The Ghan


First-class

Introduction/History:

The Ghan’s wild history started in 1878. That year, construction began on a line from Port Augusta. For about 50 years, until 1929, the last leg to Alice Springs was on Afghan camels. That’s how today’s train got its name. The Alice to Darwin “Top End” route, dreamed of for more than a century, celebrates its 14th anniversary in 2018. The service has been swamped with travelers. It takes 48 hours—two nights on board—to travel from Adelaide to Darwin over 1,852 miles of track. The Ghan has added Platinum luxury-class service. Our “Down Under Luxury: Australia Rail Extravaganza” tour, which includes “The Ghan Experience” itinerary, operates April to October, 2018 and from March, 2019. Several stops along the way make this a fascinating journey.

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Accommodations

In September 2008, the Ghan kicked off a new luxury service, featuring 24 Platinum class cabins. Each cabin is 82.5 square feet, including private, en-suite shower, sink and toilet, almost twice the size of the existing Gold Kangaroo service. The cabin is converted to a lounge area by day, with a movable table and two ottomans. At night, it converts to a double or twin beds; the interior is finished in Tasmanian Myrtle wood. Each compartment has full-size shower, vanity with storage space, mirror, and an over-sized panoramic window.

Our most recent reviewer of the train found it wonderful overall. “I am sorry to leave the Ghan and even sorrier to part from the staff’s excellent care,” our author said in her story. “…The service is one of the best aspects of Platinum class.”

Another great benefit: complimentary off-train excursions in Alice and other stops.

Dining

Dining is in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant in two seatings. Platinum travelers get priority seating, which we think is great. Alternatively, guests can order room service from items on the menu.

Lounge Cars

The lounge on any train can be a crowded place. That’s why the dining management has been designed to fit half of the passengers in the dining room for one seating, followed by the second. The same switch occurs in the lounge car.  Plus, those in Platinum have the spacious cabins as well — which is one reason we highly recommend this level of service.

 

Other

The Ghan — especially in Platinum Class — is definitely on our list of World’s Top 25 Trains. It is part of an elite club of trans-continental train services in the world. We love the fine feeling of other-worldliness waking at dawn on The Ghan, peering out to see the desert drenched in gold.

The Ghan is so long, it must be split in two and boarding is from two platforms. At departure, the two sections are linked back together. The train is more than half a mile long. It has two locomotives and 24 carriages — and all of that won’t fit on one platform. Sometimes more carriages must be added, and that extends the consist to almost a mile. This makes it one of the longest in the world.

With Platinum service, the Ghan strives to be the premiere passenger service in Australia.  Platinum service offers many extras, from welcome drink and appetizer upon arrival in your cabin, to 24-hour cabin steward service, room service, complimentary nightcap, binoculars and in-room entertainment on request. Other perks: priority seating in the Queen Adelaide restaurant, at check-in and complimentary Whistle-stop tour bookings. It also includes private transfers to the station for Platinum and coach transfers from specific hotels in Darwin to the station for Gold.

One IRT traveler in Gold class was unhappy with all the little extras the railway does not offer in Gold Class. There is no afternoon tea; no complimentary chips or nuts with your welcome champagne glass, few of the little extras which for him are a delight traveling on fine trains. However, the train does offer a valuable perk: complimentary coach transfers to the train from several hotels for those in Gold Class and private transfers for those in Platinum.

Great Southern Railways operates the Ghan and the Indian Pacific.

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The Ghan at The Darwin Terminal, Northern Territory.  (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail)
The Ghan at The Darwin Terminal, Northern Territory. (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail)
The Ghan rolls through the Northern Territory.  (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail)
The Ghan rolls through the Northern Territory. (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail)
The Ghan crossing over Elizabeth River.  (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail)
The Ghan crossing over Elizabeth River. (Photo courtesy of Great Southern Rail)