Travel on one of Australia's great rail journeys
A train trip on one of Australia's great rail journeys: Great Southern Rail.
When the explorers Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813, in search for more grazing land for the young Sydney colony, they discovered what Australia's Aboriginal people had known for millennia: it's a big, beautiful country out there.
Nowadays that big country is crossed from coast to coast by the Indian Pacific train, as it threads 4352km from Sydney to Perth. Though the Blue Mountains to Sydney's west seemed a barrier for the early colonists, they're now a highlight for passengers aboard the train as it makes its way through their lofty splendour.
From April 2018, there'll be an extra Blue Mountains bonus for those travelling east from Perth to Sydney: on the final day of their epic rail journey, they'll have the option of a taking a tour off the train into the beautiful heart of the World Heritage-listed mountain range.
All Off Train Excursions on the Indian Pacific are included in the fare, as is its excellent food and beverage service, which often draws on ingredients from the regions through which the train is travelling. Off Train Excursions extend the relaxed social feeling that's shared by guests as they swap stories and enjoy the passing scenery in the train's onboard lounge.
Guests will join the new Blue Mountains tour after breakfast, when they'll disembark the train at Mount Victoria station and transfer via coach to Scenic World. This Katoomba facility offers three ways to experience the beauty of the mountains: Railway, Cableway and Skyway.
The Scenic World railway is billed as the steepest passenger service in the world, as it descends at a sharp 52 degree angle via a cliffside tunnel, into ancient rainforest at the Jamison Valley floor. At the bottom, there's a scenic walkway through the trees.
An alternative way to descend is the Cableway, a cable car which travels 510m down to the valley. En route there are great views of striking sights such as Orphan Rock, Mount Solitary and the Katoomba Falls.
The third option, the Skyway, is another cable car that travels at a height of 270m above ancient ravines, with all-around views of the mountains and their features. Its most spectacular aspect is a section of glass flooring which reveals all that lies below.
Once the Indian Pacific guests have enjoyed these scenic transports, they'll have the choice of being transferred or stretching their legs and walking along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Echo Point Lookout. This is the ideal spot from which to admire the Three Sisters, a set of weathered sandstone peaks which is an icon of the Blue Mountains.
How to cap off a morning's wealth of natural beauty? With morning tea, of course, no doubt something those early explorers enjoyed here too. Then it's a chartered train back for the final run from Katoomba station down toward the Pacific coast and journey's end: Sydney Central station.
This article brought to you by Great Southern Rail. See greatsouthernrail.com.au