Who hasn’t dreamed of exploring Australia? The Great Barrier Reef and the Great Ocean Road. Beaches and vineyards. Uluru and the Outback. Sydney and Melbourne. Perth and Darwin. No one can accuse Australia of lacking for appealing travel destinations.
However, Australia is also a vast land and a two-week vacation just doesn’t cut it if you’re intent on truly experiencing the place. But a few months during a career break? Now you’re talking. And if you have the time, it’d be a shame to fly from destination to destination and miss the true majesty of the continent. Luckily, Australia has an excellent train system and some of the most famous and breathtaking rail journeys in the world.
Begin with the Indian Pacific, which travels 2,700 miles from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans. The three-day Great Southern Rail journey from Sydney to Perth showcases the diverse landscape of Australia, as it first takes you through the Blue Mountains of New South Wales and then into Adelaide, where you can do a stopover to explore the city (known in some quarters as the “Australian Tuscany“), as well as the nearby Barossa Valley vineyards. Later, the Indian Pacific will take you across the barren Nullarbor Plain, where the trip includes the longest straight stretch of railway in the world at nearly 300 miles.
Then there is The Ghan, the legendary train that bisects Australia from north to south and links the cities of Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin. Another three-day adventure, this trek provides travelers with perspective on the vast emptiness of central Australia. You’ll experience the vaunted Red Centre and can enjoy a stopover in Alice Springs so that you have time to explore the Outback and the dramatic landscape around Uluru.
When you’re not crossing the continent, you’ll no doubt be spending a great deal of time in eastern Australia, visiting the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as such world famous attractions as the Great Barrier Reef, Gold Coast, Great Ocean Road and Tasmania. As you meander through this region of the country there are also superb rail connections for your travels.
The Overland, for instance, runs about 500 miles between Melbourne and Adelaide and provides a link between the Indian Pacific and The Ghan. Additionally, the CountryLink and Queensland rails provide service between Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and other cities.
If you’re planning to do extensive traveling by train in Australia, you should investigate some of the rail passes that are available. These include the Austrail Pass, which provides 15 or 22 non-consecutive days of travel on most of the routes serviced by Great Southern Rail, Queensland Rail and CountryLink.
Australia is a place that deserves to be explored over an extended period of time. And, if you want to really absorb the landscape and the culture there is no better way to do so than to view the country from ground level. So if you’re considering an extended trip to Australia then give some thought to exploring the country by rail.
Great Southern Rail: The railway that services the Indian Pacific, The Ghan, and The Overland routes.
Seat61.com: An excellent resource for international rail travel, with information on routes, ticket prices and classes of service.
International Rail: Information on Australian rail passes.
Photo credit: Bob Riel