The Ghan: The Train Journey of a Lifetime

December 4, 2020

The Ghan is back on track. After a five-month long hiatus due to COVID-19, the longest it’s been off the rails during its nine-decade history of traversing the length of our sunburnt country from Darwin to Adelaide and vice-versa. At almost three thousand km over the course of 3 days and 2 nights, it’s truly an epic rail journey, considered one of the world’s best – definitely deserving a spot on the good ol’ Aussie bucket list. In a world where fast, no-frills travel could take you quickly across the globe until very recently, where border closures and social distancing have redefined what it means to travel, and where we’re increasingly realising the beauty of our own backyards, Aussie travellers are more and more exploring what makes our country so special. We’re slowing down and appreciating the little things, and this makes the romance of train travel is so appealing: getting to know your fellow passengers over a few days, relaxing in luxury, and having a trip where the journey isn’t a nuisance, but rather an incredible experience.

So, what’s the Ghan like?

The Ghan: So much more than “just” transit from Adelaide to Darwin, The Ghan comes with plenty of off-train experiences so that you can get in touch with the beating heart and frontier spirit of Australia – from cruising down the remote Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, to walking the iconic Simpsons Gap, and guided tours of Alice Springs Desert Park. Immerse yourself in Adelaide’s unique creativity and beauty, experience authentic outback life on a cattle station, be humbled by the rugged scenery of the Red Centre, and explore the Northern Territory on camelback like the cameleers from whom the Ghan (The Afghan Express) took its name. (Incidentally, If you’d like to know more about the Ghan and its colourful history, check out The Ghan on the Journey Beyond Rail website. You’ll also find the Great Southern and the Indian Express here; serious fodder for your train travel bug).

There’s also various packages available to make even more of your trip, like the extraordinary 7-day Kakadu Splendour tour taking you into the heart of this World Heritage-listed wonderland, and the 14-day The Territory Complete tour, immersing you in the Outback as you visit Uluru, cruise Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge and tour Kakadu. You’ll see some of the best that the Territory (and indeed, Australia) has to offer.

While you’re on board, you’ll never be bored (excuse the pun): the all-inclusive meals, fine wines and beverages are fantastic, the cabins are gorgeous, and the staff are attentive, all making for a very luxurious experience. You’ll pass by some incredible sights, including the Flinders Ranges, some of the world’s oldest rock formations. Plenty of Instagram fodder awaits!

Oh, the places you’ll go

The Ghan stops in Adelaide, Manguri, Marla, Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin. We’ve written extensively on the last three in our recent post Your Bucket-List NT Adventure; head on over to find plenty of extraordinary things to do in the Territory, from sharing damper with the “morning tea ladies” in the very special Tiwi Islands, to being amazed by the beauty of the World Heritage Listed Uluru & Kata Tjuṯa, and relaxing your travel-weary bones in the Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs Park.

We’ve also written up a traveller’s guide to Adelaide; with its iconic gourmet experiences, stunning gardens and parks, and top-notch museums and galleries, you’ll be able to see why The Economist ranked Adelaide the tenth most liveable world city. (You had us at the delish cheese!)

Manguri and Marla are likely less familiar names, and that’s a bit part of their appeal: these tiny remote towns are peak Outback SA. There’s not much there in these stopover towns, and that’s just how the locals like it. In Manguri, you’ll have a truly iconic off-train experience that’s loved by passengers: gathering around a bonfire beneath a deep-red Outback sunset; in Marla, you’ll wake-up to a stunning sunrise as you enjoy a light breakfast and the back-of-beyond vibes.

Want to know more? Head over to the folks at Journey Beyond Rail for this and more epic Aussie train trips, and get in touch with an ATAS-accredited travel agent to discover how you can make even more of your NT-SA journey.

Looking for more true-blue Aussie travel tips and insight from ATAS? Check out our traveller’s guide to SA, uncover Perth’s hidden gems, and find out why Hobart is for lovers


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