From Darwin, through Katherine, Alice Springs, Coober Pedy and finally to Adelaide, the train journey offers travellers something different each day
In the boundless island continent of Australia, too often visitors and citizens fly right over the top and out of the country rather than seeing whats in the middle. Because of the vast distances of unpopulated areas, Australians and the eight million tourists who visit each year mainly travel the country by aeroplane. We hop from capital city to tourist destination only looking out plane windows to view the barren land beneath. But theres something to be said for seeing the in-between.
Thats what makes the Ghan Expedition so special. The 2,979km train journey allows its guests to see Australia unadorned. The Ghan Expedition is a three-night, four-day journey, starting in Darwin and stopping in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy, before arriving in Adelaide. At every stop, a number of off-board excursions are offered to passengers. Most are included in the cost of the ticket, while some such as scenic flights and helicopter rides are optional extras.
There are two classes on The Ghan, gold and platinum. Gold class includes two single bunks and an ensuite bathroom with a picture window out one side of the train. Platinum class features a double bed and window views out of both sides of the carriage. I travelled in gold class and was impressed by the high level of comfort of the cabin. Space is tight but neatly used. The bed linen is hotel quality. It is folded back and chocolates are left on your pillow each night.
The Ghan is a slick operation. Operator Great Southern Rail, the same company that runs the Indian Pacific Railway, has learned how to make its passengers feel special. Nice little touches such as the Appelles Apothecary toiletry range, made from Australian native ingredients and sourced sustainably round out an excellent menu, great logistics and a clever offering of excursions to make this trip value for money.
Its not cheap (the gold class twin cabin costs $3,299 per person) but if you dont have a lot of time, its a good way to see the centre of Australia and get a taste of Indigenous culture. Its an amuse-bouche, but a splendid one.
People of all ages, classes, backgrounds and nationalities hop aboard this train. Most passengers are retirees, but younger couples are attracted by the increasing number of active off-train excursions, and the impressive food and wine menu. I met couples from Austria, UK and US, and many Australians. I met one couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and another celebrating a 40th birthday.