Queensland’s top 7 rail journeys

By AG STAFF 24 June 2022
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There are a surprising number of opportunities to hop on a train and take in the extraordinary scenery of the outback and the bush while travelling the old-fashioned way in the Sunshine State.

With 4000km of regional track, Queensland Rail Travel can deliver you all the way to Cairns in the state’s north, Longreach, Charleville and Mount Isa in the west and even to tourism hotspots in the Far North and the Gulf Savannah. You can also take advantage of its RailBus connections to explore don’t-miss coastal havens such as Hervey Bay, Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. With Queensland Rail Travel you can leave the car at home, and enjoy the unique luxury of time and space to sit back and enjoy the ever-changing landscapes. Here are our top picks.


Brisbane–Cairns (1681km)

This train travels the coast of Queensland from Brisbane to Cairns, a distance of 1681km, in 25 hours and has two travel options – economy seats, which are great if you are stopping along the way, and the RailBed, a spacious seat during the day that folds out to a lie-flat bed at night, with all-inclusive in-seat dining. The train passes through canefields and rainforest and stops at some of the Queensland coast’s biggest regional cities, including Mackay, Rockhampton, Proserpine (the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands) and Townsville.

Spirit of Queensland. Image credit: Queensland Rail Travel


Brisbane–Longreach (1325km)

Launched in 1993 by combining the Capricornian and Midlander train journeys, the Spirit of the Outback travels 1325km between Brisbane and Longreach in about 24 hours. The perfect introduction to outback Queensland, the Spirit takes its passengers deep into the engine rooms of the Queensland economy. It follows the coast to Rockhampton, then turns inland and passes through the heritage mining towns of Blackwater and Emerald, and the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, Barcaldine, before arriving in Longreach, a town that has been saved from the clutches of a never-ending drought by its burgeoning tourist trade.

Spirit of the Outback. Image credit: Queensland Rail Travel


Townsville–Mount Isa (977km)

A historic trip from the major northern Queensland port city of Townsville to the mining centre of Mount Isa. Over a leisurely 21-hour journey, covering 977km, the Inlander offers the opportunity to experience the heritage and natural treasures of northern Queensland’s ruggedly beautiful inland.

From Townsville, the train travels through picturesque Charters Towers, across the Great Dividing Range and through the mining towns of Hughenden and Julia Creek, before delivering passengers into Queensland’s dry western reaches. Introduced in 1953, the Inlander was Queensland’s first air-conditioned train.

Inlander. Image credit: Queensland Rail Travel


Cairns to Kuranda (37km)

Imagine all that natural wonder so close that you can almost touch it, your senses alive with the heady organic fragrance and untamed sounds of the dense rainforest. That’s what it’s like aboard Kuranda Scenic Railway as you unwind your way through a tropical paradise framed by rugged mountains with waterfalls tumbling forever into deep ravines.

Rising from sea level to 328m, the journey to Kuranda passes spectacular waterfalls and into the stunning Barron Gorge. Meandering through picturesque scenery, you travel through 15 handmade tunnels and a​cross 37 towering bridges that stand as a monument to the pioneers of the north.

Being one with the rainforest as you undertake an unforgettable journey is what makes Kuranda Scenic Railway such a must-do experience.

Kuranda Scenic Railway. Image credit: Queensland Rail Travel


Normanton to Croydon (151km)

​​​​​​​​​Take a journey through frontier country from Normanton to Croydon as you step aboard the iconic Gulflander. Also known as the ‘Tin Hare’, this legendary rail motor is one of the last great characters of the rail world.

Affectionately said to go from ‘nowhere to nowhere’, the Heritage Listed Normanton to Croydon line was never connected to the state rail network and remains the only line in Queensland still measured in miles. From wetlands and grasslands to arid Savannah territory, the Gulflander travels through countryside that most people will never see. This nostalgic rail journey is the perfect way to discover an area steeped in pioneering history and heritage. 

As a working tribute to the Gulf of Carpentaria’s early pioneers, the Gulflander is a once in a lifetime experience.​

Gulflander. Image credit: Queensland Rail Travel


Brisbane to Charleville (740km)

Venture to the natural wonders of Queensland’s southwest outback onboard the Westlander. From Brisbane travel across the Great Dividing Range, through the rich farmlands of the Darling Downs to Charleville, this scenic journey travels through some of the state’s most picturesque outback regions. 

Depending on the travel sector a complimentary in-seat snack pack will be delivered to each seat at meal times. Light refreshments can be purchased from the Economy Lounge.

Experience this unforgettable journey into Queen​sland’s western frontier as you follow in the footsteps of the early pioneers on Westlander. Unwind, as you sit back relax and watch the striking scenery pass you by.

Westlander. Image credit: Queensland Rail Travel


Cairns–Forsayth (425km)

The Savannahlander’s unique experience departs Cairns weekly, winding through the Wet Tropics area of the Kuranda range and out through the savannah to Forsayth and back, taking four days. The highly personalised tours, in a 1960s classic Silver Bullet rail-motor, offer passengers the opportunity to see remote Queensland at a sleepy 50km/h. Drivers provide running commentaries and there are options for short tours and visits to Cobbold Gorge, Undara Volcanic National Park, and overnight stops in country hotels. This is train travel at a relaxed pace.

The Savannahlander. Image credit: savannahlander.com.au