Meghan Boyd is Goway’s South Pacific Product Manager. She was lucky enough to participate in a very special trip on the Ghan Expedition Rail Journey from Darwin to Adelaide in May this year.
What is the Ghan Expedition?
The Ghan Expedition is a rail journey that operates from Darwin to Adelaide on the Ghan train. It operates from April through to March each year. The journey is 4 days/3 nights and stops in 3 different destinations – Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy.
Single Cabins are compact cabins that have two seats facing each other and a small hand basin. These seats convert to a single bed at night.
Gold Service Twin cabins are quite compact as well, with a bench seat during the day. At night, this converts to bunk-style beds, and one person must climb a ladder to the top bunk. There is a private bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower that exceeded our expectations. There is a Gold Superior Cabin as well that offers a small double bed and is a little roomier. The Platinum rooms are a lot more spacious than Gold and have double or twin beds as well.
What is included?
Pretty much everything! All meals and beverages are included. The food was spectacular, with a-la carte menus and great quality. All beverages – alcoholic and non-alcoholic – are included as well. At each destination you visit, there is a choice of included excursions. The only thing you could/would pay extra for is an optional flight tour over Uluru/Ayers Rock and there is also a helicopter ride or scenic flight over Katherine Gorge. There is no pressure to do these, and there are other included options for these destinations as well.
What did you see and do on your trip?
Day One was spent at Katherine. We had a choice of a Katherine Outback Experience, Nitmiluk Gorge Cruise, a Nitmiluk First Gorge Art Cruise, or scenic flights. I chose the Nitmiluk Gorge Cruise. Katherine Gorge is a series of sandstone gorges. We cruised through the first two and the scenery was absolutely jaw-dropping. Katherine is a very special place.
Day 2 was all about Alice Springs. Again, there was a choice of tours, including Alice Springs Desert Park, Alice Explorer Tour, Simpsons Gap Discovery Walk, Alice Off-Road Tour, and the Uluru Scenic Flight. I chose the Alice Explorer, which took us to the Katherine School of the Air, Royal Flying Doctor Service, National Pioneers Women’s Hall of Fame, and the Reptile Centre. We even had time for a walk around Alice Springs and a visit a very quirky (but fun) Outback Pub. That night, after time to freshen up, the whole train was transferred out the Outback Telegraph Station for an amazing outback BBQ dinner complete with entertainment, star gazing and camel rides. Fantastic!
Day 3 was our last full day and we stopped in Coober Pedy. What an unusual and quirky place! There are three touring choices here, Explore Coober Pedy, Opal Experience, and Discover the Breakaways. To be honest, these were all kind of similar. I did the Explore Coober Pedy. We started at an Underground Mine and museum which included an example of the underground homes Coober Pedy is famous for. Other highlights were a visit to an underground church, a grassless golf course, and a stop at the Dog Fence. Probably the highlight for me was a visit to an actual working Opal Mine for a demonstration and an absolutely delicious (Greek!) lunch complete with hard hat. Our experience here ended with a glass of champagne overlooking the Breakaways – some amazing outback scenery. When we transferred back to the train it was time for a campfire, complete with canapes and cocktails while the sun set over the desert.
What surprised you and/or exceed your expectations?
I’d been wanting to do a trip on the Ghan or Indian Pacific trains for years, so this was a dream come true for me. I expected good food and good service, but seriously, both were better than I expected. Every single meal was amazing, and again, I expected good service, but I was blown away. The staff were super friendly and professional, but at the same time casual. They made you feel like a friend, not a guest. Loved them all.
What really surprised me though, was how much we saw. Before I left, I expected to spend a lot of time reading and looking at the scenery going by as we tootled along. Boy, was I wrong! This trip was busy, in the best way. In 3 days, we had 3 totally different experiences and travelled literally from the top to the bottom of the country. For an international traveller, I can’t think of any other travel idea that packs that much into such a short time. Good food, good people, and amazing experiences.
- What are some selling tips for agents selling rail trips in Australia?
This is a great travel idea for solo travellers. The single cabins are affordable and comfortable. The Outback Explorer Lounge Car is a social, friendly place to sit, read, have a drink, and socialize. On our trip, everyone was talking with everyone by the first afternoon. A lot of guests were local Aussies, so this was a great way to make friends and meet some Aussies as well.
- I’d sell this as a truly unique Aussie experience with great scenery, great food and wine, and amazing touring, all packed into 4 days/3 nights – with no packing or unpacking.
- Book early! These journeys sell fast, plus there are some great advance purchase deals.