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Australia > Long Distance Australian Train Journeys > Whistlestop ToursPacific National locomotive waits at Alice Springs

Long Distance Australian Train Journeys - Whistlestop Sightseeing Tours

A guide for backpacker and budget travellers

For a few hardy outback dwellers, the long distance trains of Australia are still their main form of transport and their primary method of transporting themselves, their families and their goods to remote sheep or cattle stations, deep in the wilderness. But for the vast majority of travellers on the 'Indian Pacific', the 'Ghan' or the 'Overland' trains, it is the journey itself that is the important thing, and a trip across country is to be viewed more as a tourist adventure rather than a ride on an everyday A-to-B type of train designed primarily to get you there. In keeping with this, both the 'Indian Pacific' and the 'Ghan' make a number of lengthy stops along their route, where it is possible at an additional cost to join a variety of well-organised sight-seeing excursions, known as 'Whistlestop Tours'. Full details of these are available on board and online, but I felt that it would be useful to list a short introduction to each here as well, just so that my readers can know what to expect at each stop before they consider booking any of the available excursions.

    Exit stairs from Broken Hill station to Crystal Street
  • The Indian Pacific
    1. Broken Hill
      • Silver City Tour - 1 hour tour includes visit to Junction Mine, the Miners Memorial, and various sights and heritage buildings. $25/adult.
      • Whites Mineral Arts and Mining Museum - 1 hour tour views mineral mosaics, replica mining shaft, models and a history video. $25/adult.
    2. Adelaide
      • The Festival City - 1 hour tour through the heart of Adelaide includes Montefiore Hill, Colonel Light's Lookout, Adelaide Cricket Ground, North Terrace, Rundle Street, the Festival Centre and Lake Torrens. $23/adult.
      • Adelaide Central Market Transfer - 1 3/4 or 2 1/2 hour transfer to the largest fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere. $23/adult.
      • Adelaide Zoo and Pandas - 2 1/2 hour tour to the zoo where you can see the two giant pandas, or any of the other animals, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and fish exhibited there. $60/adult.
      • National Wine Centre Tour - 2 1/2 hour self-conducted tour to the National Wine Centre. Speak to a virtual holographic winemaker and try virtual wine making. Wine tastings cost extra. $35/adult.
    3. Cook
      • Cook Town Tour - 1 hour stop at the tiny town of Cook, population 4, where you can see the abandoned bungalows, the old prison cells, and glimpse the Outback. No cost.
    4. Kalgoorlie
      • Australia's Gold Capital - 45 minute tour views town heritage buildings and visits the massive Super Pit open-cast goldmine, 3.3km long and 400m deep, which is floodlit for night viewing. $32/adult.
    5. Perth
      • All About Perth - 3 hour tour around many of Perth's highlights to help with the early arrival of the Indian Pacific into Perth, when many of the hotels may not have rooms ready. $47/adult.
  • The Ghan's red locomotive clears the points at Alice Springs
  • The Ghan
    1. Alice Springs
      • Simpsons Gap Helicopter Flight - 2 hour tour, with approximately 25 minutes in the air. $205/adult.
      • Essential Alice Springs Tour - 3 hour tour visits the Flying Doctor Service, the National Pioneer Womens Hall of Fame, the Telegraph Station, the Reptile Centre, and excellent views from Anzac Hill. $84/adult.
      • Pyndan Camel Tracks - 3 hour tour, with approximately 1 hour actually riding camels. A local guide takes you through trees, across a claypan flat, and climbs a slight incline to get sweeping views across the MacDonnell Ranges. Various local Australian wildlife usually seen. $50/adult.
      • Desert Park - 3 hour tour includes guided walks through dunes, woodland and a salt lake. Various birds and other wildlife to be seen. In the Nocturnal House you can watch some of the more hard-to-see animals scurry amongst the desert plants. $51/adult.
      • Alice Wanderer - A 70 minute looping shuttle bus with guide allows you enough time to get on and off at two attractions from the many that are on offer: gardens, galleries, reptile centre, Telegraph Station, Old Ghan Train, Transport Hall of Fame, and more. $29/adult.
      • Old Ghan Tour - 3 hour tour visits the Old Ghan Museum and Heritage Railway. Various steam and diesel engines to be seen, plus carriages, wagons, bar and dining cars etc. and extensive collection of photos and other memorabilia. Also visits the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. $50/adult.
      • Alice Springs Shuttle - A shuttle bus to take you to the centre of town. $9 one way, $14 return.
    2. Katherine
      • Twin Parks Scenic Flight - 3 hour tour includes 90 minute flight over the Kakadu and the Nitmiluk National Parks. $455/adult.
      • Nitmiluk Gorge by Helicopter - 3 hour tour includes 20 minute helicopter flight over 10 of the 13 gorges in the Katherine River Gorge System. $235/adult.
      • Nitmiluk Gorge Cafe Cruise - 3 hour cruise on the waters of the first Katherine River Gorge and visit indigenous rock art site. $89/adult.
      • Top Didj Cultural Experience - 3 hour tour includes 2 hour cultural experience with hands-on learning of spear throwing, basket weaving, art work and didgeridoos. $78/adult.
      • Katherine Country Club - 3 hour tour visits the Katherine Country Club with optional round of 9-hole Golf or Outback Bowls. $25-45/adult.
      • Gorge Express Shuttle - 3 hour tour included shuttle service to the Nitmiluk Gorge Visitors Centre, where you can browse the cultural displays or take a 1 hour walk to the Baruwei Lookout for spectacular views along the first Gorge. $29/adult.
      • Katherine Town Shuttle - A shuttle bus to take you to the centre of town. Walking there is not an option. $15 return.
  • The Overland
    1. The Overland does not make any long stops, so does not offer any Whistlestop Tours.

Buy your rail pass here:

Still keen and want to find out more? Please visit the other pages in this article:Interior view of 'Red Gum' economy lounge car

  1. Introduction
  2. Tickets And Passes - Where To Buy Them
  3. On Board The Train - Seating
  4. On Board The Train - Food
  5. On Board The Train - Facilities
  6. On Board The Train - Photography
  7. On Board The Train - Ghan And Overland Differences
  8. Packing List - Essential Items For The Journey
  9. Upgrading To Better Accomodation
  10. Whistlestop Tours - THIS PAGE
  11. Station Notes
  12. Great Southern Rail Train Photo Gallery

The photographs on these pages were all taken on my recent 32,000km journey around Australia. Click any image to see a larger version. The photographs are all available for licensing in a range of sizes - please Contact Me for details.

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Indian Pacific logo and carriage signboard at Broken Hill railroad station.A couple shop at the Witchcraft Market (Mercado de Hechiceria).
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