The experience of a lifetime…
A luxury train journey across Australia aboard the iconic Indian Pacific Train, traversing the continent all the way from Perth on the West Coast to Sydney in the East.
The raw beauty of the Australian Outback, the lovely valleys of Avon and Barossa, sprawling gold rush towns as rare signs of life, and finally the mythical Blue Mountains on the way to Sydney.
In May 2016, I was finally able to embark on this magnificent journey, courtesy of Great Southern Rail who run both the Indian Pacific and The Ghan, the other legendary Australian train that covers the North – South axis (Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin).
Even as a seasoned travel writer I glady admit – I was excited for weeks!
Indian Pacific Train Itinerary
The Indian Pacific is named after the two oceans it links and covers the following itinerary on a 4-day journey:
The trip is 4,352km long and famously includes the longest stretch of straight rail line in the world – 478km across the Nullarbor Plain.
Service onboard features a Gold Service (formerly First Class) and the newly added Platinum Service. Red Service (Tourist Class) has since been terminated though there were still a few compartments on my trip.
I was to travel in one of the Gold Service Cabins and was very much looking forward to some quiet time and solitude after an active month of road tripping all over New Zealand.
I would not be disappointed….
Day 1: Perth via Avon Valley to Kalgoorlie
The journey started at Perth Railway Station on a beautiful Sunday morning. We were greeted with a lovely breakfast and music, right on the platform:
Gold Service Cabin
Boarding the train was another fun adventure as I was led to my private cabin, my home for the next 4 days:
Ensuite bathroom and shower.
Then the journey began….
Outback Explorer Lounge & Queen Adelaide Restaurant
Feeling the urge for some “libation” I headed over to the bar and beautiful lounge area – the “Outback Explorer Lounge”…
Lunch was served in the gorgeous Queen Adelaide Restaurant right next to the lounge amidst luscious Victorian splendour. Lunch and dinner consisted of 3 delicious courses with various appetizer, main course and desert choices, including a vegetarian option.
We were certainly not starving on this trip….
The afternoon was spent reading, listening to music and simply enjoying the natural beauty outside. As a born hermit I loved the quiet and peacefulness of the journey. The lack of wifi and phone service only added to the relaxing vibe of this trip.
Excursion 1: Kalgoorlie – The Golden City
Four off-train excursions added some variety and the first led us to the legendary gold mining town of Kalgoorlie which we reached at almost midnight.
After a brief tour through the historic part as well as the local tourist mine,
we visited the staggering 3.6km wide Super Pit, an open cut gold mine that operates 24/7.
It was impressive even in the dark though the exceptionally cold night had everyone return quickly to the warmth of the train and some much needed sleep.
I hadn’t really done much all day, except eat and rest….;-) – yet was completely exhausted and greatly looking forward to my bed which I found freshly made when I returned.
I slept well the first night. The train moved smoothly and the rails were in good condition during this stretch. This would not be the case the following 2 nights and you definitely need ear plugs.
Day 2: Cook & The Nullarbor Plain
Overnight, we crossed into the Nullarbor Plain, so named after the Latin “null’ arbor” = no tree – and that was indeed a descriptive name.
The luscious greens of the Avon Valley were behind us and had given way to the splendor of the Australian Outback in all its different facets and stunning displays.
I love driving through beautiful scenery, especially scenery as quiet, rugged and remote and greatly enjoyed Day 2.
Excursion 2: Cook
Around midday we stopped in Cook – literally in the middle of nowhere – a small dwelling of about 5 people though I didn’t see a single one.
Named after former Prime Minister Joseph Cook, this outpost was once a thriving Nullarbor town with around 200 residents, its own hospital, school, golf course and shops. With the privatization of the railways in 1997, the town was effectively closed. Today, Cook mostly serves as a refueling station for the Indian Pacific Train.
After lunch, I had the opportunity to explore the Platinum Service carriages as well as the Gold Service Single Cabins.
Gold Service Twin Cabins where I was travelling were the former First Class and took up most of the carriages.
Price for a Gold Twin Cabin from Perth to Sydney is currently:
AUD 2569 (USD 1962) per person/double occupancy or
AUD 3854 (USD 2943) single occupancy
This includes a private cabin with ensuite bathroom (shower, toilet, sink, toiletries), all off train excursions as well as unlimited beverages and 3 scrumptious meals per day.
in 2016, Great Southern Rail added Platinum Service cabins with even greater luxury, cabins twice as big. and a real bed, chairs and desk.
Price for Platinum Class from Perth to Sydney:
AUD 3679 (USD 2809) per person – single occupancy pays double = AUD 7378 (USD 5635)
While the platinum “rooms” were amazing and offer quite a bit more space and comfort, the Platinum lounge and restaurant were held in a cooler, more modern tone. A deliberate contrast to the voluptuous splendour of the Outback Explorer Lounge and Queen Adelaide Restaurant.
Platinum Lounge does not have a live bar with an actual bar tender/barista, but rather an espresso machine on one end and a large selection of bottles on the other that guests can choose from freely. Not quite the same feel as the Gold Service Lounge, but the room comfort in Platinum would certainly outweigh those differences.
So far, the Indian Pacific has only 2 cars with Platinum cabins and they are usually booked up months in advance. Definitely a successful addition for Great Southern Rail!
On my way back, I passed the Single cabins for Gold Service travellers and was surprised at how small they were. Plus, only a shared bathroom! (sink is behind the door)
It felt a little claustrophobic and apparently, quite a few single guests upgraded to a double cabin once on board.
Price for single cabin from Perth to Sydney:
AUD 2299 (USD 1756) – shared bathroom, otherwise the same service as Gold Service Twin cabins.
Day 3: Adelaide via Barossa Valley to Broken Hill
The next morning, we explored Adelaide on a city tour and were treated to magnificent views from Mount Lofty:
The train then continued through the beautiful Barossa Valley, one of the famous wine regions in Australia, best known for its Shiraz.
In the evening we reached Broken Hill for the final excursion of the trip.
Excursion 4: Broken Hill and The Palace Hotel
A brief tour of the city was followed by a Drag Queen show at the iconic Palace Hotel where the movie “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” was filmed.
Then the final dinner and getting ready for the night.
Day 4: The Blue Mountains to Sydney
We awoke to beautiful, misty visions of the Blue Mountains. Yet another fascinating contrast on this ever-changing journey, allowing us to see the whole range of Australian landscapes, excluding only the rain forests in the North and the ocean fronts.
By midday we reached Sydney and the magnificent adventure came to an end.
It was truly a wonderful experience that surpassed my expectations. If you love quiet and solitude and want to take a few days out with no phones, internet or television while enjoying amazing scenery and getting pampered on a luxury train – this journey will be for you!
The Indian Pacific Train is beautiful, the journey magnificent, food and wine exquisite and the Great Southern Rail staff go out of their way to make it a truly memorable experience for every guest.
I will definitely travel on The Ghan as well, traversing the North-South axis between Darwin – Alice Springs – Adelaide – and will always keep the memory of this epic adventure – a transcontinental luxury journey across one of the most remote continents on earth.
For more info on Great Southern Rail journeys and to book a trip, please visit here.