There are three major New Zealand scenic rail journeys which offer stunning views, great service and expert commentary. In the North Island the Northern Explorer runs between Auckland and Wellington taking 12 hours and passing through a contrasting countryside. Travelling past fertile farmland pastures, mighty river gorges and across the steaming landscapes of the Volcanic Plateau, the Northern Explorer takes in the North Island’s scenic highlights while you relax in comfort. Stop off at National Park Village in Tongariro National Park to ski at Whakapapa, hike the many trails or explore the Whanganui River by jet boat or kayak. Both Auckland and Wellington provide an excellent choice of accommodation, eateries, attractions and activities and a variety of New Zealand tours. The South Island has two major scenic rail journeys, the Coastal Pacific and the Tranz Alpine.
The Coastal Pacific follows the tracks between Picton and Christchurch offering some of the most dramatic scenery on the East Coast. The railway passes remarkably close to both the ocean and the steeply rising Kaikoura Ranges. This truly is one of the few places in New Zealand you can experience the mountains meeting the sea. taking just over 5 hours this seaside journey stops at Blenheim and Kaikoura passing through the vineyards of Marlborough and across threaded river systems and pastoral farmlands of the Canterbury Plains. Combine your rail journey with a whale watching tour, wine tour or skiing package to really make the most of your experience. Accommodation in Picton and Christchurch is readily available and Picton is also the boarding point for the inter island ferry.
The Tranz Alpine is the most recognised rail journey in New Zealand and among the best in the world. Travelling between Christchurch and Greymouth this scenic explosion takes 4 ½ hours and transcends a huge variety of contrasting landscapes. From the flat farmland of the Caterbury Plains to the beautiful forests of Arthur’s Pass out to the rocky West Coast coastline, the Tranz Alpine will take your breath away. The journey passes through ancient viaducts and tunnels which were built during the gold mining era and past the deep, clear waters of Lake Brunner. Scenic Rail passes on all of the above rail journeys give you the freedom to travel New Zealand at your own speed, allowing you to step off at any of the designated stops and rejoin the journey when you are ready. Unique New Zealand scenic rail journeys on historical trains also include steam train tours from Auckland, the Kingston Flyer in Southland and the Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin.