Australia > Long Distance Australian Train Journeys > Station Notes
Long Distance Australian Train Journeys - Station Notes
A guide for backpacker and budget travellers
The 'Indian Pacific', the 'Ghan' and the 'Overland' are very long trains, so may not fit on to the platforms of many central Australian railway stations. They often, though not always, require special stations which can be some distance from the town centre. This page attempts to provide some helpful notes about these starting points, and is aimed specifically at the backpacker or budget traveller with tickets booked on Great Southern Rail's Red Class service.
The Indian Pacific, the Ghan, and the Overland all use the Parklands Terminal at Keswick Street. This is about 2km from the Central Bus Station and the city's central business district (CBD). You will generally find a number of taxis awaiting the arrival of any of the long distance trains, or you can catch the Skylink Bus, which will be waiting outside the terminal, and will take you to Adelaide's Central Bus Station, or any of the usual central hotels or hostels. The price is currently $13, which is quite a lot, though the driver does take you right to the door of your hostel or hotel if requested, so its a service I would recommend.
The Parklands Terminal has a small cafe and gift shop, selling train memorabilia and souvenirs. Toilets and drinking water are also available. There is nothing else there, or in the immediate surroundings, that will be of interest to the traveller.
The railway station at Alice Springs is located just a short distance to the west of the town centre, and is easily walked in 10 or 15 minutes. Taxis are also available, and a small bus will take guests to their hotels or to the town centre. The station has a basic cafe and gift shop, toilets and chilled drinking water, plus a large selection of free magazines to read whilst you are waiting for your train to commence boarding. The centre of town has all the facilities that a traveller needs, including a post office, hostels, supermarkets, and free wifi for customers of McDonalds. There is also the opportunity to visit the Flying Doctor Headquarters. A 20 minute walk to the south west of the station brings you to the Cultural Precinct where you can see the Natural History Museum, the Aviation Museum, the Historical Cemetery, and some interesting displays on Aborginal Culture.
The Broken Hill railway station is right in the centre of the town, and a 1 minute walk brings you to the Argent Street and the town's shopping center. Wifi is available for the customers of Hungry Jacks.
At Darwin, if you were expecting the Ghan train to terminate in the Central Business District, you are in for a surprise. The train stops at the Berrimah Road terminal, which is 18km from the city centre. Unless you are being met by friends or have your own transport, there are only two alternatives to get into town: taxi or shuttle bus. Taxis must be ordered in advance, as they don't drive to the station on spec, the distance being too great and the customers limited to train passengers. You can book one in advance by phone from Katherine railway station. Don't rely on mobile phone coverage elsewhere. The typical cost of a taxi from the terminal to the CBD is $50.
If you prefer to take the shuttle bus, this must be booked in advance on the train from the staff in the Matilda Cafe. Do this on the night before the train arrives in Darwin. Staff will make plenty of announcements, so you won't miss the opportunity to purchase the ticket, which costs $15 one way.
If you are starting your journey on the Ghan in Darwin, you don't need to book the shuttle bus ticket beforehand - simply turn up to the Darwin Transit Bus Centre at 69 Mitchell Street in the centre of town just before 0800 and buy a ticket from the driver.
Katherine's railway station is another one that is some distance away from anything useful. Its about 8km from there to the town centre, which is too far to even think of walking there and back during the Whistlestop Tour break. You have no option but to get the $15 shuttle bus or pay for a private taxi. The town of Katherine has all the usual shops and restaurants, and free wifi for customers of McDonalds. If you don't go into town, there is really nothing adajcent to the station except some low and dense scrub woodland. The station itself provides a basic seating area with fans, a small enclosed A/C seating area, toilets, free chilled drinking water, and some small snacks from a kiosk. You wouldn't want to stay there twice. The staff on the Ghan understand this, and usually let passengers who are not on the tours back on board the train before normal boarding re-commences.
The Overland train arrives and departs from platform 2A at the Southern Cross station on Spencer Street, which is right in the heart of the city. The station has good connections by bus, taxi, and local train, and the traveller staying in the area will find a variety of small hotels and hostels, including a YHA above a noisy late-night disco. The Southern Cross station is well served with many shops, cafes, and other services for the traveller, though there is no free wifi on the concourse. The nearest I found was at a Hungry Jacks restaurant just to the north of the station. Also just a short distance to the north is a large 'Coles' supermarket, which is ideal for last minute food purchases.
The Indian Pacific uses the East Perth Terminal. This is not too far from the city centre, and if you don't wish to use your own car or taxi to get there, you can catch a train from platform 7 at the Central Station on Wellington Street that will take you the 3 stops to the East Perth Terminal. These trains depart every 15 minutes during the day, and the fare is a modest $1.90. Ask for a 'Two Section' ticket, or use the automatic machines outside if you have suitable coins in your pocket.
The East Perth Terminal has few facilities for the traveller, so you should do any shopping before you get there. The East Perth Terminal is also used by the Greyhound Coaches for arrivals and departures.
The Indian Pacific arrives and departs from the city's Central Station, which has excellent bus, taxi, and local rail connections with the rest of the city. The Central Station has a small number of cafes and shops, including an excellent railway bookshop for enthusiasts, but is conspicuously lacking a general waiting room or somewhere else to sit down in. The only waiting room available is reserved for CountryLink passengers, and is hidden away half way down platform one. There are toilets inside, and one electricity socket. The only other seats in the station belong to the forecourt cafes - I used one for a while though fully expected to be asked to move on by the waiters, as I was not buying any of their rather expensive food. There is a Hungry Jacks restaurant too, but unlike most of its other branches, it does not provide free wifi.
The Central Station has a CountryLink office on the main concourse next to Platform 1, where those who purchased their rail passes overseas should take their voucher and exchange it for an actual rail pass. Bookings and reservations can be done at the same time. Timetables are available, though I would recommend that you try to plan your trip online as much as possible beforehand, as the booking desks are always quite busy,and the staff, though helpful, need to keep the queues moving. Note that although CountryLink issues the passes that allow you to travel on the train run by other companies, they have little contact with them, and little information. Australia certainly doesn't have a national integrated rail transport network, in the way that, say, India does. When I enquired about trains originating in Queensland, the CountryLink staff in Sydney advised me to telephone the Queensland Rail office directly, and were unable to book a seat for a train departing from Brisbane a mere three days ahead - I was told to book on the day of travel. When I actually did this in Brisbane I was advised that the train was fairly full already: my reason for wanting to book in advance in Sydney!
Buy your rail pass here:
Still keen and want to find out more? Please visit the other pages in this article:
- Tickets And Passes - Where To Buy Them
- On Board The Train - Seating
- On Board The Train - Food
- On Board The Train - Facilities
- On Board The Train - Photography
- On Board The Train - Ghan And Overland Differences
- Packing List - Essential Items For The Journey
- Upgrading To Better Accomodation
- Whistlestop Tours
- Station Notes - THIS PAGE
- Great Southern Rail Train Photo Gallery
The photographs on these pages were all taken on my recent 32,000km journey around Australia. Click any image to see a larger version. The photographs are all available for licensing in a range of sizes - please Contact Me for details.
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