ocean to another along the world’s longest stretch of straight railway.
How to experience it: If you’re celebrating a special occasion as a group, book the stylish Chairman’s Carriage for a private party with exceptional food, wine and exclusive services.
The Great Southern
Over three to four days, the Great Southern sweeps through one of the most diverse corners of the nation – venturing from the lush folds of South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, to the rugged Grampians mountain range in Victoria, past the lazuline shores of the New South Wales north coast and on to Brisbane. Four Australian states in a handful of days; it’s the ultimate way to see the country's ever-changing landscapes, all the while indulging in the world-class luxuries. This all-inclusive journey runs only once a year, across summer. The best part? The itinerary changes with the direction, giving you the perfect excuse to hop back on and do it all anew.
How to experience it: You’ll likely encounter a variety of climates on your travels, so be sure to pack smart.
No distractions, no complications, just you and the monumental Australian outback. Traversing almost 3,000km (1,864mi) across some of the most hard-to-reach and jaw-dropping pockets of Australia, the Ghan journey is truly awe-inspiring. Snaking your way through the heart of the outback, you’ll see a new side to Australia – and perhaps yourself. From its stylish interiors to the indulgent day-to-day experiences; the Ghan isn't one of the world’s most celebrated train journeys just for the route – it's the whole romanticised experience that comes together, forming one of the greatest rail journeys of all time. To top it off, you'll have the opportunity to create your own adventure. Choose between a handful of routes and journeys, all of which can be done in reverse.
How to experience it: Treat yourself to one of the Ghan’s extra special experiences like the Alice Springs Outback Balloon Flight – there’s nothing quite like that bird's-eye view.
Spirit of the Outback
Where: Between Brisbane and Longreach
Twenty-six hours and 1,300-odd km (808mi) – that’s all it takes to see the soul of western Queensland. As the Spirit of the Outback sleeper train chugs inland from Brisbane, lush greenery gives way to a land tinted gold and bronze by the sun. Between the Australiana-themed dining cars serving Queensland produce and the cattle stations stretching to meet the endless horizon, it’s an experience unique to this corner of the world. A place steeped in lore and legend – the inspiration for bush poet Banjo Paterson’s ballad “Waltzing Matilda” – the Queensland outback was once roamed by bushrangers, prospectors, and hardy drovers. Their descendants can still be found with an elbow propped on the bar of a local pub in Longreach, your final destination and the heart of the outback.
How to experience it: The Spirit of the Outback runs twice a week from both Brisbane and Longreach year-round. Visit during April, May or October for pleasant temperatures and minimal crowds.