Explore New Zealand by Train: The 5 Most Beautiful Train Journeys

By Thecoupleinrow51 | Feb 7, 2020
Oceania > New Zealand

Photo credit: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

There are many different ways to explore New Zealand’s natural beauty, but you will see most visitors renting either a car or campervan. This is undoubtedly an understandable option if you are keen to visit the most remote places in New Zealand. Many of these places are simply not accessible without a vehicle.
But at the same time, this results in packed touristy holiday parks with a dull atmosphere. Plus, having your own car is obviously not the greenest choice, especially when travelling alone or as a couple. Luckily, there are other, more green options of getting around New Zealand. Offering a very different and unique travel experience.

New Zealand has a great and reliable rail network across its islands, connecting the major cities Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as some scenic train journeys from Dunedin. The three Great Journeys of New Zealand are often priced as being the most beautiful train journeys in the world! And we have to agree with that.
You can sit back, relax and watch the dramatic landscapes transform before your eyes. Better yet, your views and pictures won’t have any cars or motorways in it. It’s just you, in the wild nature, from the comfort of a warm carriage.
In this blog, I will share with you the 5 most amazing train journeys you can take in New Zealand. This will make you want to go right away! Make sure to book online as many of these train rides book up pretty quickly, especially during summer.

1. Tranz Alpine (Christchurch to Greymouth)

Photo credit: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

The Tranz Alpine connects the vibrant city of Christchurch on the East coast and the historic mining town of Greymouth on the Westcoast. This amazing journey takes you through the most scenic landscapes that New Zealand has to offer. Leaving from Christchurch the Tranz Alpine takes you through the vast plains of Canterbury and then straight through the rugged and uncharted Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass.
You will pass meandering blue rivers and riverbeds, rolling mountains, steep cliffs and lush green forest. The scenery is so diverse you can’t keep your eyes from the windows. Or, on a good day, enjoy the fresh wind in your hair in the open-air carriage.

Recommended stops: Arthur’s Pass
Travel time: 5 hours one way
Where to book: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

2. Northern Explorer (Auckland to Wellington)

Photo credit: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

This 680km long train journey takes you through the stunning countryside of the North Island, connecting New Zealand’s biggest city Auckland with their quaint and hip capital Windy Welly. The Northern Explorer takes you along some of the most beautiful landscapes that the North Island has to offer, as well as many famous Lord of the Rings film locations, such as Hamilton (Hobbiton) and Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom).
From snow-capped volcanoes to mighty plains and barren desert-like areas, the Northen Explorer covers it all. Some argue this journey is even more rewarding than the world-famous Tranz Alpine.

Recommended stops: Hamilton, Tongariro National Park, Waitomo Caves
Travel time: 11,5 hours one way
Where to book: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

3. The Coastal Pacific (Picton to Christchurch)

Photo credit: Great Journeys of New Zealand

The ferry departing from Wellington arrives at Picton, where you can simply continue your amazing New Zealand journey by train. The Coastal Pacific is the third of the three Great Journeys of New Zealand and it easy to understand why. This wonderful ride combines all the beauty that the South Pacific Ocean has to offer.
Think steep cliffs, tunnels, crashing waves, green fields, volcanic beaches and magnificent turquoise bays. The rugged Eastcoast is home to much marine wildlife, so keep an eye open at the endless blue for seals, dolphins and whales.

Recommended stops: Kaikoura
Travel time: 5 hours one way
Where to book: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

4. The Seasider Journey (Dunedin to Waitati)

Photo credit: Dunedin Railways

Dunedin played a very important role in New Zealand’s Otago gold rush era and has one of the most beautiful railway stations in New Zealand. From here, you can take a scenic train, that will follow the footsteps of the early pioneers.
Dunedin Railways offers the ‘Seasider journey’ which operates from December 1st through the end of March. This 2-2.5 hour return journey takes you from Dunedin to Waitati and back.
The train meanders through the steep gorge, spectacular cliffs and slowing down and stopping at certain locations for you to take photos from the open-air carriage.

Travel time: 2-2.5 hours return
Where to book: Dunedin Railways

5. The Oamaru Seasider (Dunedin to Oamaru)

Photo credit: Dunedin Railways

Another great trip by train from Dunedin is the scenic ‘Oamaru Seasider’. This beautiful train takes you along the shores north of the town, boasting many beautiful views along the way, all the way up to the historic town of Oamaru - once an important port in Otago.
It is good to know that the Oamaru Seasider only operates on certain dates throughout the year. They often run one journey a month from April through to November. The beautiful ride takes you from Dunedin to Oamaru and also back to Dunedin if you book return.
The one way journey from Dunedin Railway Station to Oamaru take 2.5-3 hours one way, or return about 6-7 hours.

Recommended stops: Oamaru
Travel time: 2.5-3 hours one way, 6-7 hours return
Where to book: Dunedin Railways

Transportation North Island Auckland Eco-friendly Oamaru Canterbury Christchurch New Zealand Oceania Environment Train Wellington South Island

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Written by Thecoupleinrow51
We are Steven and Simone, two young and adventurous Dutch human beings who happened to fall in love with each other. Together we wander our planet with our camera, exploring new countries and meeting amazing people from different places and cultures. All to create everlasting memories. But while doing so we are much aware that it comes at an unfortunate cost for our environment. We both have been travelling a lot over the past ten years and we have seen many wonderful and exciting things. And we surely plan on seeing much more. That’s why we decided to change our course and travel as slow and green as possible from this moment on. Sharin... Read more

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