Australia is well served by historic rail journeys taking in some of the country’s best sights. Here are some of the best.
Puffing Billy (Victoria)
Justly claiming to be Australia’s finest heritage railway, this 25km narrow gauge line is easily reached from Melbourne by the commuter train service to Belgrave, and aims to capture the feel of the 1920s. Trains hauled by the collection of varied steam locomotives wind through the forests of eucalyptus and farmlands of the Dandenong Ranges. The intermediate station village of Emerald and the historic township at the terminus of Gembrook are worth exploring. Trains run daily and at least one train a day offers a lunch service (booking advisable) with a dinner train on many Fridays and Saturdays.
Australind (Western Australia)
This 181km, two-and-a-half-hour narrow-gauge railway service with buffet car is named Australind and runs from Perth to Bunbury through a fruit-growing area renowned for its wild flowers. Pinjarra, about half way, is the junction for the 24km Hotham Valley Tourist Railway, which runs through the Darling Range Escarpment and operates a 1919-built dining-car train serving five-course meals. Bunbury has many historic buildings and the beach has some interesting basalt rock formations as well as a community of bottlenose dolphins, which makes daily visits to the Dolphin Discovery Centre.
Kuranda Scenic Railway (Queensland)
This service runs twice daily from Cairns to Kuranda – a distance of 34km – in 90 minutes. It is a spectacular journey comprising unsurpassed views of World Heritage Listed rainforest, steep ravines and picturesque waterfalls within the Barron Gorge National Park.
Pichi Pichi Railway (South Australia)
Runs steam and diesel services between Quorn and Port Augusta in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, on selected days in autumn, winter and spring months, following part of the original Transcontinental line from Adelaide to Alice Springs.
West Coast Wilderness Railway (Tasmania)
Runs once each way per day from Strahan to Queenstown over a 35km route in about four hours. Along the way, the train stops at stations of the past – Lower Landing, Dubbil Barril, Rinadeena – where trained guides bring to life the stories of these historic points on the railway. Read about the travel editor’s day trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
Victorian Goldfields Railway (Victoria)
Runs mostly steam train trips on Sundays and Wednesdays, as well as some extra trips during the year, from Castlemaine to Maldon over a former 1880s-built Victorian Railways branch line. Trains connect at Castlemaine with V/Line trains to and from Melbourne (Southern Cross) and Bendigo.
What are some of your favourite rail journeys around Australia?