Overland rail travel is slow and allows for time to enjoy spectacular scenery not viewable from the main roads and provide a seamless connection between the North and South islands.
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.
The great train journeys of New Zealand
More about scenic train trips in New Zealand
The Northern Explorer is a remarkable train trip between Wellington and Auckland in the North Island.
The 12-hour journey takes you through the volcanic heart of the North Island. Through the barren landscapes of Tongariro National Park and the famous Raurimu Spiral, a great feat of railway engineering.
With large open windows and panoramic views, the Northern Explorer carriages provide ample comfort. At the rear of the train, an observation carriage includes lounge-style seating surrounded by glass on three sides. There are also open-air observation areas and a buffet car for meals, drinks and snacks.
The scenic train trip between Picton and Christchurch in the South Island is known as the Coastal Pacific.
With the Kaikōura Ranges rising steeply on one side and the Pacific Ocean swells washing over a rocky coastline on the other, keep an eye out for seals and penguins on the rocks.
Book your stopover in advance and spend some time in Kaikōura - a small coastal town known for excellent whale-watching safaris and crayfish dinners. The next stage of your journey crosses over the Canterbury Plains, where vast braided rivers dissect a patchwork of horticultural and farming landscapes. In total, the Coastal Pacific carries you through 22 tunnels and across 175 bridges.
The other scenic South Island train route is aboard theTranzAlpine.
One of the world’s greatest rail trips, the TranzAlpine crosses the Southern Alps which links the city of Christchurch to historic Greymouth, a river town on the rugged West Coast. Highlights include the 73-metre-high staircase viaduct, Arthur’s Pass National Park and the Otira tunnel.
The TranzAlpine covers 223.8 kilometres in four and a half hours. There are 19 tunnels and four viaducts. An outdoor viewing carriage will get you close to the fresh alpine air and spectacular scenery.