Get a front row seat for spectacular scenery when you travel by train in New Zealand.

Take a one way train trip or sit back and relax with a return journey. It’s the simplest way to experience New Zealand’s rich diversity and breathtaking beauty.

Rail travel takes you deeper into New Zealand’s landscapes and shows you all sorts of scenic wonders that often aren’t visible from the road.   

There are three main scenic rail journeys in New Zealand, traversing the North and South Islands.  

Some rail services also connect the regions, and there are suburban trains within Wellington and Auckland.  

Popular scenic train trips in New Zealand

The Great Journeys are the three scenic rail trips across New Zealand: 

  • The Northern Explorer – a day-long trip between Auckland and Wellington 
  • The Coastal Pacific – travels the east coast of the South Island between Picton and Christchurch 
  • The TranzAlpine – an internationally-renowned train trip that crosses the Southern Alps on its journey between Christchurch and Greymouth.  

Travel in luxury on all three train journeys with spacious carriages that offer comfortable seating and large panoramic windows for expansive scenic views.  

There is also an Open-Air Viewing Carriage where you can step outside to get closer to nature.  

A Scenic Café car serves meals, drinks and snacks to savour with the scenery. 

Book overnight stops in advance and spend time exploring the towns and settlements along the way.   

Northern Explorer 

The Northern Explorer is a 12-hour train trip between New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, and its capital, Wellington, in the North Island.  

The 648km trip takes you through the volcanic heart of the North Island into the dual UNESCO World Heritage site of Tongariro National Park, which is home to three volcanic peaks: Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. In winter, this area transforms into a snowy wonderland, while in summer months it is a rocky, otherworldly landscape.  

You’ll experience the famous Raurimu Spiral, a single-track railway spiral described as “an engineering masterpiece” and towering viaducts. You’ll see cliffs clad in lush native bush, and travel through rolling rural farmland. 

Coastal Pacific  

This picturesque six-hour journey travels the east coast of the South Island between Picton in the north and Christchurch in the south.  

It offers incredible views of the Kaikōura Ranges on one side and the swells of the Pacific Ocean on the other.  

You’ll travel through New Zealand’s biggest and most famous wine region of Marlborough, pass the salt fields of Lake Grassmere (where the waters turn pink in the summer heat) and on to the coastal settlement of Kaikōura – famous for its seafood and whale watching.  

Look out for the sperm whales that visit Kaikōura year-round, or spot orca over summer and humpback whales in our winter months of June and July. Keep a watch for seals and penguins along the rocky coastline too.  

Your journey also takes you across the patchwork of the Canterbury Plains, criss-crossed by vast braided rivers. In total, the Coastal Pacific carries you through 22 tunnels and across 175 bridges.  


The TranzAlpine is regarded as one of the world’s greatest train trips, as it travels coast to coast across the South Island’s stunning Southern Alps.  

The five-hour journey runs between the city of Christchurch in the east, to the river town of Greymouth on the rugged West Coast.  

Highlights include an ascent into the Southern Alps, travelling through stunning Arthur’s Pass National Park and the Otira tunnel. 

You’ll traverse breath-taking bridges and viaducts, and see snow-capped mountains, lakes, braided rivers, and the diverse forest landscapes and steep gorges of Arthur’s Pass. 

The 223.8-kilometre journey includes 19 tunnels and four viaducts.  

Train travel packages in New Zealand

See a new side of New Zealand with scenic rail short breaks and packages(opens in new window). These train trips depart from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch and range from two to five days.  

Explore cities or discover the beautiful scenery and natural wonders of the regions. The packages include train travel, accommodation, meals and selected local tours and attractions.  

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