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. For local maps and expert advice, call into Kaikōura isite Visitors Information Centre.