The finest scenery by train
If there is one thing that we could say to entice you to take a train journey in New Zealand it would have to be about the scenery. The train network in New Zealand isn’t big; in fact, there are only three lines operated by Kiwi Rail:
- The Northern Explorer goes from Auckland to Wellington through volcanoes and farmland.
- The Coastal Pacific goes from Christchurch to Picton along the South Island coastline.
- The TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth travels in the middle of the Southern Alps.
Despite the small network, taking the train in New Zealand is a must-do. Each of those three lines have won awards and are well known around the world by train aficionados as some of the most incredible lines still in service. It’s simple: most of those routes pass where a cars can’t.
As with most tourist attractions in New Zealand, Kiwi Rail uses the latest technology, such as GPS based system proving commentary available in five languages and HD video.
Our advice: for the best deal, book directly through Kiwi Rail
New Zealand train lines
A few things to know:
- Arrive at least 20 minutes before departure.
- Your train may depart early if all booked passengers are onboard.
- The baggage allowance is: 2 items per person and maximum weight 20kg per item.
- Baggage over 30kg will not be accepted but can be repacked into bags provided they meet the 20kg per item limit.
- There will be a NZ$10 charge for carrying extra items like surf boards, bicycles or skis. We recommend that you book your bike on in advance.
- All trains have a licensed cafe carriage providing snacks and light meals. However, it is quite expensive (check out the menu). You do have the right to bring your own food on the train
- If you are planning on taking the train more than twice, think about taking a Scenic Rail Pass and save money.
The Northern Explorer line (North Island)
The Northern Explorer line is a 10+ hour eclectic journey from Auckland to Wellington on the North Island. The line includes 8 stops and operates 6 days a week. It leaves Auckland on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and leaves Wellington on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Kiwi Rail says: “This remarkable, ever-changing daytime journey between Auckland and Wellington takes you into the heart of the North Island, through lush green farmland, native forests, over stunning river gorges and across New Zealand’s Volcanic plateau. Highlights include Tongariro National Park and the Raurimu Spiral, an amazing feat of railway engineering.”
The TranzAlpine line (South Island)
The TranzAlpine line is a 4+ hour epic journey from Christchurch to Greymouth on the South Island. The line includes 12 stops and operates daily excluding Christmas day.
Kiwi Rail says: “Truly one of the world’s great scenic train trips through the dramatic contrast of dry beech forests and tussock land on one side of the Alps and lush green landscapes on the other. From Christchurch, cross the patchwork farmland of the Canterbury plains, follow the Waimakariri river, climbing into alpine scenery on a series of spectacular viaducts. Then, after stopping at Arthur’s Pass, emerge from the long Otira Tunnel and descend through sub tropical rain forest past beautiful Lake Brunner and on to Greymouth.”
The Coastal Pacific line (South Island)
The Coastal Pacific line is a 5+ hour scenic journey from Christchurch to Picton on the South Island. The line includes 8 stops and operates daily in the summer excluding Christmas day. Be aware that in winter (from May to September) the line only operates 4 days a week: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Kiwi Rail says: “This memorable journey between Christchurch and Picton stops at Blenheim and the renowned whale watching town of Kaikoura. Along 98 kilometres of ruggedly beautiful coastline you’ll get astonishingly close to the surging Pacific Ocean and steeply rising Kaikoura Ranges. You’ll also travel through beautiful wine growing regions, across broad, braided rivers and the rich patchwork farming landscape of the Canterbury Plains.”