Looking for something different for your next holiday? Train travel is one of the best ways to see the country, without hiring a car and driving thousands of kilometres. Today we're taking a look at the best Australian train journeys.
Australia has some of the world's longest train journeys, such as the Indian Pacific which takes passengers on a 4,000km juggernaut across the country from New South Wales to Western Australia in 4 days, but also some of the oldest passenger locomotives in the country such as the Victorian goldfields railway from Castlemain to Maldon.
Train travel is a great way to meet fellow travellers, experience divine food, wine and great company, plus a way to see the scenery and local way of life, that you simply can't experience anywhere else.
Whether you've got a few hours or a few days, here's the best Australian train journeys that you should go on, at least once in your lifetime!
1. The Indian Pacific
The Indian Pacific includes various rail journeys that showcase the diverse landscapes Australia has to offer. There is the 4 days and 3 nights trip from Perth to Sydney where stops are made at Kalgoorlie, Rawlinna, Cook, Adelaide, Broken Hill and the Blue Mountains.
Adventurers can gaze at the native Australian wildlife in Nullarbor Plain in Cook, and then interact with Broken Hill’s history-rich community. There are various room arrangements available from cabins with shared restrooms to 2-bed single rooms.
All meals and drinks are included in the starting price of $1,819 per person. There is also 2 days and 1-night Sydney to Adelaide journey available where mountain ranges and desert scenery can all be experienced.
There is a stop at Broken Hill for a tour of this cultivated city. All food and beverage costs are included as well and prices start at $639 per person.
2. The Ghan
The Ghan is catered for those who want to experience Australia’s outback and less crowded regions firsthand. The Adelaide to Darwin expedition involves off-rail affairs in Marla, Alice Springs and Katherine.
In Alice Springs, riders have the chance view the beautiful colours of the desert during sunrise and take a tour of the historical telegraph station. A stop at Katherine allows people to truly immerse themselves in Indigenous Australian culture and art with centuries-old rock paintings.
The Nitmiluk Gorge can also be explored where riders are exposed to both the green and rugged landscape by taking a boat ride. The cuisine available reflects the areas visited and all catering costs are incorporated into the starting price of $1,919 per person.
Living arrangements can be as simple or intricate as desired with single cabins to twin-bedrooms offered.
3. The Great Southern
The Great Southern includes a rail expedition from Adelaide to Brisbane, spanning 3 days and 2 nights. Prices begin at $1,779 per person which also covers catering, regular beverages and alcohol.
There is a stop in Grampians, Victoria which is famous for sandstone mountains, Aboriginal rock art and native Australian wildlife. Riders can choose to have a tour and dine in the local region or drive further out as well.
The next stop is at Canberra for a visit to Parliament House and the National War Memorial. Passengers can educate themselves on the history and legacy of these well-known landmarks.
The final stop is at Coffs Harbour which caters to all kinds of people as there is a Boardwalk to Beach trip where passengers can choose to wind down at the beach or visit the lively Harbourside Markets.
When Can I Take The Great Southern Train?
The train only operates for a few months each year, starting in mid September and concluding at the end of summer (Jan or February). In 2021, due to coronavirus the train will only be operating in December and January and spaces are limited.
4. Spirit of the Outback
There are several journeys available with the other to travel from Brisbane to Longreach, Bundaberg to Emerald, Brisbane to Emerald and Longreach to Nambour. The Brisbane to Longreach expedition spans 26 hours and starts at $427 per person.
With this ride, passengers can look out and experience the scenery transform from the bustling metropolitan to the peaceful outback. The Gallery is available onboard for economy and first-class passengers to purchase meals and drinks.
The Tuckerbox Restaurant is specifically catered to first-class customers where ingredients are sourced from Queensland to serve high-quality and fresh food. Accommodation arrangements on this ride range from a standard economy seat to a first-class private cabin.
The first-class option also includes media content available on a tablet and a dedicated plug for phones and laptops. The Brisbane to Longreach trip is a great choice for a short getaway.
5. Kuranda Scenic Railway
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is an ideal journey for those who want to fully immerse themselves in the natural wonders in Queensland. The trip starts at Cairns and ends in Kuranda where a 1 hour and 45-minute train ride will lead passengers through 15 tunnels and over 37 bridges.
There is a 10-minute break at the Barron Falls Station for an unobstructed view of Barron Falls. Return ticket prices start at $76 per person for the Heritage Class and $174 for Gold Class. Gold Class includes luxurious lounges with light meals and beverages as well as a gift pack.
Heritage Class passengers can buy refreshments in the Tea Room, onboard the train. There are other options to include cable rides and viewing the Kuranda rainforest and wildlife. There is also a package which includes learning about Aboriginal traditions from the Aboriginal community.
6. Puffing Billy Railway
Puffing Billy Railway offers various train rides to scenic and green regions on the outskirts of Melbourne. A typical trip begins at Belgrave where passengers ride is later immersed in the green Sherbrooke Forest.
In Sherbrooke Forest, Mountain Ash trees, which are known as the world’s largest flowering plants can be viewed without obstruction. The train will cross the historic Monbulk Creek trestle bridge which is constructed out of native timber.
The train that passengers ride on is a 100-year old steam locomotive that runs on coal. Thus, it is highly recommended that customers carry hats and sunglasses to keep soot out.
There are various rides available that usually start from Belgrave and end at Menzies Creek, Emerald, Lakeside or Gembrook. From Belgrave to Lakeside, an adult ticket costs $57. From Belgrave to Gembrook, that price will jump to $75 per adult.
7. Victorian Goldfields Railway
The Victorian Goldfields Railway offers family and first-class experiences, as well as the opportunity to drive a train. Passengers can ride on a classic steam locomotive from the culture-rich region of Castlemaine to Maldon or vice-versa.
Castlemain houses the historical Theatre Royal, which is still operating. In Maldon, passengers can immerse themselves in architecture from the gold-rush days.
There is also the option to visit the Maldon Vintage Machinery Museum which has no admission cost and offers insight into the region’s industrial history. Besides, a typical train ride, there is also the option to drive an authentic steam or diesel train.
A return ticket for Castlemaine and Maldon costs $50 for an adult and $110 for a family of 5. There is also a first-class option which costs $70 for an adult but no family options available.
What’s the longest train journey in Australia?
Currently the longest train journey is the Indian Pacific which is 4,352km from Sydney to Perth. This journey also includes the world's longest straight track, with a section of the journey through the desert being 478km in a straight line.
The world's longest passenger train was achieved by the Ghan in 2016 when they had 44 coaches attached to the main locomotive, strethcing over 1,096m or six times around the Adelaide Oval.
What's the worlds longest train journey?
While Australia has some of the longest train journeys in the world, it's eclipsed by the Trans Siberian Express (how to book) which starts in Moscow and travels over 9,000km to Vladivostok. The journey takes 6 days and 5 nights, which is 2-3 nights longer than the Indian Pacific in Australia.
In terms of the worlds longest train journeys, Australia's Indian Pacific is the 21st longest in the world with most of the previous 20 being located in Russia and China. The only Western route that is longer is the The Canadian, from Toronto to Canada at 92 hours and 4,466km.
The longest train journey is the once a month service from Moscow to Pyongyang in North Korea operated by Korean State Railway which takes 206 hours (8.5 days), makes 157 scheduled stops and covers a distance of 10,267km! Wow.