This epic rail journey traverses the great southern land
from east to west, west to east, between Sydney and Perth.
SYDNEY TO ADELAIDE
As soon as you’re checked into the Indian Pacific, your journey begins.
Whilst you’re waiting for your fellow travellers to check in, take the opportunity to grab something to eat and sip on a glass of bubbles at the private access restaurant at Sydney Central Station. In the background you’ll hear the acoustic melodies of a local musician as he plays Australian ballads – an ongoing theme throughout the trip.
Once the luggage is loaded we head off – say goodbye to Sydney as you slowly wind through the suburbs and head west towards the Blue Mountains. By now you’re in the Outback Explorer Lounge with a drink in your had and chatting up a storm with your fellow travellers. Drinks are included in your fare and you are spoilt for choice. The bar has a selection of Australian wines, local and imported beers, basic spirits or if you don’t drink alcohol a hot cappuccino or tea is made to order. The lounge is a great place to hang out because it gives you the opportunity to see both sides of the train. The beauty of travelling on a train is you bare witness to a rolling slideshow of contrasting landscapes and endless horizons. If you’re going the whole way to Perth, the 4,352kms of scenery is constantly changing from rugged mountain ranges, wheat pastures to the horizon, arid desert plains as well as world-renown wine regions.
As the sun sets, make your way to the Queen Adelaide Restaurant for a mouth-watering 3 course dinner. The entertainment director will give you an idea of when your dining time is but they are very flexible with your preferences. The meals are cooked to order by the talented onboard chef’s from seasonal produce found common to the area you’re travelling through. As the seasons change, so does the menu so return guests will always find something new on the menu. The amazing and tentative servers will recommend paired Australian wines to each meal if you’re open to it. We made it a rule that we didn’t dine with the same people each meal which was a great little challenge. After dinner, grab a drink or cuppa and sit down with your new friends in the lounge cart and watch the world go by. You will be with this motley crew for the next couple of days so don’t be shy because you WILL get to know them. It’s all part of the charm of doing a rail journey. Or you can meander back to your cabin and read.
Whilst you’ve been drinking/eating/chin wagging, the bed fairies have put down your bed and made it nice and comfy for your arrival. If you’re staying in a Gold Service twin cabin, you’ll have your own ensuite with a shower, toilet and sink. Space is at a premium in this compact bathroom but it really works. Just remember to use the shower curtain whilst showering, it keeps everything pretty dry. Gold Service twin cabins have bunk beds as it’s bedding configuration. Your feet will be closest to the window and head closest to the door. If you’re a solo traveller in Gold Service then your direction will be running parallel to the window. The bed is approximately the same length of the twin rooms but you won’t have the luxury of your own bathroom. The bathroom and shower is located at the end of the single carriage so not far away at all. You always know when you’re in a single cabin carriage because the passage way is windy. A twin carriage has you running straight with cabins on one side and large picture windows on the other side.
Your blind will be drawn so you can’t see out at night but I like to it open. You won’t be used to the gentle sway of the train just yet so you may wake a couple of times through the night. I found waking and watching the landscape flying by me soothing. Be warned though, as you pass through townships your cabin may become quite bright with all the train track lights …. but it’s fleeting and before you know it, it’s gone. Darkness again. If you’re like me and you like to have a cuppa before bed, be it a herbal or black tea, there is a little studio kitchen at the end of both the twin and single carriages where you can make it and dash back to your cabin. Dare I say it, in your pj’s. Living wild on the Indian Pacific 🙂
The next morning the train caters for both early risers or late comers (last meals served by 9am). Seats are limited in the dining cart but your friendly barista/barman can rustle up a cappuccino in the lounge whilst you wait. I am not a morning person so last seats of the “morning rush” always worked for me. As you progress further and further into your trip, time changes will take hold so the sun will be rising earlier than you’re used to. So give yourself the chance to sleep in a little. The kitchen opens at 7am. Early the next morning you will have your first off train experience at Broken Hill. You’ll get to choose between a number of tours which are included in the fare.
Once back onboard, it’s time to eat again because you’re fading away after all that walking in the Australian outback, so settle in for your two course lunch. Be assured, it will be delicious. In the mid afternoon, you’ll be arriving into Adelaide. You’re either disembarking and gong on your merry way, OR you’re doing an off rail experience. Either way you’re getting off at Adelaide. For the off train experiences, be sure to look at the Indian Pacific offers.
ADELAIDE TO PERTH
In Adelaide, you are generally off the train for dinner and get back in the mid evening before jumping onboard in time for bed. Side note, this is where you would swap trains if you were interested in experiencing The Ghan. You may see a couple of the carriages when you roll into Keswick Station. Unfortunately the timetables don’t marry up which means that you’ll need to stay in Adelaide for a minimum 3 night stay. No problem in my eyes. South Australia has SOOOO much to offer.
You’ll depart around 9:40pm and I found that most of the train travellers stayed onboard for the full Indian Pacific train journey through to Perth. Tonight you’re putting your clocks back to fall inline with Central Australia time. You’ll do it again the next night too to fall inline with Western Australia time.
Today you’re going to see the vastness of the Nullabor plains. Its red ochre hue runs for miles and miles. This is the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world but the landscape is constantly changing. Yet again you are served amazing food by charming young staff that are eager to please. Most are South Australian locals that recognise that its a pretty good gig travelling on this amazing track. By now you’re used to the slight shake of the carriages and no doubt your sleep was sound.
The off train excursion is literally stepping off the train and into the tiny outback town of Cook. This is where you can get up close and personal with the train. You can really gauge just how long it is – almost 878 metres long with on average 35 carriages. It was broken down into 3 lots of groups. For every dining and lounge carriage we had 3 twin carriages and 1 single carriage followed by staff quarters and engines. In the middle was the Platinum carriages who had their own modern designed lounge and restaurant carriages. I travelled in summer so Cook was hot to be sure. Sunscreen and a hat is a must. As there literally is one train track with some sidings along the way, we did have a time limit as to how long to stay. It was long enough to take a look around at the buildings, read a couple of signs, take some pictures, go for a walk and then we were back onboard. Our next highlight was the West Australian border – the anticipation was grand, the moment was fleeting. I think I took like 30 photos to get the right shot.
As with all things travel, things don’t always go to plan. Unfortunately due to other train delays, our timetable didn’t run to plan and we had dinner onboard as opposed to out in the open at Rawlinna. We did however get to stop to enjoy some musical tunes and a tasty port under the stars and around a ranging fire with the locals. I really enjoyed it and it I could tell that it’s a treat for the locals to have the train roll into town once a week. By now you’ve really settled into life the train. The salt lakes are passing you by, it really is a journey beyond your normal way of life and a great way to see Australia. On the Saturday you will begin to recognise that you’re entering into suburbia again. Undulating hills, rusted out historic huts turn into pasture lands, vineyards and then slowly streets of houses as you roll into Perth.
In the early afternoon you bid farewell to the staff and your new found friends. Your checked in luggage is made available to you and like that, the train journey that you’ve been dreaming about it over. I wonder what it’s like going the other way?