7 Queensland train journeys you can’t miss
Queensland has long known the benefits of covering vast distances on the rails. Train journeys provide a fantastic way to slow down and see and experience the countryside.
From the coast to the Outback, the landscapes slip by as you roll towards your destination. The beauty’s in the journey, so take the time to stop, stay awhile and explore all the wonders that the Queensland Outback has to offer.
Here are seven Queensland train journeys that will help you get a little bit more acquainted with this beautiful country of ours.
Spirit of Queensland
Travelling between Brisbane and Cairns five times a week, the Spirit of Queensland is a slick, modern rail experience. Providing a comfortable and convenient way to travel to a range of holiday destinations along the route – from the Whitsundays to Townsville – it’s an excellent way to explore the region.
The 1681 km journey takes 24 hours and is the only Queensland long-distance train with lie-flat rail-beds. As the coastal scenery rolls by, the Spirit of Queensland offers a licenced club car and dining options to keep you sated.
Stop off and explore Queensland’s iconic beaches and rainforests, the Great Barrier Reef or spend some time in any of the cute towns along the coast.
Spirit of the Outback
The 25-hour trip from Brisbane takes you on a journey through the unique scenery of the Aussie outback. Get to know some of the less-explored parts of country Australia, taking the time to visit historic towns and explore the history of the area. Schedule in a visit to the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Qantas Founders Museum while you’re there.
The Westlander travels from Brisbane across the Great Dividing Range through the lush green countryside of the Darling Downs, and on to the Outback town of Charleville. Journey into Queensland’s western frontier, take in the scenery, and soak up some history as you follow in the footsteps of the early Australian pioneers.
Famed for its stargazing, make sure to stop and enjoy the clear night skies and also schedule a visit to the Cosmos Centre and Observatory.
The Inlander runs from Townsville to the mining town of Mount Isa every week. The 977km journey takes 21 hours, travelling through the old gold-rush town of Charters Towers and across the Great Dividing Range.
Fall asleep in your reclining seat, and wake up to the red earth landscapes of the Outback. Explore life underground and the world of fossils and dinosaurs at Outback at Isa. And why not spend a few days in Mount Isa, living like a local? Check out this handy guide to help plan your stay.
Affectionately known as the “Tin Hare”, the Gulflander is a half-day journey covering the 152km between Normanton (celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018) and Croydon. Travel through some of Queensland’s most remote, inaccessible, and diverse countryside — from wetlands and grasslands to arid Savannah country and the wide open spaces of the Outback.
Opened in 1891 to connect Normanton to the rich Croydon goldfields, the heritage-listed line has never been linked to the main Queensland Rail network. It leaves Normanton and arrives in Croydon four or five hours later.
An in-the-know Savannah guide accompanies each journey. They’ll point out interesting stops and options to explore, so you can spend time getting to know this special part of the Australian Outback. You’ll be able to explore World Heritage fossil fields, Aboriginal rock art and mining centres. Not to mention world-class fishing spots, if you have the time.
For a true trip back in time, Queensland has several day-tour steam trains.
The Southern Downs Steam Railway operates once a month, offering a range of tours from Warwick to Clifton, Hendon, Wheatvale, Wallangarra and Stanthorpe, including a mystery winery tour. The Jumpers & Jazz express is a special event in July.
The travels through the picturesque Mary Valley on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast. Meanwhile, free tours of historic Gympie station run every Wednesday and Saturday at 11am where you’ll learn the stories of the Mary Valley line, its people and its history.
Kuranda scenic railway
Built by hand in the 1880s, the 34km Kuranda Scenic Railway rates as one of the world’s top scenic rail journeys. Snaking through the magnificent Barron Gorge National Park and through 15 tunnels, the train takes 90 minutes to travel from Cairns to Kuranda. You’ll have multiple stops along the way and a full commentary on the sights and cultural landmarks to look out for.
Kuranda station is a short walk from the village. The return trip in the afternoon allows plenty of time to explore its many attractions and immerse yourself in the culture of the town. Treat yourself to a bit of luxury and upgrade to Gold Class, which includes snacks, drinks and waiter service.
This classic 1960s rail motor takes four days to travel through the remote heart of the Gulf country between Cairns and Forsayth. You can also do shorter day trips, joining the train at various points along the way. The “Silver Bullet” travels up the Kuranda range, then turns west for the tiny settlements of Almaden, Einsleigh, Mount Surprise, and Forsayth.
The pace is leisurely and the driver will even stop the train to point out things along the way. Attractions include the old mining village of Chillagoe, Tullaroo Hot Springs, the Undara lava tubes, and stunning Cobbold Gorge. The train runs between early March and mid-December, depending on weather and track conditions.
If you’re jumping off to spend 48 hours exploring the amazing Cobbold Gorge use this handy guide.
For booking and ticket info on all these Queensland train journeys, and to plan your trip, head here.