At the stop at Marla, be sure to set your alarm so you can witness the extraordinary sunrise over this remote outback area of South Australia.
The Ghan continues its journey north – outside, the characteristic ochre-red soil of Central Australia is dotted with small railway towns, spinifex palms and saltpans framed by a cobalt-blue sky. When the MacDonnell Ranges appear on the horizon, you know you’re getting close to remote Alice Springs. Shuttle buses make it easy to explore the town at your leisure, visiting the Flying Doctor Service Museum and the Telegraph Station, part of the telegraph line that linked London with Darwin and Adelaide, which opened in 1872.
Perhaps the best way to take in the region’s vast tracts of sacred Aboriginal land is by the air. If you upgrade your excursion you’ll enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Simpsons Gap, a waterhole and important spiritual site to the Arrarnta Aboriginal people. On the journey in the other direction, from Darwin to Adelaide, there’s also an another optional upgrade allowing you the sky-high experience of gliding over Uluru and Kata Tjuta in a fixed-wing plane – this could well be the ultimate outback experience.
Also on the Darwin to Adelaide journey, a dazzling blanket of stars overhead provides the backdrop for the Outback Pioneer Dinner, where you’ll enjoy steak and damper while being serenaded with live music. Before returning to the train, cast your eyes skyward once more and learn more about the universe with an informative astronomical talk.
Continuing north, enjoy a delightful breakfast aboard The Ghan before arriving at Katherine. Join an included Off Train Excursion such as cruising in spectacular Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge with its towering sandstone cliffs dwarfing the boat, learn about the Jawoyn people and their Cicada Place, or you can book an optional upgrade and take a scenic flight over Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks.
When the train finally moves on, Katherine’s dense forest fades into mangroves and palms as you enter Australia’s only tropical capital, Darwin.