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The Ghan

Last updated: 21 March, 2024

This half-mile-long air-conditioned train travels from Darwin, in Australia’s far north, to Australia’s south coast at Adelaide, via Alice Springs. A modern train, it’s comfortable rather than luxurious – more like a four-star hotel on wheels – but provides a convenient way to get in to see Australia’s famed ‘Red Centre’.

Once the fertile areas north of Adelaide are left behind, the landscape becomes progressively more empty and harsh, with long gently undulating vistas to the horizon across ranches the size of Belgium – one wonders how livestock can find any sustenance in such sun-baked country.

Stops en route provide visceral experiences of life in places at the limits for human habitation. On the (recommended) longer Ghan Expedition route, there are stops at Katherine for a river cruise to the Nitmiluk Gorge, the underground opal mine at Manguri, and a longer stop with various options at Alice Springs; a scenic flight to magnificent Uluru, the Flying Doctor Service Museum, Anzac Hill, the Women Pioneers’ Hall of Fame, a reptile centre and the wonderfully atmospheric Telegraph Station. Options on the three-day option are naturally more limited.

Adding to the experience, dishes onboard use regional ingredients to produce such dishes as Maggie Beer ‘Pheasant Farm’ Pate from the Barossa Valley or Kangaroo Tenderloin.


Price from: £1500
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: 3-4 days

Getting there & doing it

Trains start at Adelaide and Darwin stations, the former connecting with the east–west Indian Pacific.

Rooms come with double or twin beds, or one or two bunk beds. All have en suite showers and meals included, as well as Australian wines, beers, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages. The lounge the social hub of the train and has a good selection of books relevant to the country.

Smart casual attire on the train. The AC can make the train cool in the evenings.

When to do it

The Ghan runs from late February to late November. The best time is from May to October when the Red Centre temperatures are at the lowest. The hotter, summer months are also plagued by flies.