Train Travel in Australia: all great rail journeys of Australia

All about Train Travel in Australia

Although Train travel in Australia is not as popular as in other parts of the world, it is becoming from year to year a more attractive, environmental alternative way to travelling by car or by bus. Especially for international travellers, train travel can be an excellent way of discovering Australia. In Australia you do not have the super fast trains that you have in Europe or in other parts of the world, nor the high frequency trains. Only in metropolitan areas you have trains riding several times a day the same route. Trains heading into the Australian outback, or travelling the coastal areas ride 1-3 times a week, depending on the route. This is in first place due to the vastness of the country and secondly to the demand for train travel in Australia.

Let’s now have a deeper look at some facts, reasons and benefits of train travel in Australia.

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Reasons and benefits of  Train Travel in Australia

There are various reasons why people choose  to travel by train in Australia instead of air travel or self-driving. Here below I have put together 5 good reasons along with the benefits train travel offer in a vast and remote country like Australia.

  1. Enjoy the vastness and the diversity of the australian landscape.
    This is probably the reason no. 1 for most of travellers who choose to travel by train, so as to fully enjoy the view of the landscape, at a slower and more relaxed pace.
  2. Add value to the travel itinerary while making the journey a destination of itself. It is the best way of seeing the outback and coastal landscape in Australia. The perspective and the type of relaxation you get on train has no comparison.
  3. Combine other ways of getting around, like air travel or self-driving. If fly and drive is a popular combination, train travel and drive can be added to the australian transport means with a strong development potential for the future.
  4. The ideal way when travelling alone in Australia
    Self-driving, either by car and campervan can be regarded as the ideal way of discovering Australia when travelling in a group. The Australian driving distances can be very challenging for solo travellers though, thus train travel represents an excellent way of seeing much of the country without the hassle and the fatigue of long driving distances.
  5. An more environment friendly way to Travel Australia
    Choosing train travel as the main way of transport for your travel in Australia can help reducing the carbon footprint emissions per passenger. Train travel uses less fuel than air travel thus help solving the climate change in Australia.

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Which Trains and Rail Journeys in Australia

Australia is a big country that offers a variety of rail journeys. Some of them, like the Ghan Train, count as the most spectacular rail journeys of the world. However there are many train travel options to explore Australia. Here you find a list of the major Australian train journeys. To gain a deeper insight about each single train route, you can click on the links below and read about my experience onboard of different trains across Australia.

Here below a short introduction on train travel options divided into Australian regions.

Travelling Australia by Train: which destinations?

There are several great rail journeys in Australia that I can recommend. I have been travelling for over 14,000km in 2 months and these below are some of the most spectacular train journeys you can experience on board of the Australian rail.

  • Discovering New South Wales by train  with the XPT and the XPLORER

    New South Wales with the Country Link Rail is the australian state with the the most extensive rail service covering most of the coastal and inland territory. I have travelled from Brisbane to Sydney on the XPT and from Sydney to Broken Hill on the Xplorer. The Sydney-Broken Hill train is in my opinion the most spectacular australian train journey.

  • Visiting Queensland with the SUNLANDER, the WESTLANDER, the ROCKY TILT TRAIN

    If you are in Queensland and want to make a train experience, then you are in the right place, you can see much of the Sunshine State by train. From Cairns to Brisbane you have a few options to see the coastal landscape on train, as well as to reach some of the remote outback towns and regions. I have travelled onboard of the Sunlander from Cairns to Townsville and Rockhampton, on the Rocky Tilt Train to Landsborough close to Brisbane.

    And had the opportunity to visit Queensland’s Outback with the Westlander.

  • Crossing Australia onboard of THE GHAN and of THE OVERLAND TRAIN

    These two trains are known in the world for the long and spectacular train journeys. And they indeed are. If you have the time you should not miss out on one of these unique train travel experience, you can try out one or both destinations covered by the Ghan train from Adelaide to Alice Springs and from Alice to Darwin.

    Here you can read about my rail experience on the Ghan. The Overland train is another train that takes you from the east to the west coast of Australia. You can travel 3 days from Sydney to Perth and make stops along the way and pay a visit to gorgeous town of Broken Hill, Adelaide and Kalgoorlie.

How to travel by train in Australia

There are plenty of options if you choose to use travel by train in Australia, first ask yourself this question: for how long do you want to travel, where to and how often.  Train travel is usually cheaper than flying, but if you buy single train tickets than it may sum up to the same amount of money as for air travel. So think about it wisely so as to make a decision beforehand if you want to save money and make the most of your train travel experience in Australia. Buying a rail pass can be a good choice if you plan to travel Australia by train extensively.

International Travellers visiting Australia can benefit from the great offer on Australia Rail Passes. The offer is huge and you can choose the pass that better suits your travel itinerary and your time frame. I have travelled 2 months with an Ausrail Pass.Here more information about all Rail Passes.

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A complete guide to how to travel by train in Australia

As said Train Travel in Australia is different from any other continent. In some states like New South Wales, Victoria the rail network covers a relatively large part of the territory so that rail journeys are a viable option to self-driving and bus travel. However the majority of rail journeys cover the coastal areas, the city surrounds and some of the inland routes, in the Australian Outback. In some other Australian states train journeys are limited to the city and suburban areas like in Western Australia.

If you plan to try something new and travel by train in Australia, by combining different ways of transportation, in Australia there are some great rail journeys that will take you through spectacular landscapes that you would not be able to explore otherwise. Therefore for some travel destinations it is really worth travelling on bord of the Australian trains. What you need is time and the ability to fit the rail schedule into your time frame too. This is key factor.

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Train tickets and rail passes available in Australia

Depending on how often you are planning to travel by train in Australia you may consider of buying yourself a rail pass. There are many Rail Passes you can choose from within each single state or Australia wide. The Rail Passes are only available to International Travellers though, the most common one is the Ausrail Pass for 3 or 6 months which covers all of Australia. But there are other rail pass options to cover specific regions or main attractions of Australia.  If you think of travelling by rail maybe once or twice then you are better off buying single tickets for the chosen train journeys. Please remember that in this case you should always get a yha-card or a travel card that will grant you a discount on rail journeys in Australia.

What you should know before buying Rail Passes for Australia

There are lots of tips that I can give you, since I have been travelling for over 2 months with an AUSRAILPASS. First of all check all available train travel options available before leaving to Australia and if you decide a rail pass is something that will suit your travel style and your time frame check out these points below:

  • purchase your rail pass before your departure, this helps you save money. In fact the rail passes have special prices if purchased online before arriving in Australia. I found out about the Ausrail Pass when I was travelling in Australia. However I must say that even if you buy it there it still is good value, with a couple of train journeys you have already covered the cost of your pass. And you can travel as often as you want within the validity time of your pass, therefore with a railpass you always save money. The only requirement you must be an overseas traveller, australian residents cannot benefit from these australian rail passes.
  • Book all your rail journeys in advance this is very important for some rail journeys like the Ghan Train or the Overland, The Indian Pacific. They quickly get booked out especially during the high season. On some other routes less travelled you may be able to get a seat even the day before your departure, but to avoid disappointment always check with the public and school holidays calendar and do your bookings accordingly.
  • Ring the company that operates the trains to get all the information you need about train journey and timetable as well as to the availability. In each australian state there is a free number you can dial and get all the information you need as well as make your bookings. At the railway station you should be able to do your bookings too. But I have often experienced the call center is more prepared to answer questions and can immediately check the avaiability as well as make your booking on the phone. You can always ask a to have a list of your bookings printed out when you are at the railways station.
  • Always take with you all your bookings, your Rail Pass and your passport you need to show all this docs when you travel aboard of the australian trains. If you loose your pass you will not be able to get a replacement.
  • Tweaking your travel schedule is vital to make the most of train travel in Australia. To find out about the various connections is sometimes a bit time consuming, because trains heading to the coastal and outback destinations ride only a few times a week, sometimes only once a week, and they are interstate rail journeys, therefore find out in advance about the train schedule and make the necessary tweaking and adjustment to fit them into your entire travel plan. On the websites only some of the timetables are available, unfourtunately, you can get full detials of trains timetable at the relevant train stations.

What type of Pass you should get

There are many rail passes available. The AusReef and Outback Pass is similar to the Ausrail Pass but excludes the CountryLink Services and the Xplorer services in NWS and in Victoria. The Trans Aus Pass includes the long distances trains in Australia the whole area of Queensland. This pass is good if you have seen much of Queensland already and are not including it in your travel itinerary. The Aus Reef and Beach Pass is a valuable pass if you want to focus your train travel in Queensland and the whole east coast. It includes the rail journeys in Queensland Outback destinations, the Great barrier Reef and some of the islands.The Backpacker Rail Pass is a good option if you are spending most of your times in NSW. It covers 360 locations in New South Wales. Capital Cities like Brisbane and Melbourne are also included.
The Queensland Explorer Pass this is especially created for travellers who want to spend a longer time on the coastal locations of Queensland. Valid on all trains in Queensland. This pass furthermore allows you to explore the outback areas too. So it is indeed a great way of exploring Queensland by using all of their train services.
The East Coast Discovery Pass ideal for travellers who want to focus their travel on the eastern coast from the very north to the very south. As well as reaching major cities like Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns, and Melbourne.
So before purchasing the right rail pass, you should have set up your travel itinerary and finalized what you want to see. Train Travel in Australia offers a lot of good value options. I recommend checking the single state rail websites for purchasing the best suited Australian rail pass for your holiday in Australia.

Either way you choose, if you want to travel by train in Australia, make sure you get a discount on your train tickets. Rail passes in Australia give you the opportunity not only to travel across Australia cheaply but also to see much of the Australian landscape at slower pace whilst on the way to your destinations.

Great Australian Train Journeys

Here you can read about my experience onboard of some australian trains. Click on the links below that take you to other pages:

My experience on the GHAN TRAIN from Adelaide to Darwin

My experience on the XPLORER TRAIN from Sydney to Broken Hill

My experience on the WESTLANDER from Brisbane to Cunnumulla

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