12 days, 3 trains and one unforgettable trip to Australia.
Early this year, ACP Rail’s Andrew Hannan had the chance to fly halfway across the globe and try the much loved Australian trains, an experience, he says, that exceeded his wildest expectations.
“I’ve been working in the rail holiday industry for years now and have heard of a number of world renown train excursions not to be missed.” As luck would have it, The Australian Ghan and Sunlander trains are both part of that list, giving him two more incentives to travel to Australia.
Andrew will tell you that traveling by train in Australia is not a trip, it’s an experience.
Train journeys can typically last several hours if not days. From comfortable seats that magically turn into beds, to mouth-watering meals served in generous portions and shared lounge areas with performers, it’s safe to say that every step is taken to ensure your time spent on the train is as memorable as it can be. Added to the experience are the convenient excursions along the way, known as “whistle stops”, and the scenic views of landscapes you can only reach by train.
Train journeys are not just for tourists. A lot of local residents make a point of taking Australia’s transcontinental trains, almost as if it’s a ritual. “So many Australians are on these trains, which is wonderful. It’s almost like the trip of a lifetime. A lot of Australians do these trips simply because they enjoy it or they’ve heard about it; it’s part of their heritage and they want to do it.”
Andrew’s first train was The Ghan, running from Darwin to Adelaide. “What’s really neat about The Ghan is that you start in tropical Darwin and you work your way further south and you end up going through the desert. So, you’ve got this unbelievable change. Within a couple of hours, you’re going from lush and green, to much more arid and dry.”
Andrew later traveled on the XPT, an overnight train from Sydney to Brisbane. “It’s a lovely trip. You’re on this comfortable train that takes you along the coast. You’re going through marinas and you see beautiful boats on either side. You also get to relax and enjoy a nice meal as the sun sets.”
Lastly, Andrew took The Sunlander from Brisbane to Cairns. “What was nice on The Sunlander is that they had commentary. As we traveled they would explain different things about the different cities as we were going along. As a tourist, you want to know about these things. You want to know what the main industries are, you want to know what the animals are and all sorts of neat things like that.”
He further comments on his experience: “It’s just quite amazing to travel that far, and get off a plane. You think you should be on another planet but for the most part, getting around is simple. It’s a nice experience; it’s not something that makes you uncomfortable. Going to Australia is considered exotic to most, thanks to the sheer distance away from home, and its varied climates, wildlife etc… but the nice thing is I didn’t feel out of my element. People speak English and have a somewhat similar culture to what I’m used to. I guess you could say I enjoyed the best of both worlds: the adventure of a far-away place, without the culture shock.”
Andrew spent 12 days traveling around Australia and journeyed on The Ghan, The Sunlander and XPT trains, with stops in Sydney, Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Brisbane and Cairns.
He wanted to try these world-famous trains and bring us a sense of what it’s like to travel Australia with an Australian rail pass. Come back soon to see more pictures from his trip and to find out more about his adventure as we update his travel diary.