From Brisbane to Longreach, the famous Spirit of the Outback brings Queensland alive.
Discover Nambour, Gympie, Rockhampton, the Central Highlands and Barcaldine in comfort and style
The route: Covering 1,325 kilometres between Brisbane and Longreach, The Spirit of the Outback departs the Queensland capital and travels along the country’s east coast to Rockhampton. From there, it heads west into the outback, passing through Blackwater, Emerald and Barcaldine before pulling into Longreach 24 hours later.
The experience: Queensland’s vibrant capital has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, its emerging culinary and arts scenes inspiring new and exciting developments and precincts across the city. It’s here that your coast-to-the-outback adventure begins, easing out of Brisbane and heading north.
The journey along the Pacific coast passes through quintessential Queensland towns including Nambour on the Sunshine Coast, the gold fields of Gympie, and Bundaberg, with its wide, palm-lined streets and sleepy vibe.
Then it’s on to Rockhampton, known for enjoying more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Just north of the Tropic of Capricorn on the Fitzroy River, the town’s heritage-listed buildings and expansive parklands make it a popular stop.
From here, The Spirit of the Outback departs the coast and heads west into the outback. Leaving Queensland’s tropical forest behind, the train passes through significant mining towns such as Blackwater in the Central Highlands, with its wide, flat plains on the edge of the state’s gem fields. Nearing the end of its journey, The Spirit of the Outback stops for 20 minutes in Barcaldine, which is just enough time to experience a special part of Australia’s history: the dramatic memorial built around the iconic Tree of Knowledge. Said to be 170 years old, this ancient ghost gum was the meeting point for the Queensland shearers’ strike of 1891, which gave birth to the organised labour movement in Australia.
The journey ends in Longreach – famous for the Qantas Founders Museum and the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre – just 24 hours after it began. But there are plenty of reasons to linger in this part of the world.
Located 600 kilometres northwest of Brisbane, Carnarvon Gorge is an oasis of towering sandstone cliffs, rocky freshwater creeks, eucalypt and fan palm forests – plus significant Aboriginal rock art – in the semi-arid heart of Central Queensland. The National Park’s waterways attract more than 170 species of birds, not to mention mammals such as echidnas, platypuses, eastern grey kangaroos and swamp wallabies. Walking tracks lead to hidden moss gardens and waterfalls shrouded by ferns.
However, the best way to gain a true perspective of the gorge is by helicopter. Tours over Carnarvon reveal the majesty of this pocket oasis where rare flora clings to rocky ridges that plunge to the forest floor, the experience made even more spectacular in contrast to the surrounding flat farmland of the Arcadia Valley.
The train: You can opt to experience the ever-changing Queensland countryside from a seat, but sleeping berths make the journey all the more memorable. First Class Sleeper Berths are fitted with comfortable beds and niceties including a wardrobe, table and washbasin, with bathrooms at the end of all cars.
Meals are designed to showcase local Queensland produce in the Tuckerbox Restaurant, with takeaway options also available, while The Stockman’s Bar is a lively place to enjoy a drink with fellow passengers.
How to get there: There are flights to Brisbane from most Australian capital cities.
The details: NRMA’s 14-night Outback Queensland National Parks itinerary includes overnight accommodation in a First Class Sleeper Carriage on The Spirit of the Outback between Brisbane and Longreach.
From Longreach, the itinerary takes you from Winton to Carnarvon Gorge, including accommodation, meals, activities and a scenic helicopter flight.