If you’d like to see hundreds of miles of stunning landscapes in one incredible journey, the scenic rail journeys of New Zealand are the perfect choice. Not just a way of getting from one place to another, the railways in New Zealand are renowned for their remarkable views and breathtaking sceneries, passing through endless stretches of unspoilt landscapes.
During your visit to New Zealand, these train trips and rail journeys are not to be missed – be sure to include at least one in your holiday itinerary.
Taieri Gorge Railway
Perhaps one of the more famous New Zealand train journeys is the Taieri Gorge Railway, twisting and turning its way through the spectacular Taieri Gorge, its tracks clinging to the hillsides or leaping over carefully constructed viaducts, including the famous Wingatui Viaduct. Taking in more than just the gorge – the journey starts in the city of Dunedin and crosses beautiful rolling plains – this is a rail journey where, throughout its four-hour duration, you just won’t be able to stop taking photos. Its carriages, dating from the 1920s, have open balconies and unobstructed views of the landscapes around you, perfect for the snap-happy.
The ultimate New Zealand scenic rail route, a journey on the TranzAlpine Express really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. An epic cross-country journey from Christchurch on South Island’s east coast over to Greymouth on the west, crossing the majestic Canterbury Plains and the snow-topped Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine also offers incredible views over South Island’s rugged west coast, including Arthur’s Pass National Park, the lush Otira Valley, the tranquil Lake Brunner and the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain. Among the many highlights of this trip is the section travelling through the Waimakariri Gorge, rolling towards snow-topped mountains whilst diving into 16 tunnels and crossing five impressive viaducts.
Hugging the east coast of South Island between Picton on the north edge and Christchurch five hours south, the Coastal Pacific is the New Zealand scenic rail journey for those fond of the sea. On one side, you’ll enjoy incredible views out to the Pacific Ocean and its neighbouring coastline, and you can expect glimpses of penguins, seals and even whales, especially by Kaikoura, the whale watching capital of the world. On the other side, vistas of the Marlborough vineyards, the pink salt plains of Lake Grassmere and the dramatic Kaikoura mountains will roll by your window – wherever you look, you’re in for an incredible view.
A glorious ten-hour journey traversing North Island from top to bottom, connecting the two lively cities of Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, the Northern Explorer glides through hundreds of miles of the country’s finest rural pastures. Quintessential New Zealand farmland and rugged bushlands give way to clusters of majestic volcanoes, the carriages of the Northern Explorer ascending the breathtaking Rauirimu Spiral to a volcanic plateau. The descent is equally as spectacular, heading into dramatic gorges, rolling farmland and rocky seascapes. Although the rail journey is ten hours long, you’ll travel in unrivalled comfort, with panoramic side and roof windows for unbeatable and uninterrupted views, GPS-triggered journey commentary telling you about all of the incredible sights you’re seeing as you pass them, air conditioning and many more on-board comforts.
The ideal train journey for those stepping foot on South Island for the first time, this train travels from Picton, a ferry port at the top of South Island, to the lovely city of Blenheim further south. The Marlborough Flyer is a charming steam locomotive which was built in 1915, offering the chance to cruise in comfort through the Para Wetlands, across the waters of the Wairau River and past a throng of vineyards before reaching Blenheim, where it’s a pleasure to browse its shops, dine at its gourmet cafes and enjoy a stroll along the river.
Explore New Zealand by rail and more
If you’ve been inspired to embark on one of these fantastic railway adventures, why not consider the Magnificent New Zealand tour with Distant Journeys? Included in this unbeatable tour of New Zealand is a ride aboard the TranzAlpine Express, the incredible on-board views across the snow-topped Southern Alps just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stunning scenery you’ll see during your holiday. You’ll also have the chance to see visit the remarkable Franz Josef glacier, tranquil Milford Sound, picturesque Bay of Islands and many more wonderful sights. For an extra railway experience, the scenic journey on the Taieri Gorge Railway can also be arranged as part of your tour.