All aboard! As part of your epic tour of South Island, make tracks on these New Zealand rail experiences.
If you go choo-choo over trains, or fancy the thought of streaking across the countryside, sipping a drink and staring out the window in awe, a railway adventure is just what you need to enhance your New Zealand holiday.
Some of our Kirra Tours feature unforgettable train journeys: possibly two of the most scenic and amazing rail routes in the world.
New Zealand rail experiences are so much more than they seem on the packet, transcending original assumptions and bringing a whole lot of oomph to the table, making your itinerary that little bit more interesting. Let’s take a look at these two incredible New Zealand rail journeys.
1. The TranzAlpine
Connecting the word “iconic” with a railway line may feel odd at first, but the TranzAlpine experience is world-renowned and highly favoured, earning positive reviews and rapt smiles aplenty.
Even if you’ve done it once, you still haven’t done it enough, with each season offering a new trove of sights and memories, from making snow balls at Arthur’s Pass in winter, to the open carriage in summer, traversing the deep ravines and gorges.
Taking around four hours, this railway trip has been described as scarily scenic, glorious, not to be missed, wonderful and a must for all ages.
West to East across South Island
Our trip takes you from the west coast in Greymouth, east through the Southern Alps to Christchurch on the east coast.
From Greymouth, the journey tracks the Grey and Arnold river valleys before heading alongside the shores of Lake Brunner. Then you begin your ascent into the mountains, following the Taramakau and Otira rivers. You leave the west coast section behind as you enter the 8.5km Otira tunnel, climbing over 250 metres to emerge in the township of Arthur’s Pass.
From Arthur’s Pass, you’ll take in one of the most iconic sections of the journey as the TranzAlpine crosses the Waimakariri River before passing Mount Binser and heading on across the Craigieburn Straight, then its through a series of 15 shorter tunnels and over 4 viaducts, including the Staircase Viaduct at over 70 metres above the ground.
You’ll cross the mighty, snow capped Southern Alps to Springfield, before descending and crossing the fertile Canterbury plains before arriving at South Island’s largest city, Christchurch on the east coast.
2. The Coastal Pacific
Again, one of the world’s most famous train journeys, the Coastal Pacific meanders along the Pacific shore line from Picton down to Christchurch, down South Island’s breath taking east coast.
The journey covers nearly 350 kms taking around 5 hours, with stops at Blenheim, Kaikoura and Rangiora stations before arriving in Christchurch.
You’ll experience the rugged Pacific coastline and wind swept beaches while you travel between the mountains and the sea.
Heading south down the east coast
You’ll board the Coastal Pacific in the port of Picton, before the first part of your journey takes you through New Zealand’s famous Marlborough wine region and on to Blenheim. You’ll see the pink salt plains at Lake Grassmere before heading to the coast.
You can see seals basking on the rocks from your window at the Ohau Point Seal Colony before you reach the spectacular Mangamaunu Bay, where the Kaikoura mountains meet the ocean. Pass the beautiful beaches of Hapuku and Kaikoura before going over the 240 metre Kahutara river bridge.
There are a series of 20 tunnels on the northern section, as well as the dramatic Okarahia viaduct over the beach and ocean over 20 metres below.
Finally, the train crosses the north eastern section of the vast Canterbury plains before arriving at it’s final destination, Christchurch.
Are you ready and chugging to go? The Coastal Pacific rail journey features on both our 16 day ultimate New Zealand tour and 10 day North and South Island tours, or browse through all our current season’s tours here.