ONE OF WORLD’S GREAT TRAIN JOURNEYS, THE GHAN EXPEDITION SNAKES THROUGH THE INTERIOR OF THE COUNTRY ON A FOUR DAY, THREE NIGHT, 2979KM ALL-INCLUSIVE JOURNEY THAT STARTS IN DARWIN, PASSES THROUGH THE RED CENTRE AND ENDS IN ADELAIDE. IT’S THE ULTIMATE WAY TO EXPLORE THE MOST REMOTE AND CAPTIVATING PARTS OF AUSTRALIA IN STYLE AND COMFORT.
WORDS: Walter Marsh
You’ll start your great land crossing on the water, as the Charles Darwin catamaran takes you on a 2.5 hour dinner cruise to soak up a top end sunset that’s hard to beat. The transcendent Kakadu National Park needs little introduction, from crocodile-spotting on Yellow Water Billabong to marvelling at ochre rock art that reaches across millennia at Ubirr and the World Heritage-listed Burrungkuy.
Wind your way down to Jawoyn country, and let the scale and beauty of Nitmiluk Gorge’s walls of ancient limestone grant you a whole new perspective on your place in the world. The Gorge is best explored either at water-level with a cruise along the Katherine River, or by getting a bird’s eye view via helicopter.
3. ALICE SPRINGS
Mparntwe/Alice Springs may be geographically isolated, but it’s also a site of deep connection. From a visit to the School of the Air to the historic Alice Springs Telegraph Station, which in 1872 helped revolutionise the way Australia communicated with the world, you’ll appreciate why it’s become the continent’s great crossroad. Alice is also a perfect base for a guided walk through Simpsons Gap, or a scenic flight over Uluru.
4. ULURU-KATA TJUTA
Uluru rates among the most photographed natural wonders in Australia, but nothing will prepare you for seeing it with your own two eyes. You’ll be able to soak up its changing colours at sunrise, gaze up at a wall of sheer rock on a base tour, and gain a sense of its deep significance to the Anangu traditional owners at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.
Stretch your legs and gather ’round the campfire as The Ghan Expedition pulls into Manguri for a taste of the stillness and serenity of outback station life. 40 kilometres out from Coober Pedy, it’s an ideal stop for a trip to the home of the opal, or the perfect place to savour the Southern Cross without any light pollution.
6. COOBER PEDY
By this point of the trip you’ll have covered plenty of ground. At Coober Pedy, you’ll get a chance to go under it, as this semi-subterranean opal mining town shares its secrets (well, some of them, at least). Strike out on a guided walking tour to the mighty Kanku/Breakaways, and then head underground to the caverns and hand dug tunnels of the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum.
Passing through the historic rock formations of the Flinders Ranges on your way to the world famous wine country of the Barossa Valley, the home stretch to Adelaide features plenty of reasons to take your sweet time. The southern capital is just a short skip to the legendary Penfolds Magill Estate in the Adelaide foothills, or head south to the Fleurieu Peninsula, taking in the cellar doors of McLaren Vale as you go.