Top Three Scenic Rail Journeys
New Zealand is a country ripe for exploration and there are various options when it comes to getting around, including hiring a car, but one of the most scenic ways to travel is to take a train journey. New Zealand boasts some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, and what could be better than enjoying the views on a relaxing journey from east to west or north to south? Here are three of the best scenic rail journeys on offer in New Zealand.
The TranzAlpine rail journey transports visitors from the bustling city of Christchurch to the quaint town of Greymouth, crossing from east to west on South Island. The trains leave from Christchurch every morning and the track stretches about 240 kilometres and takes 4.5 hours by train. As the train chugs along, it follows a stunning course, treating passengers to mountain peaks, vast valleys, rolling meadows and rambling rivers. The first highlight is the farmland of the Canterbury Plains, which is followed in quick succession by the plunging gorges and carved valleys of the Waimakariri River. Ascending high into the mountains, the route traverses the pristine peaks of the Southern Alps before gently making its descent to the tangled rainforests that flank the western coast. The journey takes travellers through 19 tunnels and over four viaducts. At the highest point, passengers are treated to panoramic views from 70 metres in the air.
Auckland to Wellington: the Northern Explorer
Wellington and Auckland are two of New Zealand’s most dynamic cities. The capital, Wellington, boasts an enviable waterfront location, and is famed for its cultural scene, as well as its brisk winds, which have earned it the nickname of the ‘Windy City’. It offers a host of attractions, including Te Papa museum, the Wellington Botanic Garden and the Weta Cave. On departure from Wellington, rail passengers will enjoy breathtaking views of the ski fields and snow-capped peaks of Ohakune and incredible vistas of the volcanic rock plateaus of Mount Ruapehu before journeying on the famous Raurimu Spiral. This unique single-track spiral railway is a veritable feat of engineering, which was completed in 1908. The rail track then takes travellers through a series of awe-inspiring river gorges before the bright lights of Auckland appear on the horizon. Auckland is a modern, trendy, energetic city, full of cafes, restaurants, bars and shopping centres. It is ideally located for exploring Great Barrier Island, Cathedral Cove, Wiaheke Island and Matakana Falls.
Running from Picton in the very north of the South Island to Christchurch, the Coastal Pacific route crosses 175 bridges and negotiates more than 20 tunnels. The route takes passengers from the pretty port of Picton, travelling down the east coast to the charming city of Christchurch. On the way, passengers can enjoy incredible coastal views, with the opportunity to spot seals basking on the rocks and dolphins. One of the best-loved stops on the train is the enchanting seaside town of Kaikoura, which is famed for its wildlife encounters. A day trip here affords visitors the chance to head out to sea and spot whales in their natural habitat. Most commonly, boats encounter sperm whales, but it is also possible to catch a glimpse of orcas, humpback and blue whales and the southern right whale. Kaikoura has a high success rate for daily whale watching tours, and travellers can also enjoy dramatic views of albatross patrolling the skies.
Travelling by train is a truly relaxing and enjoyable way to appreciate New Zealand’s stunning natural landscapes.