The 5 Best Scenic Off-Train Stops from Darwin to Adelaide on the Ghan

The Nitmiluk Gorge (aka Katherine Gorge) within the Nitmiluk National Park.

Posted by on 23 Nov 2023

Exploring the world by rail is one of the magnificent ways to take in Mother Nature's most scenic views. Iconic Canadian railways can take you coast to coast to see the country’s rocky mountains and blue lakes, and trains in Europe will bring you to mediaeval towns and the peaks of Switzerland’s snowy Alps.

Meanwhile, the Ghan train in Australia will take you to nature’s outback. And believe us when we say it’s one of the most mesmerising adventures a nature lover can go on.

The iconic Ghan train runs smack down the middle of Australia, from Adelaide down south to Darwin up north and vice versa. It brings travellers into the heart of the country, where deserts, gorges and the most vast and stunning national parks can be found.

Today, we’ll take a look at the scenic off-train stops aboard one of the most popular southbound routes of the Ghan—Darwin to Adelaide. If you’re a nature lover and adventure seeker, here are the stops you can’t miss:

Darwin for Kakadu National Park

You’ll start your journey in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. Before you hop on the Ghan train to head south, explore a bit of the natural wonders the city has to offer.

At the very top of our list of what to see in Darwin is Kakadu National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site and Australia’s biggest national park. The park is abundant in different natural landscapes and ecosystems. Here, you’ll see majestic waterfalls, rugged landscapes and rich, Aboriginal culture.

One of the most popular sights you can’t miss in the park is the Yellow Water Billabong. Take a wildlife cruise along these wetlands to spot crocodiles and unique bird species in the area. You also shouldn’t miss Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls—two of the most well-known waterfalls in the park.

To immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture and history, check out the Ubirr sandstone. This sandstone isn’t just a majestic rock formation. It’s also an Aboriginal art gallery. It has rock art sites where Aboriginals from centuries ago used to paint to tell stories about spiritual beings and everyday life in the desert.

Katherine, Home of Nitmiluk National Park

The first off-train stop of the journey is Katherine, an unsuspecting town in the Northern Territory that is home to some of the most marvellous natural wonders in the heart of Australia.

Katherine is home to Nitmiluk National Park, home of the breathtaking Katherine Gorge (also called the Nitmiluk Gorge). The gorge’s swirling, deep blue waters rival even the most popular lakes of Canada’s national parks.

Take a cruise down the gorge and look up to see the sandstone cliffs and wildlife above to enjoy this natural wonder firsthand. You can also go on a helicopter excursion to enjoy the view of the gorge from above for an even more unforgettable experience in the park. You can also go on kayaking excursions along Katherine River for a more thrilling time!

Aside from the iconic gorge, you can also explore the national park’s gorgeous Edith Falls. Meanwhile, there are many hiking trails that lead you to amazing viewpoints for a panoramic view of the park.

Alice Springs for Standley Chasm and the Desert Park

The next stop on the Ghan is Alice Springs, also known as Australia’s “Red Centre,” thanks to the signature rust-red colour of the desert and rocks there. If you love the natural beauty of rugged landscapes, this might be your favourite stop on the journey.

Alice Springs is home to the Standley Chasm, a narrow, adrenaline-pumping chasm smack in the middle of an 80-metre-high gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges. When the sun hits the chasm’s interior, it creates the most stunning illumination of its red rock walls.

Wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers should also take some time to visit Alice Springs Desert Park. The park has plenty of desert rivers and waterholes, as well as exotic plants and aquatic life to observe. It also has the popular Nocturnal House, where visitors can see nighttime creatures native to Australia, such as mala hare-wallabies and marsupials.

Manguri for a Warm Bonfire and Starry Night

In March and November, the Ghan train’s southbound route makes a brief stop in Manguri, near Coober Pedy. This bonus stop allows travellers to stretch their legs and enjoy a bonfire under the bright, starry night sky. Surrounded by the quiet, vast Australian desert, it’s one of the most relaxing stops on the journey. It’s the perfect way to reignite that connection with nature, especially if you’ve been exhausted on your excursions on the previous off-train stops.

Note that the Manguri stop is exclusive to the southbound journey. The northbound route of the train that goes from Adelaide to Darwin stops at Marla instead.

Adelaide or its Lush Hills and Botanic Gardens

Finally, your last stop on the journey is Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. While the city is known for its historical architecture and grand cathedrals, it’s still an amazing stop for nature lovers to explore.

Adelaide is known for its lush, rolling hills and countless vineyards. So, if you’ve had your fill of red rock and deserts from your journey on the Ghan, Adelaide’s lively, vibrant greenery will be a breath of fresh air.

Another of the best things to see in Adelaide is the city’s Botanic Garden. Its carefully-landscaped Victorian gardens and conservatories rival even the colourful gardens of Loire Valley in France. The range of exotic plants and beautiful flora and fauna is a delectable feast for the eyes.

Don’t Miss These Off-Train Stops Aboard the Ghan Train

The off-train stops of the southbound route aboard the Ghan are home to some of Australia’s most beautiful natural wonders.

For admirers of the country’s outback, it’s a railway journey you can’t miss. From Darwin’s UNESCO-listed national park to the majestic gorges in Katherine to Adelaide’s quaint and homey gardens, there is so much red desert and lush greenery to discover along the Ghan’s unforgettable stops.

Want to explore more of the world’s natural landscapes and sights via train? Check out the rest of Entire Travel’s rail journeys and pick the best one for your next holiday!

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