Covering hundreds of miles of beautiful rolling scenery and offering relaxing comfort as you gently cruise along, New Zealand rail journeys are one of the best ways to see the country and enjoy the variety of stunning landscapes in a short period of time.
New Zealand train trips range from rides aboard heritage steam trains to coastal railways and scenic train rides past mountains, lakes and volcanoes. No matter where you choose to go by rail, New Zealand won’t disappoint, although the following railway journeys are among our top recommendations when visiting the country.
Taieri Gorge Railway
A narrow yet deep gorge carved out over thousands of years by the Taieri River, the Taieri Gorge is one of the must-see natural sights of the Otago region. Visit Taieri Gorge by train for an experience which will not only let you soak up the beauty of the gorge, but also the stunning city of Dunedin, the rolling Taieri Plains and numerous bridges and tunnels, including the famous Wingatui Viaduct.
A leisurely 4-hour return journey, the Taieri Gorge Railway is the perfect way to see the area’s mesmerising scenery, and can also be included as part of your New Zealand tour with Distant Journeys.
Enjoy a journey aboard the Marlborough Flyer, a WWI Memorial steam locomotive first built in 1915. This delightful heritage railway journey takes you from the port town of Picton at the top of South Island, the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds, south to the pretty riverside town of Blenheim, with shops, restaurants and gourmet cafes to enjoy.
During your leisurely hour-long journey, you’ll pass through the Para Wetlands, the Wairau Valley and a sprawling landscape of vineyards.
Often recognised as one of the world’s railway journeys, the TranzAlpine Express train takes you on an unforgettable journey from the delightful city of Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the rugged west coast. Along the way, you can discover over 220km of incredible scenery, from the majestic Canterbury Plains to the dramatic Southern Alps, lush Otira Valley and tranquil Lake Brunner.
With Distant Journeys you can also enjoy an amazing TranzAlpine Express scenic journey, covering the first half of the TranzAlpine train route between Christchurch and the Arthur’s Pass National Park, passing spectacular landmarks such as the Waimakariri Bridge and Sugar Loaf mountain. After the train ride of a lifetime, we’ll take you on a gentle coach tour through more dazzling scenery to the stunning Franz Josef glacier.
The Northern Explorer
Passing through North Island’s five diverse geographical regions, this epic ten-hour journey connects lively Auckland with New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. As well as seeing these two splendid cities, you’ll also encounter some other amazing sights along the way, including New Zealand’s trademark farmland, rugged bush landscapes, river gorges, rocky seascapes, and the famous Raurimu Spiral, leading to a plateau passing a trio of volcanoes.
The Northern Explorer is not only one of the most scenic railways New Zealand has to offer, but one of the most comfortable too, with panoramic roof and side windows, air conditioning, GPS-triggered journey commentary and information displays all adding to the journey experience.
Recently back in action following a 2016 earthquake, the Coastal Pacific travels down the eastern side of New Zealand between Picton and Christchurch. Running daily during the summer season, this scenic railway has endless sea views to the east, and panoramas of the Kaikoura mountains to the west.
Over five hours, you’ll take in some truly incredible coastal and mountainous scenery, with this part of New Zealand also famous for its whale-watching. Other vistas you’ll be able to admire during the journey include the sunny vineyards of the Marlborough region, the pink salt plains at Lake Grassmere and the Kahutara River Bridge.
If these railway journeys have inspired you to take a scenic tour of New Zealand at its very best, take a look at our collection of New Zealand tours, which include not only some of these incredible railways but also many other sightseeing tours and experiences, encompassing the best New Zealand has to offer.