Great Southern railway travelling over a river
Photograph: Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions | Great Southern

7 incredible overnight sleeper train journeys to take in Australia

All aboard! These lush overnight sleeper trains offer a unique way to soak up Australia’s diverse landscape

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Whether it’s the Orient Express, Hogwarts Express or even Thomas the Tank Engine, trains are the backdrop of some of our favourite fictional stories – but they make for an even more impressive travel setting IRL.

If exploring Australia is on your bucket list (let’s face it, flights to Europe are exxy right now), you can’t miss the unique experience of an overnight sleeper train. Traversing every state and territory, this form of slow travel is suitable for both the young and young at heart. Plus, trains put less pressure on our environment and can allow you to hop off at your leisure (remember it’s the journey, not the destination). 

From winding through the Whitsundays and exploring the rugged red outback to getting from Melbourne to Sydney in style, we’ve rounded up the best train journeys in Australia.

RECOMMENDED: These four Aussie train trips were ranked among the best in the entire world.

Overnight train journeys to take in Australia

Easily the most iconic and recognisable overnight train on this list, The Ghan is all about luxury. Named after the first Afghan cameleers that arrived in Australia in the 19th century, The Ghan has been hosting unforgettable (and extremely Instagrammable) train journeys for more than 90 years. 

The Ghan Expedition, a four-day all-inclusive trip running from Adelaide to Darwin, is the train’s signature line and counts itself among the world’s greatest rail journeys. All up, it costs around $3,705, but there are shorter trips to Alice Springs starting from around $1,500 if you’re restricted on budget.

On board, passengers can unwind with a glass of chilled Aussie wine, while tucking into crocodile sausages and taking in the vast landscapes of Australia’s rugged red outback. If you can pull yourself away from the top-quality service, upgrades including scenic helicopter flights and camel rides can be added to your trip, while other experiences including gorge cruises and cycling tours are included in your fare.

Travel in 1960s style aboard a restored vintage ‘Aurora Australis’ sleeping train on one of four regional NSW tours departing from Sydney’s Central Station. Passengers can watch the spectacular scenery roll by the window in their private air-conditioned compartment, fitted with a personal vanity to freshen up before visiting the Lounge Cars for a chef-prepared meal. 

Vintage Rail Journeys’ original and most popular, four-night Golden West Rail Tour travels only twice a year and is a real regional treat, chugging along the Great Dividing Range and through the vineyards of the Hunter Valley and Orange. The hosts also run boutique tours to the Riverina region, known as Australia’s ‘food bowl’, and the beautiful North Coast hinterlands, with two bonus annual tours to Parkes Elvis Festival in January and Repco Bathurst 1,000 in October. Prices for Vintage Rail Journeys four-day tours will set you back $4,495, but you won’t find a holiday quite like this anywhere else in Oz.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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If exploring Australia’s coastline is more your speed, the Indian Pacific will deliver you to the doorstep of cities with the best beaches in town. The greatest drawcard here is that the train journey is all-inclusive, meaning that once you’ve put your suitcases away, you can sink straight into holiday mode.

The famous transcontinental crossing whisks travellers between Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, with fabled journeys from one to four nights. If you’ve got some cash to splash, opt for the platinum experience with stylish and spacious cabins, full-sized ensuites, panoramic window views, access to an exclusive social lounge, private transfers, world-class food and even a nightcap at turndown. Prices start at $1,500 for a two-night route, or from $2,890 for the signature Perth to Sydney four-night trip.

Despite only launching in 2019, this newer addition to Australia’s sleeper train scene has quickly become a must-do – and for good reason. Cruising between Brisbane and Adelaide, the Great Southern train line is filled with breathtaking views of Australia’s southeast (think sun-kissed beaches, rugged coastlines and buzzing cities).

The only challenge you'll face on the journey is picking which off-train experiences to partake in, with all options included in your fare. You could dine under the stars at a local feast in Coffs Harbour, visit cellar doors in Australia’s oldest wine region in the Hunter Valley, and stretch your legs with a leisurely walk to Venus Baths in the Grampians National Park. The all-inclusive rail journey operates throughout the sunny months and will set you back from $2,200 or $3,200, depending on whether you pick the two or three-night route.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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Whether you’re chasing the sparkling sands of the Sunshine Coast or travelling to the twinkling lights of Brisbane city, the Spirit of Queensland is a convenient and sustainable way to adventure between Queensland’s best destinations. You can jump onboard regular trips from Brisbane to Cairns each week, with stopovers at some of the state’s dreamiest destinations, including the Whitsundays, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast

Four routes are fitted out with state-of-the-art RailBeds – plush seats that transform into single beds (think business class on a plane). You can kick back in comfort to watch the latest blockbusters through a personalised entertainment device, while you order chef-prepped meals and drinks straight to your seat. Each seat also comes with bed linen and an amenities pack stocked with local, ethical goods. Fares for the RailBeds start from $389.25, but if you’re on a budget, there are economy carriages with roomy seats (sans the beds) available.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia

Think of this train line as the Spirit of Queensland’s richer aunt. Run by the same parent company, the Spirit of the Outback journeys into the heart of Queensland's rugged countryside. Services run between Brisbane and Longreach twice a week, and you can travel the full line ​or stop for a few days in the many classic Aussie towns along the way. 

Dine aboard the all-inclusive Tuckerbox restaurant, decked out with white tablecloths and serving some of Queensland’s best produce, before retiring to your own private cabin – there are single and twin options available – with bed linen, amenities, a washbasin, mirror and wardrobe. Fares start at $427, but if you want to save some cash, the economy carriages have roomy chairs and a dedicated area for meals, snacks and beverages (plus, you’ll get the same stellar views).

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It might not be as glamorous, but if you don’t have cash to splash, NSW TrainLink’s sleeper class is a budget-friendly way to get around Australia. Available on long-distance overnight services, the twin sleeper cabins include bed linen, towels and toiletries, so you can arrive at your destination feeling fresh. Plus, you’ll even get complimentary breakfast, media screens and Wi-Fi.

Choose from overnight train trips between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle, which will set you back a couple hundred dollars – and while it may not be a particularly quick journey, it’s a perfect antidote to the exorbitant prices to fly across the country right now.

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