All aboard The Ghan
Recalling a bygone era of unhurried travel, carriage cocktails and old-world charm, travelling by rail has serious appeal.
Indeed, it’s impossible to not feel the romance of rail travel, so it was with a head full of whimsy that I arrived for my adventure on The Ghan. Named after the pioneering Afghan cameleers of the Red Centre, The Ghan cuts through the desert between Adelaide and Darwin via Alice Springs, a four-day, three-night journey (one-way) of 2979km.
Sightseeing in style
For a city-slicker like me, who enjoys creature comforts while wanting a bit of an adventure, Th The Ghan is ideal. Before we ro roll out of Alice Springs (where I joined the train), a glass of c chilled bubbly is placed into my h hand. My Gold Service cabin is compact but slick with oak p panelling, air conditioning a and a decidedly vintage feel.
For pre-dinner cocktails, I make my way into the plush c club lounge – all meals and s selected alcoholic drinks are i included in Gold and Platinum f fares. I’m assigned to a table in t the Queen Adelaide Restaurant, where I join two other singles. Bolstered by the all-inclusive wine, we’re soon bosom buddies. The food is sensational. Over three courses, we’re treated to local produce paired with killer Aussie wines. The mouthwatering menu extends to the two-course lunch and yummy cooked brekkie, too.
Back in the cabin, I find my bed has been made. A chocolate and a miniature Cointreau bottle wait on the pillow. Soon I’m lulled into a deep sleep by the gentle rocking of the train.
An outback odyssey
I spend the next day glued to the windows, hypnotised by the gradual transformation of the landscape. Vast deserts, barren plains, crocodile-infested wetlands, sacred Aboriginal sites – the journey takes in some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and really gives a sense of just how huge Australia is.
Off the rails
One of the best things about the Ghan is its Off Train Excursions (some are included in the fare while others are extra) such as camel riding or tours at Alice Springs. The standout is the Katherine Gorge cruise (inclusive). I was awestruck by the towering cliffs, stunning waterfalls and sandy beaches. The Aboriginal rock art, thousands of years old, will take your breath away.
Disembarking at tropical Darwin, I cast one last look at the majestic train on the platform and realise why The Ghan is frequently touted as Australia’s “Orient Express”. Put it on your bucket list.
Paul Ewart does the Red Centre in style. The Ghan has thrilled train lovers since its inaugural journey in 1929. Platinum Service on The Ghan.