Indian Pacific Railway Guide: All About This Australian Train Ride

A Guide to the Indian Pacific Railway in South Australia [UPDATED 2021]

Come aboard this incredible train journey Down Under!

From the perilous outback to cosmopolitan cities, Australia obviously has plenty to offer to zippy travellers. Many would rent a car and hit the road to explore untouched landscapes, while few would take on the other scenic and convenient option — trains. And unbeknownst to some travellers, the Land Down Under is home to one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world: the Indian Pacific Railway.

Spanning a colossal 4,352 kilometres between Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth, the whole journey takes 65 hours. It cuts right through the heart of Australia’s barren deserts and promises breathtaking views of the remote wilderness. Read on to find out how and why this Sydney to Perth train ride (and back) is an experience like no other!

All aboard the Indian Pacific

Image credit: Amanda Slater

The Indian Pacific Railway allows you to explore the breadth of the great Southern part of Australia. It operates all year ’round, with trains coming from both Sydney and Perth every week. Trains depart from Sydney Central Station on Wednesdays, and from East Perth Terminal on Sundays. Both journeys last four days and three nights.

Slots run out pretty quickly, so it’s always best to book at least six months ahead, especially if you’re not a local! As of writing, bookings for 2022 are now open.

Note: Given the current travel restrictions in Western Australia, make sure to prepare the necessary entry requirements. Click here for more info. 

Also read: 8 Reasons Why You Might Want to Consider Getting A Travel Adviser

What to expect from this Australian train ride

indian pacific railway

Image credit: TheLeadSA

A luxurious experience awaits those who take the Indian Pacific. Each sleeper cabin is equipped with power outlets and in-cabin radio channels with audio commentary. When you’d like a break from staring out of the window, there’s an Outback Explorer Lounge where you can meet fellow guests and help yourself to all sorts of refreshments.

Of course, your rail holiday wouldn’t be complete without treating your tastebuds. Fortunately, the Indian-Pacific Railway delivers possibly far more than you could ask for! Here, you can sample delectable Australian cuisine sourced from different parts of the country; from grilled swordfish to tender lamb shoulder slow-cooked in honey and black vinegar. Oh, and make sure to save space for dessert! The dining cabin also offers sweets such as the apple and wild rosella flower strudel and the regional speciality cheese plate.

There are also further culinary delights during the off-train excursions. That’s right — you can actually get off the train and embark on handpicked tours covering food trips and city sights. Think it cannot get any better? The trip also boasts an Outback Experience where visitors can wine and dine under the stars.

Halfway journeys to Adelaide

indian pacific railway

Image credit: denisbin

Not quite sure if you’re up for a Sydney to Perth train ride (or vice versa)? Travellers who would like to experience a fraction of the journey can opt for routes to and from Adelaide. These trips take only two days and one night. So, that’s four more routes: Sydney to Adelaide and vice versa; and Perth to Adelaide and vice versa. The departure day varies for each, but all Indian Pacific trains coming from Adelaide start at the Adelaide Parklands Terminal.

Anyway, whichever of the six routes you’ll be taking, you’re still guaranteed a grand adventure to the outbacks and beyond. With amazing sights like the gigantic Blue Mountains, vast plains of the great outback, and prodigious vineyards, travellers can “savour” many sights through this Australian train journey.

Notable places to see along the Indian Pacific Railway

Indian Pacific Railway

Image credit: wx-bradwang via Canva Pro

For those taking the Sydney to Perth train route, here’s a quick overview of the four-day journey! Alternatively, if you’re embarking from Perth, simply reverse the order of stops and attractions below. 

Day 1: The Blue Mountains

Indian Pacific Railway

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On the first day of the journey, the train winds through the magnificent Blue Mountains. Situated 50 kilometres west of Sydney, this rugged region gets its name from the natural blue haze coming from the eucalyptus forests. So, go ahead and admire the dramatic scenery as the train slowly navigates through the heights of the ranges.

Day 2: Broken Hill, Barossa Valley, and Adelaide

indian pacific railway

Image credit: Ian Sanderson

On the second day, you’ll arrive in Broken Hill, a historical mining city in the outback. Here, you’ll find a peculiar series of sandstone sculptures and old mining caverns. There’s also a Mad Max Museum dedicated to the cult classic film franchise that was filmed here. Before breakfast, you’ll disembark for an off-train excursion of the city. 

Image credit: ikonya via Canva Pro

In the afternoon, guests can choose among different excursions depending on their preferences. You can either take a city tour of Adelaide, visit the Adelaide Hills, or explore the wine regions of Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale. However, do take note that the last one is seasonal. 

Day 3: Nullarbor Plain

Image credit: Amanda Slater

The next morning, you’ll wake up in the Nullarbor Plain. Nullarbor translates to “no trees” in Latin — and it definitely conjures a sense of limitless space as you gaze on in quiet contemplation. Although, in reality, this vast limestone plateau is filled with bluebushes, mulga shrubs, and even wildflowers. 

The train also stops for a night in Rawlinna, a railway town-slash-sheep station in the middle of the Nullarbor. Here, you’ll have an authentic outback roast dinner under the starry desert skies. 

Day 4: Avon Valley and Perth

Indian Pacific Railway

Image credit: Sahil Malhotra via Canva Pro

On the last day, the Indian-Pacific Railway meanders along the Avon Valley region.  This national park flows through the Avon River and is best known for its lush rolling hills, historic towns, and vibrant countryside scenery. (And at this point, you’ll probably be itching to see more splashes of colour after mostly outback sights.)

Image credit: Andrew Hanlon via Canva Pro

And then after a hearty last lunch aboard, the train will roll into its final stop: Perth.

Also read: 10 Must-Know Packing Tips to Help You Survive Long Train Rides

No matter which route you take, experiencing the Indian Pacific Railway is certainly more about the journey than the destination! So, are you already considering this Australian train adventure for your next holiday?

On a different note, you might also wanna consider some train rides in Asia. Looking for something that traverses more than just one country at a time? Here are some of our fave country-hopping rail journeys to add to your bucket list, too!

About Authors

Kevin Mak
Kevin Mak

Apart from catching overly-dramatic movies, quenching his voracious appetite and just lounging in his free time, Kevin finds François Rabelais' quote "I am going to seek a grand perhaps" resonating with him at times. It is this very desire that sees him travelling to foreign lands in search of new experiences, and food. In his adventures, the only thing that can temporarily impede his journey is his soft spot for pizza.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Kevin Mak

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Marcy Miniano



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