Train travel in Australia: Should you do it?

Kuranda Scenic Railway Queensland Australia

Australia has useful regional rail systems around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Intercity trains link up cities along the east coast, and long-distance tourist trains across the country offer luxury and adventure. However, trains don’t serve most of the nation, and it’s hard to imagine a train-only trip around the country.

Remember that with train travel in Australia, the journey can be as beautiful as the destination. Yes, you can take an intercity train between Sydney and Melbourne, but it runs far inland and you’ll miss the incredible drive along the coast. We recommend using trains to explore in and around cities, but when it comes to travelling longer distances, you’ll definitely want to look at other options.

Related articles:

Kangaroo watching the Indian Pacific on its journey across the Nullarbor

Regional trains in Australia

The three main regional rail networks are in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Adelaide and Perth have smaller networks.

New South Wales: Lines from Sydney serve popular areas like Canberra, the Blue Mountains and the coast

Victoria: Lines from Melbourne serve coastal towns and the historic gold towns inland

Queensland: Lines from Brisbane include the resort area of Gold Coast to the south and the long coast to the north

Intercity trains around Australia

The three main routes of interest to visitors are all are along the popular east coast.

Melbourne to Sydney (11¼ hours/2 daily)
  • One train runs during the day, one runs overnight
  • The night train includes sleeper cars with cabins (compartments) for one or two
  • Train runs far inland, so no coastal views
Sydney to Brisbane (14¼ hours/1 daily)
  • Train runs north overnight, south by day
  • Departure and arrival times in Brisbane are inconvenient
  • Serves the popular beach town of Coffs Harbour
Brisbane to Cairns (24 hours/5 times per week)
  • Train is named ‘Spirit of Queensland’
  • Has regular seats and ‘railbed’ seats that convert to flat beds
  • Follows the coast; popular stops include Rockhampton and Townsville
the ghan train Australia
The Ghan train (Credit: Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars/

Cruise trains across Australia

Australia’s only true long-distance trains are operated by Great Southern Rail and are marketed mostly to tourists. The Ghan and The Indian Pacific traverse the country with luxurious trains where all passengers have cabins that sleep one or two people. Gourmet meals are included. These trains make a few extended stops along the way for sightseeing.

The daytime Overland that runs between Melbourne and Adelaide is a hybrid in that it serves a popular travel route at affordable prices but only runs twice a week. Drinks and meals are sold in a cafe car.

The Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs, one per week)
  • Adelaide to Darwin: 53 hours
  • Adelaide to Alice Springs: 25½ hours
  • Alice Springs to Darwin: 23½ hours
The Indian Pacific (Sydney to Perth via Adelaide, one per week)
  • Sydney to Perth: 3 days
  • Sydney to Adelaide: 24 hours
  • Adelaide to Perth: 41 hours
The Overland (Melbourne to Adelaide, two per week)
  • 12 hours


Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information. We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at