There are only a few places in the world that have railway journeys that rival those of New Zealand. If you’re looking for a special way to see our country, we encourage you to check out these spectacular train routes. We have even created a special travel package, the Classic NZ Journey, that links four of these journeys together as you travel through the entire country.

Northern Explorer

Journey highlights:

  • Pastoral vistas in the Waikato region
  • Views of the famous Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu volcanoes
  • Rugged coastline of the lower North Island

Operating season: Year round on select days

This railway lets travellers experience the dramatic interior of the North Island as they travel between Auckland and Wellington. The entire journey lasts about 11 hours and takes passengers through five distinct regions. Featuring panoramic windows, an open-air viewing deck and journey commentary available in 5 languages, this train journey was designed with travellers’ needs in mind. The Northern Explorer also has comfort in mind. An advanced suspension system allows for a smooth and quiet journey and a generous seat layout ensures you won’t be rubbing elbows with your neighbour.

Coastal Pacific

Journey Highlights:

  • Spectacular views across the Marlborough Sounds
  • Vineyards of Marlborough, New Zealand’s renowned wine region
  • Sparkling waters along the Pacific coastline

Operating season: Daily between end of September – early May (closed during winter months)

This train service takes passengers from Picton (location of the ferry landing from the North Island) down to Christchurch. The route provides travellers with stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds, the vineyards of Marlborough, Pacific Ocean coastline and the Kaikoura mountain range before arriving on the Canterbury Plains. The train offers the ultimate in passenger comfort with panoramic windows, advanced suspension system, and a café car for refreshments along the way.

Tranz Alpine

Journey Highlights:

  • Deep gorges of the Waimakariri River
  • Alpine landscape and beech forests
  • Arthur’s Pass, the highest pass across the Southern Alps

Image from Tranz Alpine Rail Route

Operating season: Runs daily year round

This railway takes travellers straight across the South Island on a trip between Christchurch on the east coast and Greymouth on the west coast. Classed as one of the world’s most famous train journeys, the Tranz Alpine provides travellers with breath-taking views of the Canterbury Plains, the dramatic Southern Alps and lush alpine rainforests. This can be done as a round-trip journey, departing from Christchurch in the morning and arriving back in time for dinner, but many tourists opt to stay in Greymouth for a few days so they can explore Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers.

Taieri Gorge Railway

Journey Highlights:

  • Beautiful Dunedin train station
  • Rugged Otago coastline views
  • Incredible vistas of the Taieri Gorge

Image from Taieri Gorge Rail Route

Operating season: Year round on select days

This trip departs from Dunedin’s historic train station and ends in Pukerangi. There’s also the option to continue further along to Middlemarch on select days. The train travels across the Taieri Plains before heading up into the Taieri Gorge, a spectacular deep gorge carved out by the Taieri River. The train passes through 10 tunnels and numerous bridges, making this railway a prime example of Kiwi rail ingenuity.

The Seasider

Journey Highlights:

  • The wild Otago coastline
  • Waterfront suburbs of Otago
  • Ride across a rail causeway

Operating season: Year round on select days

This round-trip journey takes travellers from Dunedin to Oamaru. The train consists of just two carriages and the conductor points out highlights along the way, allowing for a unique and personalised experience. This coastal journey starts in Dunedin and travels along spectacular bays, charming harbours and coastal farmland on its way to Oamaru. Passengers are given one hour to enjoy lunch Oamaru before heading back to Dunedin.

Ready for the journey of a lifetime?

Please contact us if you need helping booking any of these railway journeys or would like to learn more about our NZ Classic Journey with 4 Rail Excursions. We think traveling by rail is one of the best ways to experience New Zealand and are happy to share our expert opinions on the best way to connect these routes.

Taieri Gorge Railway by farmboyted, CC BY-NC 2.0