If you’ve ticked off Australia and New Zealand’s coffee culture, colourful wildlife and oceanic appeal from your travel itinerary, consider going on an alternative adventure by train, as travel writer David Bowden did.


Australian by birth and global citizen by nature, the Malaysian-based nomad recently experienced the joys of locomotive transport through Australia and New Zealand that inspired his latest book ‘Railway Journeys in Australia & New Zealand’.

David set out to discover a new façade of this vast landscape, shared tips and suggestions on how to make the most out of this romantic getaway.

Main photo credits: Great Southern Railway & Puffing Billy Railway

First, brush up on the basics

“I love train travel as it enables you to see the countryside in comfort and to be able to move around. I am not a card-carrying member of the trainspotters club but I was excited to write a dedicated and comprehensive book on train travel in Australia and New Zealand. My publisher pretty much gave me a free rein – I could to decide what people would like to read and what knowledge can be gained from reading it. This is a generalist book on the train, the journey, the history, what to see and the experience so as to entice readers to make the same journeys that I made.”

David Bowden did.

Railway travel in the region is still a well-kept secret

“There are history books, websites and articles on the trains, and this book unites all these in one place. There are some very good maps so each train journey (35 in the book) is a complete account of the history, the locomotive, on-board services and facilities and basically how to travel on the train.”

See alsoIncredible Train Journeys Around The World

 A case for train travelling

“There is romantic notion with train travel and the remake of Murder on the Orient Express will arouse curiosity with a whole new generation of travellers. While many like to focus on the destination, the journey is also important to some. For example, I took 4 days to travel from Perth to Sydney by train, as opposed to the 5-hour flight. In doing so, I saw so much more; that’s what train travel is all about.”

A chance to map out journeys along the railway routes

“It’s often more convenient to link up with trains. Some trains only operate a few days per week so you’ll need to be in certain places at certain times. Australia is a vast country so it required several journeys to different parts, and then a separate trip to New Zealand.

 From experience, the train from Townsville to Mount Isa takes 24 hours and does not have a sleeper car, which meant I had to travel all the way there, spend 3 hours in Mount Isa while the train refuelled and then catch the return train. Alternatively, I could spend a few days there and then get a train. 

Not all the journeys are ‘great’ – the Perth to Fremantle train only taking 30 minutes but it was included as it links 2 important destinations in Western Australia. In the book, you’ll find iconic journeys, those of personal interest, ones that are important in each nation’s railway history, accessible and, most of all; will fascinate travellers.”

A book for your reading list

“It is most important to do the best job possible (writing the book) and I am very pleased with the finished product. The reaction from others is that it is something they want to read. At the end of the day though, the success of a book is measured by how many copies are sold and how much money is generated.”

See also: 6 Tips On Travelling Like A Pro, As Told By BorderPass Founder Faisal Ariff

 To immerse in a true Australian and New Zealand experience…

“Buy a copy of my book and head off on the railways of Australia and New Zealand. Visitors to Australia need to appreciate that it is a huge country. Visitors to New Zealand need to appreciate that it is a small country but crammed with many things to see and experience. Try not to see everything as you will really experience nothing. Take Australia state by state. Slow down, ‘smell the roses’ and interact. Aussies and Kiwis want tourists to enjoy their respective countries.”

To ‘live like a local’, wine and dine like one

“I especially enjoy wine touring – visiting the famous wine regions of Australia – Margaret River, Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, and so on. Hire a car to explore and respect the strictly policed driving legislation. Visit the wineries and eat in winery restaurants. One trip I especially like is from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, up through the Upper Hunter Valley, into the wine district of Mudgee and then back to Sydney via the Blue Mountains. A great way to spend a week and to see a good slice of Australia and meet country people.”