The Indian Pacific Railroad Journey


The Indian Pacific Railroad Journey

Australia's longest rail journey snakes 4,352 km (2,720 mi) across mountains, plains, and deserts between Sydney and Perth. Named after the oceans on either side of the country, the Indian Pacific dates back to the late 19th century, when Australia was pushing toward Federation. The independent British colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia enticed the isolated colony of Western Australia into federation with the promise of an east-west rail link. Construction of the final 1,996-km (1,248-mi) link in the transcontinental line, between Kalgoorlie in the west and Port Augusta in South Australia, was completed in 1917. Even though passenger services started that year, the Indian Pacific only made its first unbroken journey in 1970. Before then, travelers had to change trains several times to ride narrow-, standard-, and broad-gauge track, and the line was standardized only in 1969.

The Route

The Indian Pacific traverses dramatically diverse Australian landscapes on its 65-hour journey. You have the option of making the whole trip in one sitting or breaking it—for A$200 you can stop off in Adelaide.

The Eastern Leg (from Sydney to Adelaide)

East-west passengers leave Sydney in midafternoon and kick off the journey by traveling over the sandstone escarpments and through the villages of the Blue Mountains as the train scales the Great Dividing Range. Dinner is served as the Western Plains unfurl. After a good night's rest, tuck into breakfast as the train rolls through Outback New South Wales toward Broken Hill. Morning and afternoon light on the gnarled hills, mulga scrub, and red-soil plains out here inspires artists, many of whom have galleries in Broken Hill. Look out for emus and kangaroos.

The Western Leg (from Adelaide to Perth)

Your second Indian Pacific dinner is served as the train backtracks through Adelaide's northern suburbs to the railway junction at Crystal Brook. Darkness covers the run up Spencer Gulf and into salt-lake country, and dawn finds you on the Nullarbor Plain. Nullarbor is a Latin-based name meaning no trees. There is little to see for mile after mile, and that's the appeal. This is prime hunting ground for the wedge-tailed eagle, symbol of the Indian Pacific, and train drivers sometimes slow down so passengers can see eagle chicks in a nest beside the train.

Whistle-Stop Tours—Broken Hill

All Whistle-Stop tours can be arranged through the bar staff or the Onboard Hospitality Attendant in each carriage. Three tours are offered during your 70- to 90-minute stop in Broken Hill. We like the Silver City tour (A$24), which explores the town's rich mining history.

Whistle-Stop Tours—Adelaide

If you want to stay on the train, then you've only 3½ hours to explore the city. The one-hour Adelaide–Festival City tour (A$23) shows you Adelaide Oval (arguably Australia's prettiest cricket ground), splendid sandstone buildings, and Rundle Street's famous café scene. If you decide to break up your journey, then your time depends on which Indian Pacific service you rejoin; the train runs weekly year-round, with a second departure each week from early September to late November and early January to late March. A three-day itinerary allows for one day in Adelaide, and the next day can be spent exploring the villages and wineries in the Adelaide Hills. On Day 3, head north to Barossa or south to McLaren Vale for some serious wine appreciation. The trains depart at 6:40 pm on Wednesdays (and Saturday in high season).

Whistle-Stop Tours—Kalgoorlie

Around breakfast time the following day, the Indian Pacific starts its run on the world's longest straight stretch of railway. After 90 minutes along this 478-km (300-mi) stretch of track, in the middle of nowhere, the train stops in Cook to take on water and change drivers. Step off and wander around this virtual ghost town. Around nightfall you'll roll into Kalgoorlie for a 3½-hour stop. This is Australia's largest Outback city, and it sits on the world's highest concentration of gold. Join the 75-minute Gold Capital Tour (A$30) and learn about the hardships of early mining and the unique cast of characters that came here to strike it rich. Weather permitting, you also see the 1,090-foot-deep, 3-km-long (2-mi-long) flood-lit Super Pit. From Kalgoorlie, the Indian Pacific continues west through the night, and the journey ends in Perth around 9 am. Take the All About Perth tour (A$44) and get a feel for Western Australia's riverside capital before checking into your hotel.

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