When slow travel goes way too fast

By Carolyne Jasinski 1 November 2022
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With mountain ranges, rural vistas, capital cities and the coast, it’s all aboard for an epic few days on the Great Southern train.

Clickety clack, clickety clack, clickety clack…

That’s the mesmerising soundtrack on the 2885km Adelaide to Brisbane journey on the Great Southern.

It’s your brain’s cue to switch off and relax, and it’s also the sound of slow travel at its best. Time is your friend on board this train – just sit back and watch the world go by.

It’s also your chance to go back in time and relish the romance of train travel (albeit on one of the country’s newest train journeys)!

What’s it like on board?

Snug is the best description… and innovative.

Anyone familiar with train travel knows not expect spacious interiors. But the Great Southern cabins make clever use of the space.

Each cabin has a full-width window that provides a non-stop panorama and the illusion of much more space.

A compact bathroom doubles as a toilet with washbasin and waterproof towel cupboard and, with the flick of a curtain, it turns into a shower. There’s a large three-seater lounge that is magically transformed into bunk beds while you’re at dinner, plus space to hang a few shirts and just enough of a gap under the bed to store two overnight bags.

Each carriage has a hospitality attendant – your carriage supervisor, barman, waiter, tour guide, host and personal assistant – depending on what you need at the time.

The journey

Music is channelled to each cabin, along with announcements and commentary on where the track leads.

“Welcome to the Adelaide Hills,” we hear as we wind our way up through leafy surrounds.

The Great Southern train crosses four Australian states and one territory – South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland.

It’s not long before the greenery gives way to golden pastures, and the lure of the Outback Explorer Lounge is too hard to resist.

The Lounge, complete with open bar and barista-style coffee, is the social hub.

Some passengers love the solitude of their cabins, but many relish the chance to meet an eclectic crowd from all over the world… and don’t mind a drink or two (included in the price).

Many guests have been wine tasting in Adelaide and are pleased to see that experience continues on the train.

But it’s the journey ahead that has most people excited. Many have crossed the country on sister trains – The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin and the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney.

The Great Southern is Journey Beyond’s special summer route hugging the east coast of Australia.                                                                                 

It has proved so popular, the season has been extended into February this summer.

As the train heads south towards Victoria, lunch is called in the regal Queen Adelaide restaurant.

This carriage is full of old-world charm but features a modern menu with chefs sourcing inspiration – and produce – along the way.

It’s one long moving feast all the way to Brisbane.

Off Train Experiences

Our first stop at Halls Gap in the Grampians is a feast for all the senses.

Tour options are a 25-minute shuttle bus ride to Boroka Lookout or a short walk to Venus Baths.

It’s a tough choice – a vista of ranges, hazy valleys, lakes and endless forests or a series of deep rockpools at the base of Elephant Hide, reflecting the colours of the Grampians.

Dinner is served back on board, and as we settle in for the night back on the Great Southern, there’s a bit of negotiating… a coin is flipped for the top bunk. Then there’s a bit of manoeuvring necessary to climb up and a lot of giggling to go with it.

But crisp linen, fluffy quilts and soft pillows work well with the clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack… to send us off to sleep like babies.

Capital ideas

Who knew Parliament House could be so interesting? Eight hours to discover Canberra is on the itinerary for Day 2, starting with a tour of our political HQ.

“Parliament House cost $1.1 billion to build,” says our guide. That’s $70 per taxpayer.

“So, enjoy your $70 as we show you around.”

Lunch at Parliament House was another delicious surprise.

Then a tour of the Australian War Memorial, which honours all Australians who have died in war. Two hours here reveals an important fact … you need much more time.

Beach bliss

Nestled between the Great Dividing Range and the coast is Coffs Harbour, the last stop on the final leg to Brisbane.

From Sealy Lookout you can see bananas and berries are big business here. The waterfront is impressive and, if you time it right, the markets will be open selling local arts and crafts and fresh produce.

There’s just one more lunch and one more afternoon of being spoiled before pulling into Brisbane.

Why does slow travel have to go so fast?

Platinum Service

If you want to take the level of luxury up another notch, think about booking a Platinum cabin. They have a double bed instead of bunks, a bigger bathroom with separate shower and toilet and the atmosphere is even more elegant.

Solo Travel

Travelling solo, or just want your own space? Look no further, the Gold single cabins have everything you need to feel right at home. Offering the same service, hospitality and inclusions as the Gold Twin, just with your own privacy.  

Getting aboard

Journeys on the Great Southern start in Adelaide (3 days) and those travelling from Brisbane to Adelaide (4 days).

The south-bound journey offers different stops and Off Train Experiences including dinner at Coffs Harbour, exploring the Hunter Valley region and Melbourne.

The 2023 summer season is selling fast – limited availability remains. December 2023 is now open for bookings.

Phone 1800 703 357 or go to journeybeyondrail.com.au to book.

This article is presented by Journey Beyond Rail.