the Ghan runs twice weekly from Adelaide to the Alice and on to Darwen, and back again
there are three classes, Gold Kangaroo [ luxury cabins ] Red Kangaroo [ basic cabins ] and the Daynighter seats [ reclining seats ]
as the journey takes 20 hours from Adelaide to Alice take a cabin if finances allow, the seats are really uncomfortable to sleep in
before you book your tickets join the YHA or one of the other recognised backpackers associations, you will get big savings on the fares
your luggage is checked in, so make sure you keep everything you`ll need for the journey in your hand luggage
for more info on the journey see the travelogue on my Australia page
- Luxury Travel
Make a Tour !
In Alice Springs you can book several tours to the Uluru, the Olgas and the other Attractions around here (well, ok. "around" is a more farspun word here, than anywhere else).
They have trips down the Uluru variing from 3 to 5 and more days.
I would suggest to make it longer than 3 days. The distances here are enormous and you will have to drive a lot, so take at least some time at the places to rest and see.
Don?t just go there to say "I was there". Taking a short tour will show you the places, but you will not have the time for more than a few pics....
We booked a 5 day tour at Sahara Tours.
It was very simple, but great, we had a lot of fun. It was quite strenuous anyway.
On the pic you can see our group at a "firewood-stop" somewhere in between two attractions.
Cooking is on open fire, sleeping is in tents.
The baggade you are allowed to take is limited: I think it was 10kg per person.
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel
Central Australian Transport Heritage Precinct
The Central Australian Transport Heritage Precinct includes both the Old Ghan Museum and Heritage Railway, and the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. There are separate museums and outdoor displays for trains and for trucks. Each side has a tea room and the train side has a bush kitchen. We picked the Old Ghan side.
- Museum Visits
- Road Trip
Old Ghan Museum and Heritage Railway
Work began on the Great Northern Railway in 1878 to link Port Augusta with Darwin to open-up central Australia. The southern section of the line reached Alice Springs in 1929, and the train running this line became known as "The Ghan", named after the Afghan camel drivers who had contributed to the developement of communication and transport links in inland Australia. It was built to the South Australian narrow gauge of 3'6" (1067mm). A new standard gauge railway to Adelaide was built on a different route in 1980 and the Old Ghan was closed.
The Old Ghan Museum and Heritage Railway is all that is left of the narrow gauge. The collection includes an operational heritage railway featuring a W924 Steam locomotive, an NSU diesel electric locomotive, a DH40 shunting engine and a variety of flattops, dining cars bar cars and other carriages. The museum itself houses a collection of photographs and memorabilia relating to all eras of the Old Ghan heritage from construction in the mid 1920's to when the narrow gauge closed.
In the 1990's the Old Ghan made 30 km journeys down the track to Ewaninga each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but these trips were eventually stopped in 2001 when the museum had financial problems. Now the museum fires up one of the old steam or diesel engines to take visitors to Mount Ertiva (8km south of the museum) and back on the single-gauge track. Departure is on Sunday at 11:00 AM, returning around 12:30 PM. See also a videoclip.
- Museum Visits
Tip duplicated on my Darwin, Alice Springs and Adelaide pages.
The Ghan is one of the Australian legendary journeys that I have been reading about since I was a kid and then as I grew up – although there are some who’d say that never did happen – another story for another day perhaps.
The Ghan run by Great Southern Railways (GSR) is number 29 on the impressive list of the Wikipedia article ‘Longest Rail Services’ and the train is well known for its luxury form of travel that has appealed to the more senior citizens – the ‘youngies’ would not put up with a 2,979 train journey from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory that takes 3 days when they could hop on an aircraft and be there in say 4 hours. Oldies, like Lady Gaw and myself, are more content to sit back and watch the scenery, enjoy the great meals and all that is part of the Great Southern Railways service.
I have put together a long travelogue ‘The Ghan for beginners’ on our journey that we really enjoyed in July 2012 when we travelled from Darwin all those kilometers to south to Adelaide. There are 2 so called ‘Whistle stops’ in Katherine and Alice Springs for 4 hours each, however the train does stop at other locations depending on your needs – check with GSR
Some may consider a trip on The Ghan to be expensive – OK compared to cattle class crammed into a tiny seat on an aircraft with a budget carrier, perhaps it is. However a better way of comparison would be comparing business class airfares (about $A1, 500 each) and adding the cost of 2 nights accommodation (difficult to compare accom in a cramped train twin bunk compartment plus a phone box sized all included bathroom with a hotel, but say $50 each x 2 nights), then add the value of the 1 lunch, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts and 1 morning tea (guessing $A225 each but probably more). I would think the overall price for the other-than-train way would be $A3,650 against The Ghan listed price for 2 in Gold Class at 2 X $A2,116 = $A4,232 or Child/Pensioner/CSHC 2 X $A1,464 = $A2,928. Lady Gaw and I are in the latter category (Pensioner), so not considering the amazing savings we enjoyed of ‘buy one get one free’ The Ghan is a cheaper way of ‘travel’ and has the added bonus of the scenery, Whistle Stop options, fellow crazy travelers and great on board crew.
There are 3 classes of travel – Red is economy and there are sit up all the way seats, however that class does have twin share cabins without private facilities – walk to the end of the carriage. Next is Gold Class and all have sleeper cabins either ‘roomette’ (single) of doubles with own on-suite (very small) facilities – there is also a Gold Class Superior Cabin with extras and off course more expensive than ‘basic’ Gold. Last is Platinum which is luxury cabins, with very high price tags. Gold and Platinum include all on-board meals, which are a very high standard served up by great staff.
I would strongly suggest signing up with the GSR ‘All Aboard Club’ for regular e newsletters which do contain special prices – see web site for details on The Ghan. The trains run once a week in both directions all year and twice a week both directions in the peak winter season
About the photos:
1. Just one of the 29 carriages
2. Katherine Station and note there is no raised platform. A set of steps awaits at each door position.
3. Queen Adelaide restaurant carriage for Gold and Platinum class.
4. Explorers Lounge carriage - bar and gift shop
5. Was that sun rise or set?
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Warning: Central Car rentals
BEWARE Central Car Rentals. Also known as Alice Camp'n'drive. The owner is dishonest and abusive. You are much better off sticking with the main car hire companies. The camping kit is of very poor quality. You won't sleep well at night as the swags have very thin mattresses.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
The Historic Ghan Train Adventure
We took the historic Ghan Train from Adelaide to Alice Springs. We had the Gold Kangaroo Service, so this included a lounge and dining car, and private sleeping rooms. The trip took about twenty hours. It was awesome to wake up in the morning and get your first view of the Outback as the sun was rising. Food was good, and the staff was very accomodating.
Inside the Old Ghan Museum
The inside part of the Old Ghan Museum is small, but there are some interesting displays. Admission for seniors in August 2010 was 6 AUD. The kitchen is also there. You order your food at the counter. There are a few tables inside but there are nice outside dining areas in the garden next to the "Galahliment House." If you wish, they will bring your food to you at the tables outside. Their motto is "All food beyond this point is delicious and must be consumed." It's true too! I had the homemade soup lunch special for 8 AUD.
- Museum Visits
The Ghan Train
The Ghan, which is short for Afghan called after the camel drivers who helped penetrate Australia red centre, train runs all the way from Darwin through Alice Springs down to Adelaide. We did the Alice to Adelaide section and slept overnight on the train. It was fun and another chance to see more red outback scenery.
Alice Springs Airport is remote to the town (as most airports are). The Alice Springs Airport Shuttle meets all incoming and departing flights to the airport and offers a fast and convenient service with friendly drivers to the various hotels, hostels and accommodation throughout Alice Springs.
Transfer from the airport to Alice Springs can be booked on arrival, just look for the bus at the drop-off zone in front of the terminal - the driver remains with the bus and tickets can be bought from the driver (cash only). Return transfers are available.
- Budget Travel
This is Australia's leading budget airfair airline. This airline flyes from most capital cities to Alice Springs daily.
Qantas is Australia's largest Airline. Qantas flies to the Alice from over 60 locations throughout Australia.
Outdoor Displays at Old Ghan Museum
Besides the Old Ghan train itself there are several interesting outdoor displays of historical rail equipment and cargo. See also a videoclip.
- Museum Visits
Interesting Posters at the Old Ghan Museum
Inside the museum itself and outside in the rail cars there are many interesting historical posters about Australian railroads. One railway was even named after Zyg!
- Museum Visits
Qantas Link provides services to/from Alice Springs. Destinations include Darwin and Yulara (for Uluru).