The Indian Pacific, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. © Tourism Western Australia
Experience Australia aboard a sleeper train
Pack your overnight bag and climb aboard one of Australia’s long-distance trains to discover why rail travel is trending like never before.
By 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.
Experience Australia’s newest rail adventure
First there was The Ghan and the Indian Pacific. Now, Australia has gifted us a third bucket-list luxury train journey. 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.
The inaugural journey of this all-inclusive adventure departed late 2019, with just a handful of trips running over summer each year between Adelaide and Brisbane. The best part? The itinerary changes with the direction, giving you the perfect excuse to hop back on and do it all again anew.
It’s the ultimate way for you to experience the big and small towns in the region, all the while indulging in the spectacular world-class luxury experience of the newly fashioned Great Southern. Perfect for groups, or riding solo.
- How to experience it: You’ll likely encounter a variety of different climates on your travels, so be sure to pack smart.
Go it alone on The Ghan
No distractions, no complications, just you and the monumental Australian outback. The Ghan isn’t just one of the world’s great rail journeys, this uber-luxe, all-inclusive train journey between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin in the Northern Territory is also one of the world’s great solo travel adventures thanks to its purpose-built Gold Service Single cabins.
With the option to share many a lavish meal and off-train excursions with your fellow explorers as you speed through the red heart of Australia for three to four days, you can always find companionship when (or if) you want it. But during those quiet moments in your well-appointed cabin, you will find yourself in glorious, one-on-one communion with that mesmerising landscape gliding by.
- 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 birds-eye view.
Journey inside the heart of outback Queensland
Where: Between Brisbane and Longreach on the Spirit of the Outback.
Twenty-six hours and 1,300-odd kilometres (808 miles) – 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.
Traverse the continent on 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 Australia’s truly awe-inspiring landscape. Picture the majestic Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Western Australia’s rolling hills and winding streams, 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 on the Indian Pacific. Choose to hop on between Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, or sit back for an epic four days from one ocean to another along the world’s longest stretch of straight railway.
But it’s not just surreal landscapes and a sense of adventure which you’ll experience on the Indian Pacific. Step out of your cabin and into some of the country’s most bucket-list-worthy experiences, from sipping shiraz in a work of art at d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale to taking a selfie with one of the cutest creatures on the planet on Rottnest Island.
- 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.