Coffs Coast is riding on the tracks of rail tourism
COFFS Harbour holds a dream of one day having cruise ship tourists disembarking in the harbour, but an older mode of transport has just started bringing a newfound injection into the city.
Over the fence from the Jetty Foreshores plenty of visitors are now finding their way to the region direct from the train station platform.
And we're not talking the longstanding daily XPT or Countrylink Xplorer stopovers.
Sightings of the Great Southern in Coffs Harbour this week, prove Coffs Harbour's advantage of having a railway station that's situated close to both the beach and the city.
The luxury rail tours operated by Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions are now running between Adelaide to Brisbane having started on December 6.
Passengers are now stopping over in Coffs Harbour this week dining at Pacific Bay Resort.
Similar to Journey Beyond's other luxury rail holidays on The Ghan and the Indian Pacific, Great Southern will be a slow journey across the country with a series of off-train guided tours along the route.
The Adelaide to Brisbane service takes three days and features guided tours of the Grampians National Park in Victoria, Canberra and beaches of the North Coast.
The Brisbane to Adelaide service will take four days with beachside dining in northern NSW, a guided tour of the Hunter Valley and Newcastle, and a stop at the Twelve Apostles.
"Excursions will allow guests to truly explore beyond the tracks and be immersed in the towns, cities and landscapes the train passes through," Journey Beyond's CEO Luke Walker said.
For the Coffs Coast it brings new tourism potential as well as a new travel option for locals.
"With our station so close to the Jetty tourist precinct Coffs is perfectly placed to capitalise on this market now and without additional infrastructure," said rail enthusiast and tourism industry stakeholder Neil Manson - the trustee of the Observatory Holiday Apartments.
"The dream of boutique cruise liners for Coffs may be distant, but the potential for top end boutique rail tourism is here already.
"Great Southern's capacity of around 214 guests per departure, marks a new chapter in Australian rail travel.
"All Great Southern departures offer the choice of platinum and gold service accommodation, with both options inclusive of dining, on board beverages and off train experiences.
"The target market is cashed up, mature and this is an excellent opportunity for Coffs," Neil said.
Sightseeing trips aboard historic rail motors, in Coffs in recent years have shown locals equally are sharing in the nostalgia of rail.
Neil and the Lachlan Valley Rail committee bring the Rainforest Rattler historic rail motor to Coffs Harbour each year for sightseeing tours of the coast and hinterland.
The popular Rainforest Rattler continues to grow with 5,000 passengers expected this season with tours commencing on January 2 with a charity special for Cando the Cancer Trust.
The theme of the charity special will be local food, wine and beverages served onboard as the train travels through the food and wine producing countryside of the Coffs Coast.