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The Great Ghan Train Trip

  • May 15, 2018
  • By 50 Shades
  • 10 Comments
The Great Ghan Train Trip

The great Ghan train trip departs from Adelaide, South Australia and heads northwards through the dead centre of Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory. It’s a two night/three day train trip taking in the many varied and wonderful sights of the heart of this continent. We were fortunate enough to take this epic train journey 11 years ago.

It is a ‘must do’ on most travellers bucket lists, unless you want to jump in a 4WD vehicle and drive all the way yourself.  It’s 2,979 kilometres (1846 miles) in distance and although we found the scenery unfolding before our eyes to be fascinating, there’s not a lot between the two cities of Adelaide and Darwin.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

The Ghan Train in Port Augusta SA

The Ghan Train

The train has two levels of accommodation –  Gold or Red service. Gold service includes a cabin with a double or single beds with meals being served in the Gold dining car. The Red service is a day/nighter reclining seat with basic meals available in the Red dining car.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

The Ghan Train with the Flinders Ranges in the background Image Credit: www.southaustralia.com

Depending on your budget and desired level of comfort and privacy, then I would recommend the Gold service, however in this instance we decided to rough it and go with the Red service. Although we were more than comfortable on our recliners, had access to a hot shower and were able to have snacks, drinks and meals in the dining car, we didn’t have much privacy. If I had my time over I would have splashed out for a sleeper cabin.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Inside The Ghan Train Gold Class Lounge/Dining Car

Along the rail journey The Ghan train stops at Port Augusta, Alice Springs and Katherine until its final destination of Darwin.

Port Augusta

The seaport city Port Augusta is located at the tip of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia. It is described as the ‘crossroads to Australia’ and is close to the spectacular Flinders Ranges. We had only a short whistle-stop here for around an hour, so we took a stroll around the city.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Port Augusta on the Spencer Gulf

After an hours stop in this thriving city, where the desert meets the sea, it was back on the train for the rest of the day and night.

Alice Springs

After the first night on the Ghan we crossed the border into the Northern Territory into the town of Alice Springs which is the gateway for visiting Uluru or Ayers Rock, the MacDonnell Ranges, Rainbow Valley and the Finke Gorge. Alice is geographically located in the dead centre of Australia.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Train Station in Alice Springs

You can board the Alice Wanderer bus for a hop on hop off tour that includes stories of the early Afghan cameleers, Flying Doctors and Alice Springs School of the Air. You can also visit many of the Aboriginal Art galleries.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

The Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs

Alice is famous for hosting the Henley-on-Todd an annual sailing and rowing regatta held on a dry river bed. It is one of the great Australian traditions!

The Great Ghan Train Trip

The bone dry Todd River in Alice Springs

Katherine

Following another night sleeping aboard The Ghan we reached the town of Katherine which is aptly described as being the ‘Adventure Centre’ of the vast area that surrounds it.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Stockman Statue in Katherine

Only a short few kilometres away is the majestic Katherine Gorge or Nitmiluk National Park where we decided to get on a tour to explore the gorge on a cruise boat.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Boat Cruise in Katherine Gorge

Our first stop was at the Park’s Nitmiluk Visitor Centre to find out about the cultural and spiritual significance of the gorge from its traditional owners, the Jawoyn and Dagomen people. There are many Aboriginal rock art paintings on sandstone walls throughout the gorge system, some of which are thousands of years old. You may even see a crocodile or two in the cool waters, but there are some safe water holes to swim in!

The Great Ghan Train Trip

The Sandstone Escarpments of Katherine Gorge

After a very interesting four hours exploring Katherine Gorge we boarded the train for the last leg of our trip to Darwin. We arrived in Darwin early evening and deboarded the train, for the luxury of a hotel room for the night.

Darwin

After a lovely nights sleep in a comfortable bed in a hotel we set off very early the next morning on a tour to Adelaide River and Litchfield National Park. En route to Adelaide River we stopped at a crocodile farm where I got to hold one of these little ‘snappers’. Thankfully his jaw was taped shut securely! I found his skin was quiet soft to touch.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

The Croc infested waters of the Adelaide River

We got aboard an aluminium boat at Adelaide River and cruised down the river trying to spot some crocs in the murky waters. The tour leader used a pole with a piece of meat for bait on the end of it to lure a crocodile towards the boat. Before we knew it a huge saltwater crocodile, that have been spotted as big as 5.5 metres in length, leapt out of the water and took the bait. It was not only a thrilling sight but quiet frightening to see these pre-historic beasts in the flesh!

The Great Ghan Train Trip

A Jumping Croc in the Adelaide River

Onwards to Litchfield National Park where we explored the thundering waterfalls, the pandanus-lined pools, the walking tracks, rainforests, historic sites and the huge termite mounds. The waterfalls at Wangi, Tolmer and Florence Falls are amazing. Here we enjoyed a swim right under the waterfalls in the cool refreshing water and later on a wallow in the cascading waters and rock pools at Buley Rockhole.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Florence Falls in Litchfield National Park

We learned about the intriguing lives of the termites and how they build these huge termite mounds. There was so much to do and see in the national park that half a day did not even make a small impression of what’s available.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

A Giant Termite Mound in Litchfield National Park

And so our day tour ended in Darwin at a beachside park with a lovely glass of champagne and a delicious feast of fresh prawns. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day than watching the spectacular sunset over the sea.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Darwin Waterfront

Darwin I would describe as a very modern and vibrant city with great accommodation, restaurants and shopping. Amongst the many things to do in Darwin you can go to a crocodile farm, visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Fannie Bay Gaol, Aviation Heritage Centre, East Point Military Museum and the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels. It is a city that played a very significant part in the defence of our country amid Japan’s invasion during World War II.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Darwin Sunset

The areas around the harbour are beautiful and there are many marinas with great shops and restaurants that you can visit. The waterfront of Darwin is breathtaking of an evening – you can do a sunset yacht cruise in the harbour if you wish.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

Darwin Waterfront at Night

From Darwin you can wind through the Adelaide and Mary River wetlands to world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Here you can bushwalk through rugged escarpments and lush rainforest and discover a treasure trove of Aboriginal rock art.

The Great Ghan Train Trip

A Billabong in Kakadu National Park

Sadly our stay in Darwin was too short, but we vowed to return for a longer stay next time. We didn’t do our return trip by The Ghan train, but took a flight back home. However I would highly recommend The Ghan for a glimpse of what the centre of Australia has to offer.

Note: Since our trip on The Ghan 11 years ago we still haven’t returned to Darwin, even though we travelled to Katherine and through the Northern Territory on our around Australia caravan trip in 2014.

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By 50 Shades, May 15, 2018 Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
  • 10

50 Shades

Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.

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10 Comments
  • Sylvia Jordan
    July 5, 2013

    Great adventure! My friends and I view tour and we want to do the same. Do you have an itinerary and budget plan of your trip? I’d like to use it as reference for our trip. Thank you.

    • Kathy
      July 5, 2013

      Hi Sylvia , yes it was a great adventure. Fares on the Ghan train vary from $650 to $3300 per person depending on class of travel. You can look for specials however. The trip to Katherine Gorge cost approximately $50 per person. The day trip to Adelaide River and Litchfield National Park around $100 per person. A couple of nights hotel accommodation in Darwin is $150 per night and upwards. Food and drinks on the Ghan train were very reasonably priced. Also need to add on air fare from Darwin to your nearest capital city for return trip. Hope this gives you some idea.

  • budget jan
    May 15, 2018

    I didn’t know you had been on the Ghan. What an experience. I love Darwin and Katherine Gorge, but we haven’t been to Kakadu. We will go there when we go around Australia in our Van.

    • Kathy
      May 16, 2018

      Yes it seems like a lifetime ago now, but I remember that I really enjoyed this epic train journey. We’re hoping to get up to the Top End within the next few years. Maybe 2019 will be the year.

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au
    May 18, 2018

    I know a couple of people from WA who’ve done the Ghan trip and really enjoyed it. I think it’s a great way to see some of Australia in comfort rather than driving for huge stretches. Your photos certainly make it look even more appealing!

    • Kathy
      May 19, 2018

      It’s the perfect way to see Central Australia if you would prefer not to drive the long distances required. The countryside does have a certain beauty about it but it can get tedious with so much open space and few towns to break it up. I would do it all again in the blink of an eye.

  • Debbie
    May 19, 2018

    I’m thinking the Ghan would be quite a good trip to do so thanks for your info. I loved Darwin and did similar trips to you and like you I said I’d return. I still haven’t been back but will get there again one day!! Lovely photos in your post Kathy!!

    • Kathy
      May 19, 2018

      Thanks Debbie. The Top End of Australia is very interesting. I would love to explore it more in depth. We’re maybe thinking of doing this next year.

  • Janet
    May 28, 2018

    I’ve always wanted to experience the Ghan or the Indian Pacific but the prices make my eyes water!!! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Kathy
      May 28, 2018

      Yes it is an expensive train journey, but you need to look for the great specials that they occasionally offer. That’s what we did.

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