A great way to travel across Australia’s vast Nullarbor Plain is to treat yourself to a Gold Class ticket on the Indian Pacific Train. So named because it travels 4,352 Kilometres from the Indian Ocean (Perth Western Australia), to the Pacific Ocean (Sydney New South Wales). The Indian Pacific has been crossing this great continent, in both directions, for over 40 years.
Ready to board the Indian Pacific Train in Perth with my Dad
If you’re looking for the cheapest way to travel from coast to coast the Indian Pacific may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a relaxing and luxurious trip where the journey is part of the fun, do yourself a favour and get on board!
Dad and I chose the Gold Class single cabins which were surprisingly tiny, but more than adequate. A comfy bed folds away during the day leaving a chair, a small table and another small seat for daytime use. Some cabins have their own ensuite, but we chose the shared bathroom option (at the end of our carriage) which was fine, and we didn’t have to queue at any time. At a higher price point than the Gold Class, the Platinum Class section offers more spacious cabins and private ensuites among other luxurious extras.
The single bed folds out from the wall for night time use.
The single chair for daytime use. Note the handle above Dad’s head where the bed folds away.
We boarded the train at East Perth Terminal mid-morning on a Sunday and settled into our respective cabins before being visited by a staff member who briefed us on the details of our journey. One of the highlights for me (a woman who does most of the menu planning in our household) was being told at what times we were to present for the delicious meals they serve on board. The food service runs like clockwork once everyone gets the hang of not turning up early, or late, at meal times, given that they can only seat a certain number of people in the dining cars at one sitting.
A sample of the top quality meals served on board
At one stage Dad and I walked back to the “Red” ticket section of the train. A cheaper travel option, the red section comprises of upright seating and offers lunch bar style food which can be purchased if required. This prompted Dad to comment that our “Gold” section was filled with the wealthy and overfed! The red ticket option would still be more expensive than air travel, but it’s a good choice for those who have the time and would like to enjoy the sights of Australia’s beautiful red centre along the way.
The first stop on our journey was at Kalgoorlie, WA’s historic gold mining town. We had a late night tour of the town (included in the Gold Class fare, an optional extra for travellers in the Red Section) before heading back to the train after midnight to continue our journey. The stop is also to re-fuel, change staff and re-stock with provisions.
An enormous Haulpack truck seen on our night tour of Kalgoorlie
Late on Monday morning we had our second long stop at the once busy town of Cook. Now with a population of only four people and one dog, the town exists soley to service the passing trains. It was great to chat to the residents who said they loved living out there in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else! The town was so much busier in the days of the more labour intensive steam and coal trains, with a population of around 50 people. Once the wooden railway sleepers were replaced with concrete, maintenance of the railway line itself became very minimal, also reducing the need for maintenance crews along the way.
Two of the four residents of Cook, South Australia
The old Cook school, long since condemned.
Cook is adjacent to the longest straight section of railway in the world – spanning 478km across the Nullarbor Plain from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, to Port Augusta in South Australia.
A glimpse of Australia’s beautiful Nullarbor Plain
Nullarbor literally means No (Null) Trees (Arbor). This picturesque part of Australia has a unique and rare beauty second to none.
It was wonderful to relax and enjoy the scenery, or meet and greet other passengers in the lounge bar over a pre dinner drink. The hardest part about the journey was contemplating which of the delicious menu choices to enjoy at breakfast lunch or dinner!
One of the beautifully appointed dining cars.
We travelled through several little towns and sidings with interesting names, including Ooldea, Tarcoola, Tent Hill, Port Augusta, and Coonamia, before pulling into Adelaide after breakfast on Tuesday morning. This is where Dad and I disembarked, ready to hire a car and drive to Victoria. Other passengers enjoyed a three hour stop before continuing on via Broken Hill to Sydney where the train completes its journey at about 11am on Wednesday, three days after leaving Perth.
After travelling around South Australia, Victoria, and briefly into New South Wales, Dad and I headed back to Adelaide to board the train back to Perth. The return journey was just as enjoyable as the outbound trip.
The Indian Pacific prior to leaving Adelaide
A life-sized sculpture of the Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle
Back at the half way point of Cook we stopped again while the staff re-stocked, changed drivers, and completed various other tasks. This gave us the opportunity to have another look around.
An old (disused) long drop toilet, where one of the locals displayed their sense of humour!
The old Cook lock up where (presumably) errant travellers or locals would be held.
I decided to go for a short run during our stop in Cook, prompting an elderly man to comment that I was showing off! Well, why Not?
The train actually makes many stops along the way because there’s only one railway line and frequent goods train traffic, as well as the Indian Pacific train travelling in the opposite direction. So the train pulls into either a passing loop or a siding to wait for the oncoming train to pass, before continuing on its journey. Both Dad and I were very surprised at how many goods trains we passed along the way.
Welcome to Western Australia!
Looking out for the border crossing signs was part of the fun, and the staff announced when we were getting close to the state border.
We stopped at Rawlinna, approximately three kilometres west of the WA border, where a couple of rail employees disembarked with their bikes. They were met by a support crew in a four wheel drive with the intention of cycling beside the railway line some 680km from Rawlinna to Ooldea, to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The support crew waiting for the train at Rawlinna
Rail Employees Disembarked at Rawlinna
One last beautiful sunset, followed by a good nights’ sleep and another delicious breakfast, and we arrived back in Perth, happy to have experienced the pleasure and luxury of a trans continental railway journey.
Spoilt for choice with the delicious breakfast menu.
Would I do it all again? Absolutely!