Trains provide a relaxing and absorbing way to see New Zealand.
Compared to other countries, New Zealand is a relatively light user of rail for city commuting but it provides some stunning opportunities for passengers who want to see the country by rail.
Five great train journeys
Cross the Southern Alps on The TranzAlpine
From the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman sea across the Southern Alps – one of the great railway journeys of the world, it is claimed. From the coastal plains of Canterbury, through spectacular gorges and river valleys, to the peaks at Arthur’s Pass, and then down through beech forest to Lake Brunner and finally the coast at Greymouth. Numerous bridges, viaducts and tunnels feature in this 4.5-hour journey. The trip is especially scenic when the peaks are covered in snow in winter.
Stunning scenery on The TranzCoastal
With the sea on one side and the Kaikoura mountain range on the other, when it comes to views The Tranzcoastal has it all. Running along the east coast of the South Island between Christchurch and Picton (with connections to ferries) the landscape takes in rolling farmland and vineyards together with rugged coast with glimpses of dolphins, seals and penguins along the way. Stop in Kaikoura for whale watching or Blenheim for wine. Journey time 5.5 hours, 6 stops.
Auckland to Wellington on The Northern Explorer (formerly the Overlander)
The only rail service between the two principal cities of the North island. Travelling through the volcanic plateau of the central North Island it affords great views of the many unique landscapes of the area. The Overlander runs daily in each direction during peak season, less often during winter months. On occasions, the coaches are pulled by a steam locomotive. Film director Sir Peter Jackson was said to be inspired to film Lord of the Rings in New Zealand whilst travelling on The Northern Explorer.
Taieri Gorge Railway
Once part of the line connecting Central Otago to the coast at Dunedin, the railway runs for 78km through the spectacular and rugged Taieri River gorge. The journey offers options for onward connections to Queenstown (by bus) and access to cycle routes for some or all of the return journey. Travel to Pukerangi or Middlemarch, 4 or 6-hour return journeys respectively.
Dunedin’s scenic coastal railway service to Palmerston. It’s worth the trip just to admire the spectacular architecture of Dunedin’s famous railway station, including the huge mosaic floor of the booking office. The railway journey offers plenty of great views along its cliff-hugging route.
Source: New Zealand Holiday Travel