Tour Title: The Ghan Expedition
Tour Company: Journey Beyond Rail
Carriage B Coordinator: Kaitlin
Key Staff: Kayla, Hollie, Carmen, Loz, Hayley, Oliver, Eden
Passengers Members: 184 (29 carriages can be more)
Room: Carriage B / Room 4 (Twin Share)
Off Train Excursions: Katherine, Alice Springs, Coober Pedy
Dates: 31 August 2022 to 03 September 2022 (4 days)
Ghan Journal Entries
I took this tour as part of the Wonders of Kimberly trip with the other tour being the Untamed Kimberly 2022 (bus tour with AAT) which started in Broome and ended in Darwin just before this tour. The Ghan travels 2,797 kilometres between Darwin and Adelaide over four days.
To best enjoy this trip keep in mind it is not about getting from A to B in the fastest possible time but is instead about the journey with major stops on each day to experience unique locations. You are looked after from the moment you check out of your hotel as The Ghan check in starts at your hotel.
10.00 am Wednesday Depart Darwin
02.00 pm Wednesday Arrive Katherine
06.45 pm Wednesday Depart Katherine
09.10 am Thursday Arrive Alice Springs
10.15 pm Thursday Depart Alice Springs
09.00 am Friday Arrive Manguri (Coober Pedy)
07.40 pm Friday Depart Manguri (Coober Pedy)
10.50 am Saturday Arrive Adelaide
Meals are all inclusive. The ‘on train’ meals for passengers travelling in Gold Class are taken in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. On Day 1 we had Lunch and Dinner on the train, for Day 2 it was only Breakfast, Day 3 was Breakfast and Dinner, and Day 4 was Breakfast. Your ‘on train’ lunch and dinner times are allocated to you and result in your eating with different people on a 4 person table. Breakfast is taken during a two hour time range so you can attend at any time during that range.
All other meals were taken during excursions. My Day 2 excursion lunch was at Alice Springs Dessert Park Centre and Dinner was in a marquee at Alice Springs Race Track (normally outside at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station under the stars but moved due to bad weather. My Day 3 excursion lunch was taken at the Quest Mine underground in Coober Pedy.
All meals were amazing. For lunch and dinner ‘on train’ you have three courses meals with three main meal options with one of them a vegetarian choice.
Drinks are also included and outside of meal times you can order drinks in the Outback Explorer Lounge. Staff where also happy to make cocktails on request.
The Gold Class twin cabin during that day is setup for seating. Your Cabin can be forward facing or backward facing. I requested a forward facing cabin which was allocated. The cabin also has a shower and toilet area, while small it is manageable to navigate.
For the evening your cabin is transformed into two bunk beds, with the seating area being one bunk bed and another bunk bed comes out of the wall. There is a power outlet to charge devices and audio system that you can select 5 channels of different types of music.
There is limited storage room in your cabin so you need to check you major bag and want have access to it during the trip so bag carefully with a daypack on similar bag. I found sleeping to be fairly easy although the temperature did vary on different nights from a little cold to a little warm.
Note: There is no wifi in cabins. Wifi is available in lounge however it relies on Telstra network so for the most part only works at major stops.
There are multiple excursions at the three stops. You select you option shortly after boarding at Darwin and select two options, one is your preferred option and the other your back up. Some excursions require an additional payment.
- Nitmiluk First Gorge Art Cruise
- Nitmiluk Gorge Cruise (two gorges)
- Nitmiluk Gorge Helicopter Flight (20 minute flight $230 per person)
Alice Spring Excursions
- Simpson Gap Discovery Walk & Outback BBQ Dinner
- Dessert Park Guided Walking Tour & Outback BBQ Dinner
- Alice Explorer & Outback BBQ Dinner
- Alice to Off Road & Outback BBQ Dinner
- Uluṟu Scenic Flight & Outback BBQ Dinner ($1,359 per person)
- Discover the majestic Breakaways
- Explore Coober Pedy
- Opal Experience
For the Katherine excursion I undertook the stunning Helicopter experience. Well worth it despite the extra cost and the down time waiting for your flight (it was 36c and very hot waiting but water was provided). The helicopter is 4 people (so pilot plus 3 passengers) and there are no doors at the front of helicopter i.e. only the back seat passengers have fixed doors. So quite an experience if you are in the front passenger seat.
For the Alice Springs excursion I selected the Alice Explorer which was lucky as due to bad weather on this and the Dessert Park Guided Walking Tour went ahead and Dessert Park option was also restricted. All passengers were moved to one of these two excursions. The Alice Explorer covered the Royal Flying Doctors Service, the Reptile Park, the Alice Springs School of the Sky and ANZAC Hill. Our dinner under the stars was moved to marquee at Alice Springs Race Track with a live band.
And lastly for Coober Pedy excursion I took the Explore Coober Pedy option which included an underground Opal Museum, visiting an working Opal Mine and visiting the Breakaways.
I’ve always wanted to do a multiple night long distance train trip and the Ghan is a luxurious way to travel into the remote middle of Australia. The staff were excellent, the passengers, who while older where very keen to be here, was a good mixed of people, the meals were excellent and the excursions offered you a way to quickly explore these unique areas.
It can be costly but the all inclusive nature (with some extra cost for select excursions) can make this good value and the experiences outweigh the price in my opinion. Even people with some limited mobility can enjoy this trip. I enjoyed this so much that I’ll be looking at booking an Indian Pacific train trip one day.
A small nice little touch was the staff providing a gift pack celebrating a significant birthday milestone, and unexpected bonus.