TranzAlpine Waimakariri Bridge 640x800

Great Journeys NZ

Our scenic train journeys have been named among the top train experiences in the world.

Through the connected rail network of Great Journeys New Zealand , passengers are able to travel from Auckland in the North through to Greymouth on the West Coast of the South Island, experiencing New Zealand’s famous coastlines and mountains along the way.

KiwiRail’s tourism services help drive New Zealand’s regional growth, bringing thousands of tourists each year to cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and to regions including Waikato, Ruapehu, Manawatu, Marlborough, Kaikōura and the West Coast.

A sustainable option

Not only are our journeys spectacular, they are a sustainable option for experiencing the beauty of Aotearoa with fewer carbon emissions than road travel, enhancing the safety and beauty of the country. We are proud to have signed up to the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment. Learn more about KiwiRail’s sustainability goals .

To book tickets, visit Great Journeys New Zealand . 

Great Journeys New Zealand include:

Northern explorer.

New Zealand's longest running passenger service, Northern Explorer travels between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at Palmerston North, Ohakune, National Park and Hamilton. Highlights include the journey through the Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains, and the famous Raurimu Spiral.

Coastal Pacific

Our Coastal Pacific train operates seven days a week over summer, until 5 May 2024 from Christchurch to Picton and returns to a four day schedule in September 2024 during summer. With the sea stretching to the horizon in the east and the Kaikōura mountains stretching to the sky in the west, Coastal Pacific is one of the most beautiful journeys in New Zealand.

TranzAlpine

TranzAlpine runs return services 7 days a week between Christchurch and Greymouth during summer and operates 4 days a week over the winter period. It has been named among the world’s top train journeys and covers 223km (139 miles) one-way, taking just under five hours. Passengers experience the majestic Canterbury Plains and mighty Southern Alps on their journey to the beautiful West Coast.

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KiwiRail is one of New Zealand’s largest employers with proud KiwiRail staff operating in more than 50 towns and cities across the country.

Helpful tips

Here's a few useful links to help with planning your trip to Aotearoa New Zealand.

  • Best things to do in the North Island
  • Best things to do in the South Island
  • Other Islands
  • Best ways to travel around
  • Calculate travel times and distances

Coastal Pacific™ train itinerary

marlborough

Scenic train journey between Picton and Christchurch

  • 98 kms of rugged coast
  • Picton waterfront
  • Kaikōura - famous for crayfish

View Coastal Pacific™ route

The Coastal Pacific™ train trip, which travels through the Kaikōura ranges, is one of the great journeys of New Zealand, transporting you by rail between Picton and Christchurch. 

The journey is just over 5 hours, but why not take your time and book a stop over for a couple of days to explore, Picton, Kaikōura and Christchurch.

Day 1: Sail on the ferry from Wellington to Picton

Interislander turns into the fiord-like Marlborough Sounds on its breathtakingly beautiful journey from Wellington to Picton

Interislander Kaitaki entering the Tory Channel, Wellington

By Rob Pine

Picton is a charming ferry town where the Interislander ferry arrives and leaves from.

Picton Marina, New Zealand

Crossing the Cook Strait on a Bluebridge Ferry and enjoy some real Kiwi hospitality.

Crossing the Cook Strait on a Bluebridge Ferry , Wellington

By Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries

Home to world famous Marlborough Sounds

  • Queen Charlotte Track
  • Picton's relaxing waterfront
  • Gateway to the South Island

Find out more about Picton

Linking the North and South Islands together, the Interislander and Bluebridge ferries are both excellent ways to get from Wellington to Picton. 

The 3.5 hour sailing across the Cook Strait is as relaxing as it is scenic. As playful dolphins frolic alongside the ferry sit back and relax on the outside deck or lounge inside at the café or bar. 

During the winter months humpback whales can be seen gracefully gliding their enormous bodies through the strait as they migrate to the south. 

Glimpses of land appear as the ferry slowly drifts past secluded inlets of the Marlborough Sounds where you're greeted with the palm tree lined waterfront of Picton . 

For local maps, expert advice and to book activities visit Picton isite Visitor Information Centre , which is a mere five minutes walk from the ferry terminal and most accommodation providers are close by. 

Day 2: Exploring Picton and surrounds

It takes four to five days to hike the entire Queen Charlotte Track, dotted with sandy beaches.

Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough

By www.cougarline.co.nz

Hans Herzog winery

Hans Herzog winery, Marlborough

By Destination Marlborough

Friendly pigs welcoming mail run visitors to the outer Pelorus Sound

Friendly pigs welcoming mail run visitors to the outer Pelorus Sounds, Marlborough

By Pelorus Mail Boat

Delivering to Wakatahuri

Mail boat delivering to Wakatahuri, Marlborough

By Jim Baillie

Excellent Marlborough wineries and boutique shops

  • Short drive to Blenheim wineries
  • Green-lipped mussel tours
  • Great walking and hiking

Towns in the Marlborough area

Considered the heart of the Marlborough Sounds and built around a sheltered harbour, the picturesque port town of Picton is home to great cafés, restaurants, galleries and specialty boutique stores. And with less than 5,000 locals you're bound to meet a few friendly faces.

Picton is home to many excellent tramping and cycling trails including the Queen Charlotte Track (opens in new window) . Although the climate is mild and generally warm, the area also has a high average rainfall so you need to be prepared and check the weather before you begin. 

Green-lipped mussels are grown and harvested in abundance in the area and the small village of Havelock , just 45 minutes drive from Picton, is the gateway to the Pelorus Sounds .

Marlborough Tour Company Mail Boat tour is a super relaxing full day tour onboard a  catamaran, meandering slowly through the clear waters of the Pelorus Sounds to deliver mail and supplies to locals who live remotely in the sounds. Waiting on the jetty's you'll meet some interesting characters and hear how Kiwi ingenuity shapes the somewhat primitive life in the sounds. It's not just the locals who wait on the jetties - keep a look out for dogs, pigs, sheep and seals! 

Day 3: Picton to Kaikōura on the Coastal Pacific™

Lake Grassmere Salt Plains from the Coastal Pacific

Lake Grassmere Salt Plains from the Coastal Pacific, Marlborough

By Coastal Pacific

Coastal Pacific travelling through Marlborough

Coastal Pacific travelling through Marlborough, Marlborough

By KiwiRail

A sleeping fur seal on the Kaikoura Shoreline Walk

Kaikoura, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Moray Nairn

Discover Kaikoura's wildlife

01 Kaikoura Canterbury Kyle Mulinder, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Kyle Mulinder

christchurch-canterbury

Vast open plains, mountain ranges and wildlife

  • Kaikōura crayfish
  • Whale watching
  • Albatross tours

Find the top 10 things to do in Kaikōura

After a sleep-in and leisurely brunch, make your way to Picton Train Station (just behind Picton isite Visitor Information Centre ) ready for an early afternoon departure on the Coastal Pacific ™, one of New Zealand's great train journeys.

Leaving Picton behind, your Coastal Pacific ™ train trip begins with views of New Zealand's premium wine growing region of Blenheim, home to world-renowned Marlborough sauvignon blanc. The patchwork landscape of deep oranges and burnt yellows are thanks to the long hot days and dry weather in this region.

The Coastal Pacific™ railway's many tunnels are a major feature of the journey. The cost and difficulty of building these 20 tunnels resulted in the railway taking more than 80 years to complete.

The tunnels are clustered in the cliffs that rise either side of Kaikōura's  vast plains. The majority of these tunnels are between  Ōkiwi  Bay and Claverley.

Continuing on, you'll notice the landscape becomes lush as the train tracks cross into the northern Canterbury region. 

Lake Grassmere is an interesting sight, the pastel pink and whites you'll see is  the result of natural salt production. Seawater, fresh from the Pacific Ocean, is pumped into the lake and into  crystallisation ponds until the salt is harvested. The pink to purple colour of the crystallisation ponds is caused by natural microscopic green algae that change to pink in the high salt concentration. The same phenomena that gives the Red Sea its name. 

Continuing south, keep a look out for the Ohau Point Seal Colony. Often, hundreds of New Zealand fur seals can be spotted sunning themselves on the rocks or frolicking amongst the seaweed. The train travels close enough to the ocean to see the seals with the naked eye. 

One of the most spectacular moments of the Coastal Pacific ™ journey is at Mangamaunu Bay. Here the train rounds the southern end of the bay delivering exceptional close-up views of the  Kaikōura mountain ranges.  Mangamaunu Bay is also one of the best surf beaches in New Zealand and during peak surf conditions, the bay is so popular that surfers queue up to take turns.

In the late afternoon the Coastal Pacific ™ arrives into   Kaikōura Train Station (also known as the Whaleway Station) which is on the waterfront in the same building as Whalewatch Kaikōura.

Accommodation options are ten minute walk from the station in the town centre or a short drive away. 

Day 4: Exploring wildlife in Kaikōura

Dusky dolphins seen on an Encounter Kaikoura boat

Pod of dolphins, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Dennis Buurman

Kaikoura is a  haven for several magnificent species of whale.

Whale tail, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Whale Watch Kaikoura

Albatross Encounters run cruises to take visitors out to see seabirds including Albatross, Petrels, Shearwaters, Gulls, Shags and Terns.

Albatross Encounters Kaikoura, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Albatross Encounters Kaikoura

Crayfish BBQs and wildlife encounters

  • Seward Kaikōura Ranges
  • Mt Fyffe - walking and hiking
  • New Zealand fur seal colonies

Find out more about Kaikōura wildlife

Kaikōura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish (in Māori language 'kai' means food, 'kōura' means crayfish). 

Kaikōura's environment is truly spectacular, the village is sandwiched between the rugged seaward Kaikōura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape.

The special talents of the area are marine mammal encounters. Whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day and the local seal colony is always entertaining. 

Kaikōura Canyon, where many wildlife encounters take place, is deep and open and the sea conditions can change quickly. When the seas are too rough, head to the clouds and whale watch from above with Wings over Whales .

There are also plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops to explore and of course you should try succulent Kaikōura crayfish fresh off the boat at Nins Bin crayfish caravan (opens in new window) , at a waterfront restaurant or  Kaikōura Seafood BBQ (opens in new window) .

Day 5: Kaikōura to Christchurch on the Coastal Pacific™

Coastal Pacific leaving Kaikoura

Coastal Pacific leaving Kaikoura, Christchurch - Canterbury

Coastal Pacific View from beach curving around Oaro

Coastal Pacific View from beach curving around Oaro , Christchurch - Canterbury

Coastal Pacific enjoying open air carriage views

Coastal Pacific enjoying open air carriage views, Christchurch - Canterbury

Coastal Pacific

Coastal Pacific , New Zealand

The Canterbury Plains are New Zealand's largest area of continuous flat land

  • Spectacular Southern Alps
  • Okarahia Viaduct
  • Mangamaunu Bay surf beach

Find out more about Canterbury

With most of the day free, it's then time to head back to the Whaleway Station in the afternoon to board the Coastal Pacific™ bound for Christchurch. 

Heading south, the train travels over the Kahutara River Bridge which stretches 241 metres long. Enjoy stunning views of the Kahutara River below, the Pacific Ocean on the left and the Seaward  Kaikōura  Ranges on the right. 

Okarahia Viaduct, at 21 metres high and 115 metres long, is an unexpected gem and a beautiful sight to behold.  Views of the viaduct appear suddenly from behind trees near Claverley Road and you're treated to stunning views of the Pacific Ocean on the left and tree-lined Okarahia Valley on the right.

Travelling on to the north-eastern tip of the Canterbury Plains (which span a massive 200 kilometres from north to south) the Coastal Pacific™ is now sharing the land with the TranzAlpine™ whose main territory is the Southern Alps. The TranzAlpine™ follows the valleys of the Waimakariri River while the Coastal Pacific™ crosses over the river near Kaiapoi. 

Historically, the train route of the Coastal Pacific™ began as two separate railways; one from Christchurch to  Kaikōura and another from Picton to Blenheim. Connecting the two railways together was impossible with the Kaikōura Ranges in the way. The only option was to build the train route around the coast, creating a scenic train journey on the very edge of the world. 

As the Coastal Pacific™ pulls into Christchurch Railway Station (sometimes known as Addington Station) your train journey comes to an end just after sunset. 

Grab a taxi from the station and head into the central city where you'll find many options for acccomodation.

Christchurch is an interesting city so it's worth spending a few nights exploring. 

If your next stop is the West Coast consider the scenic journey through the Southern Alps onboard the TranzAlpine ™  which departs from Christchurch Station. 

 View the  Coastal Pacific™ route below

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The Great Journeys of New Zealand

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You'll see so much more of New Zealand when you travel by train. You can sit back in comfort and watch the scenery glide past, through enormous panoramic windows. There's a spectacular range of scenery waiting for you - rugged coastlines and rolling hills, winding rivers, towering mountains and untouched alpine landscapes - much of which you'd never get to see from the road.

You'll travel in the comfort of our world-class scenic carriages, featuring panoramic windows, open-air viewing carriage and GPS-triggered at-seat commentary.

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Kiwi Rail - Coastal Pacific Train New Zealand

Discover the great train journeys of New Zealand with Coastal Pacific

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If you are looking for an authentic Coastal Pacific train adventure, look no further than Great Journeys New Zealand .

Embark on a remarkable adventure through the heart of New Zealand’s natural beauty as you step aboard the Coastal Pacific train. This iconic railway journey is a feast for the senses, taking you on an unforgettable ride along the picturesque Pacific coast between Picton and Christchurch.

Prepare to be enchanted as you traverse rugged coastlines, revealing stunning vistas of untouched beaches framed by majestic mountains and the vast expanse of the ocean. It’s a timeless voyage through landscapes of awe-inspiring beauty that will leave you breathless.

Explore the world-renowned Kaikōura Coastline

One of the highlights of this journey is the chance to explore the world-renowned Kaikōura Coastline. Famous for its abundant marine life and thrilling whale-watching opportunities, Kaikōura will captivate your senses with its unique charm.

As you continue your voyage, you’ll meander through the vineyards of Blenheim, where you can indulge in New Zealand’s finest wines in Marlborough’s world-famous vineyards. Savour the rich flavours of this premium crop as you soak in the vineyard’s enchanting atmosphere.

Kiwi Rail - Coastal Pacific Train New Zealand sea view

Garden City of Christchurch

The Coastal Pacific train also immerses you in the idyllic Canterbury countryside, leading you to the Garden City of Christchurch. This charming city boasts historic elegance and modern vibrancy, making it the perfect destination to conclude your journey. Choose from two equally captivating directions: embark on your adventure from Christchurch to Picton or from Picton to Christchurch. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a range of enchanting destinations, including Picton, Blenheim, Kaikoura, and Christchurch.

Coastal Pacific Train New Zealand breakfast with lady

Experience the Coastal Pacific train today

It’s a journey that promises breathtaking scenery, cultural enrichment, and unforgettable memories. Book your ticket today and immerse yourself in New Zealand’s coastal paradise’s natural wonders and cultural delights. Join us on this iconic rail adventure and let the Coastal Pacific train transport you to a world of breathtaking beauty.

The Coastal Pacific will return to running long weekends, Thursday to Sunday, from 21 September 2023. The service will run daily from 14 December 2023 to 28 April 2024.

Coastal Pacific Train New Zealand dining

Scenic Plus Dining Experience

From 14 December, you can elevate your experience even further with the arrival of Scenic Plus service on Coastal Pacific. With a dedicated carriage, a special menu inspired by the landscapes and delivered to your seat, drinks service and much more. An experience not to be missed.

Explore unique cultural and culinary flavours as the landscape glides by your window aboard Coastal Pacific Scenic Plus. This exclusive dining experience introduces you to the natural flavours of the Pacific Ocean and the Marlborough and Canterbury regions with a carefully curated menu of regional delicacies that are freshly prepared in a custom-built kitchen carriage and served at your seat throughout the journey. Service starts: 14 December 2023.

Read more Everything you need to know about Air New Zealand’s Skynest Six New Zealand landmarks you need to explore The Coromandel: A little-known (but locally loved) New Zealand hotspot

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Tags: Best Train Journeys in the world , Coastal Pacific , Great Journeys New Zealand , New Zealand

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Great Journeys of New Zealand Scenic Journeys

Great Journeys of New Zealand Scenic Journeys Introduction

Discover New Zealand and the true beauty of train travel with The Great Journeys of New Zealand's unique scenic train journeys.

Great Journeys of New Zealand Scenic Journeys, New Zealand's only passenger rail company, combines world famous scenic New Zealand train journeys with quality facilities and comfort.

Re-discover New Zealand and the romance of travel by rail or as our American visitors say, travel on the railroad.

Visit our Website Make a Booking

The Great Journeys of New Zealand TranzAlpine Train

The The Great Journeys of New Zealand TranzAlpine scenic train journey travels between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other.

See the stunning scenery of New Zealand from coast to coast from the comfort of your carriage.

Starting on the East Coast of New Zealand, travel through the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Climb into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth.

All carriages include both one way seating and tabled group seating allowing you to experience the amazing views of our beautiful country, while also enjoying the company of other passengers.

An open air viewing deck allows you to get even closer to the stunning scenery and preserve its beauty in time with photography. Fully licensed on board cafes have a delicious range of snacks, meals and beverages, and GPS triggered at-seat commentary ensures no highlights are missed.

This scenic New Zealand train journey is 223.8 kilometres long and takes just four and a half hours one way. There are 16 tunnels, and 5 viaducts, the highest being the Staircase standing at 73 metres.

The Great Journeys of New Zealand Coastal Pacific Train

The train in winter

The The Great Journeys of New Zealand Coastal Pacific scenic train travels between Picton, at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, and Christchurch, the gateway to the south

Travel between the stunning Kaikoura mountain ranges and the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline.

Along the way you'll pass though the seaside town of Kaikoura, where, if you're touring New Zealand, you can break the journey to experience whale watching or swim with the dolphins.

The The Great Journeys of New Zealand Coastal Pacific is one of the world's most scenic train journeys. Your train travels through 22 tunnels and crosses 175 bridges, one of them being New Zealand's only road-rail bridge.

This scenic New Zealand train journey also includes an open air viewing, GPS triggered audio commentary and a licensed café.

The Great Journeys of New Zealand Northern Explorer Train

Travel through the heart of the North Island

The The Great Journeys of New Zealand Northern Explorer is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Auckland—New Zealand's largest city, to Wellington—New Zealand's arts and culture capital.

Along the way you will pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune, popular with young and old tourists alike. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges—all from huge panoramic windows or the open air viewing decks.

The best way to see New Zealand

New Zealand's spectacularly beautiful landscape includes vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, sweeping coastlines, deeply indented fiords and lush rainforests.

New Zealand is comparable in size to Great Britain, Colorado or Japan, yet we have a population of only 4.1 million, making it one of the world's least crowded countries. It is a haven for those seeking peace, rejuvenation and relaxation as well as a playground for thrill seekers and adventurers.

New Zealand has a temperate climate with relatively small seasonal variation making it an ideal year-round holiday destination.

New Zealanders have a unique and dynamic culture, with European, Maori, Pacific and Asian influences. It's a culture that celebrates the many different lifestyles we live, and the stories we have to tell.

While New Zealand is a relatively young country, it has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting both our Maori and European heritage. Amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures), some dating back almost a thousand years, are a contrast to many beautiful colonial buildings. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country we have become.

Train travel in New Zealand is a great way to see some of the stunning scenery on offer.

the great journey of new zealand

the great journey of new zealand

These Are The Three Most Scenic Train Journeys To Take In New Zealand

  • The Northern Explorer is the longest train ride in New Zealand, taking around 12 hours to journey from Auckland to Wellington. It showcases charming green hills and farmland landscapes.
  • The Coastal Pacific, running from Picton to Christchurch, offers stunning coastal landscapes and passes through Marlborough wine region. It takes approximately 6 hours to complete the journey.
  • The TranzAlpine is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world. It travels from Christchurch to Greymouth, featuring lush rainforests, snow-capped mountains, and picturesque landscapes. The journey takes 5 hours and passes through Arthur's Pass.

New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking natural scenery and one of the relaxing ways to explore the country is by train. In New Zealand, most of the old passenger train routes have been discontinued as cars and airplanes have taken over.

Still, in New Zealand, there are three excellent luxury and scenic train journeys to take: the Northern Explorer, the TranzAlpine, and the Coastal Pacific. Together they journey from the large northern city of Auckland to the small South Island West Coast town of Greymouth. These train journeys (and especially the TranzAlpine) can be counted among the most scenic train rides in the world. Here's what to know about the top-ranked train trips in New Zealand.

The Northern Explorer

Take the passenger train from auckland to wellington.

The Northern Explorer is the main passenger train service from Auckland (the largest city) to Wellington (the capital city) on the North Island. The Northern Explorer is by far the longest train ride, although it is arguably less dramatic than its South Island counterpart. Most of the route is characterized by charming rolling green hills and farmland.

The Northern Explorer traces the historic North Island Main Trunk railway completed over a hundred years ago. This heritage railroad took some 30 years to build, and it meant people didn't need to take several days of treacherous sailing around the North Island to get from city to city.

  • Terminuses: Auckland & Wellington
  • Length: 648 kilometers or 402 miles
  • Duration: Around 12 Hours
  • Cost: From NZD 239 (approx. $142 USD)

The Northern Explorer has been reimagined as a scenic train journey for tourists. The train journey is 648 kilometers (402 miles) and takes around 12 hours. Consider stopping off along the way and exploring the dramatic volcanic lands of the central North Island at Mount Ruapehu and the Tongariro National Park.

Along the way, visitors see some of the most stunning landscapes of the North Island including the Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe — three of the most significant volcanoes in New Zealand. Gaze out at rolling green rural farmland, lush native bush, and much more.

Related: What To Expect When Visiting Wellington: The Windiest City In The World

Coastal Pacific

See the sea from picton to christchurch.

Journeying down to Wellington and taking the ferry across to the South Island, tourists can take the Coastal Pacific. The Coastal Pacific runs from the port town of Picton in the northern South Island to Christchurch — the main city of the South Island.

  • Terminuses: Picton (Ferry Connection With Wellington) & Christchurch
  • Duration: 6 Hours
  • Cost: From NZD $177 (approx. $106 USD)

Soon after leaving Picton, the Coastal Pacific runs through New Zealand's largest and most famous wine region - Marlborough (internationally acclaimed for its Sauvignon Blanc wine). While in New Zealand, explore some of the country's boutique wineries and sample its southern wines.

On the Coastal Pacific, visitors see some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes with mountains flowing into the sea. Stop over at Kaikoura and enjoy New Zealand's best place for whale watching (including sperm whales).

Kaikoura is also a hotspot for seeing dolphins and fur seals. Spot hundreds of New Zealand fur seals relaxing on the coast and some of the most rugged coastal landscapes in New Zealand.

A great yet lesser-explored spot in New Zealand is the coast's wild catlins , which are home to various wildlife and offer excellent views.

The Coastal Pacific takes around 6 hours and passes through 22 tunnels and over 175 bridges.

Related: Take One Of The New Zealand's Instagrammable Picture With Milford Sound's Bowen Falls

TranzAlpine

Take a scenic trip to "nowhere".

The TranzApline arguably offers the most dramatic scenery of any train ride in New Zealand and is counted among the great train journeys in the world. Whereas the Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific connect the three main cities in New Zealand, the TranzApline is something of a train to nowhere.

  • Terminuses: Christchurch & Greymouth
  • Length: 224 kilometers or 139 miles
  • Duration: 5 Hours
  • Cost: From NZD $239 (approx. $143 USD)

The TranzAlpine runs across the South Island from Christchurch through the Southern Alps to the West Coast town of Greymouth. The landscapes are characterized by lush rainforests, snow-capped mountains, lakes, braided rivers, and rich farmlands around Christchurch. The region around Arthur's Pass is famous and boasts some of the most picturesque landscapes in the country.

The full 224-kilometer (139-mile) journey takes around 5 hours and it passes through 19 tunnels and over 4 viaducts. See how the South Island changes radically from the green coastal plains of the East Coast near Christchurch to the rugged mountainous interior to the lush rain forests of the West Coast.

The journey takes five hours, but visitors should stop off at Arthur's Pass deep in the Southern Alps along the way. Here, explore some of the South Island's most dramatic scenery.

Visitors can just take a day trip to Arthur's Pass from Christchurch or can stay there for a night or two before completing the train journey.

Besides these three epic train journeys, there are plenty of shorter scenic train rides to enjoy in New Zealand such as the Inlander from Dunedin that discovers the gold rush heritage of the region.

These Are The Three Most Scenic Train Journeys To Take In New Zealand

Discover New Zealand

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour

Join this guided scenic tour through the North Island passing mountain peaks, icy rivers, and engineering marvels. Encounter the volcanic peaks of Middle Earth in Ruapehu, witness the engineering marvels of the Raurimu Spiral, experience the mesmerising coastal views of the Kapiti Coast, and explore New Zealand’s city life in Auckland and Wellington.

Guided Coach & Train Tours

This suggested tour costs from NZD$3,299 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Wellington

6 days/5 nights

Hotel 3 star

  Pre and post tour options? YES

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Tour Inclusions

Tour map

At a glance - Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour

Day 1 : Welcome to Auckland Accommodation: 3-3.5 Star Hotel

Day 2 : Northern Explorer Scenic Train From Auckland to Ohakune Accommodation: 3-3.5 Star Hotel

Day 3 : Discover Ohakune and Tongariro National Park Accommodation: 3-3.5 Star Hotel

Day 4 : Northern Explorere Scenic Train from Ohakune to Wellington Accommodation: 3-3.5 Star Hotel

Day 5 : Explore Wellington - New Zealand's Capital Accommodation: 3-3.5 Star Hotel

Day 6 : Farewell Wellington

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour - Day 1

Kia ora! Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand’s City of Sails! Auckland is known for its multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts, and culture. Your great journey will officially begin the moment you check into your hotel room. After reading your welcome letter from your Journey Director, head out and explore all that Auckland has to offer. This is the perfect opportunity to visit the Sky Tower or shop along bustling Queen Street. You may even fancy a drink in one of the charming bars or eateries of Vulcan Lane. After an exciting day on the town, join your fellow travellers as well as the Journey Director at this evening’s welcome reception.

Your accommodation: 3-3.5 Star Hotel

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour - Day 2

Today you will marvel at rural New Zealand’s lush landscapes from the comfort of your seat onboard the Northern Explorer scenic train journey. From the green pastures of the Waikato to the icy mountain streams of Ruapehu, you won’t want to miss a moment. If you are interested in culture and history, enjoy the audio commentary as you cross historic viaducts and traverse up the Raurimu Spiral. This experience is one like no other. For the next two nights, you will stay in Ohakune. This charming town is the adventure base for the Tongariro National Park - home to three volcanic mountains. Tongariro National Park is also recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour - Day 3

Today is free for you to discover one of Ohakune’s exciting excursions. Choose from the many optional activities on offer and personalise your perfect holiday. Perhaps you will hop aboard a historical rail cart journey or join a horse trekking experience that takes you along expansive hills, mountains, rivers, and into the native bush. If you're after an active day, why not explore Ohakune’s historical cycle trail? Rent e-bikes and discover old viaducts, tunnels, old settlers’ camps, and reclaimed native forests along the Old Coach Road! For dinner, we recommend taking a casual stroll around town. Grab some kai (food) and a drink alongside the locals at the pub in true Kiwi fashion.

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour - Day 4

After breakfast, we begin our day by travelling from National Park to Mt Ruapehu. You won't want to leave this mini excursion to Middle Earth without a panoramic photo in hand! Joining the Northern Explorer train once again, you will wave goodbye to this UNESCO World Heritage Site as you settle into your uber-comfortable seat. Don’t get too comfortable though; dramatic rivers, gorges and ravines are just around the bend! Stretch your legs and explore the open-air carriage to acquire the best views from the train. As you glide through rich green farmland and past a dramatic coastline, indulge in afternoon tea while drinking in the views. All too soon, the train will arrive into Wellington, leaving the picturesque Porirua Harbour behind you. Arriving at Wellington Railway Station, you are just a stone’s throw from downtown, the Beehive, and Parliament Buildings. Welcome to New Zealand’s Capital City! You won't want to waste a moment of time after checking into the hotel – your evening is free to explore this award-winning cultural and culinary capital from Queen's Wharf to Cuba Street and beyond.

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour - Day 5

The perfect day does exist – and it includes exploring Wellington! Today is free for you to experience vibrant Wellington as you please. Start by joining our Wellington City introduction tour and then heading off to explore Cuba street’s cafes, bookstores, and eccentric shops. Get cultured at the Te Papa Museum or Zealandia to uncover the rich stories of Aotearoa New Zealand. You won’t get bored with the plethora of activities on offer. From urban eco-sanctuary, cable cars, botanical gardens and more, the list goes on! If you need any suggestions or recommendations, just reach out to your experienced Journey Director.

Great Journeys of New Zealand - Classic Northern Highlights Tour - Day 6

Your journey will end after enjoying a final breakfast with your fellow travellers. You will be transferred to Wellington Airport for your departing flight.

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