New Zealand's Train Tours Might Be the Best Way to See the Country
It is not uncommon to see lush forests, sparkling coastlines, rolling hills, and big cities along the route, not to mention panoramic views of lush forests.
New Zealand has a multitude of wonders that require an attentive visitor to truly enjoy them, so why not treat your eyes to a treat with a scenic train ride as you travel through the country? We at Great Journeys New Zealand are delighted to announce our brand new collection of multiday, guided rail tours that will take you across spectacular landscapes on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
This exciting new rail experience takes three existing rail lines and combines them with a new variety of guided tours ranging in length from six to 17 days with an emphasis on discovering Kiwi experiences off-rail in the form of excursions off railways.
In New Zealand's capital city of Wellington, the Northern Explorer train begins and ends in Auckland, a city that sits on the Pacific Ocean, just over 400 miles south of Auckland. Along the way, guests will have the opportunity to visit the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Tongariro National Park, where they will have the chance to see the towering Mount Ruapehu.
As soon as travelers have crossed the 58-mile Cook Strait aboard the Interislander ferry, they will be able to transfer to the Coastal Pacific train at Picton in order to continue their journey.
During the trip from Blenheim to Christchurch, the route passes through the vineyards of Blenheim and hugs Kaikura's coast (renowned for its whale sightings). Last but not least, the TranzAlpine train travels between Christchurch and Greymouth through the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps. There are shuttles and coaches available for passengers to travel to nearby destinations, including Queenstown and Milford Sound.
“Great Journeys New Zealand takes travelers through some of the country's most stunning and diverse landscapes, from rolling hills and lush forests to rugged coastlines and sparkling oceans,” says Great Journeys New Zealand's senior tour manager and partnership specialist, Mark Hockley. “The scenic routes provide panoramic views that can't be found by road, and the relaxed and comfortable train ride allows travelers to sit back, relax, and fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty of New Zealand.”
In addition to providing local insights, tour guides are able to make personal introductions to their guests. “There’s a story at every stop, from tales about Kiwiana culture to facts about New Zealand's curious birds, the history of Māori culture, geology in volcanic regions, rock formations, orientation of cities and locations in New Zealand, and so much more,” Hockley explained. With GPS-driven audio commentary, additional facts and historical background are offered on the train as it travels.
“The views really are breathtaking — from the volcanic peaks of Middle Earth in Ruapehu to sighting the mystical Blue Lake in the northern reaches of New Zealand's Southern Alps — but we also visit local stores and meet sheep farmers and winemakers, and hear their stories along the way,” he added.
“Māori storytelling and legends are woven into every guide's narrative throughout all trips — it's an important part of the New Zealand experience,” says Hockley. “We offer unique cultural experiences on many of our tours, ranging from visiting a Māori village to tasting Māori food, learning about Māori arts and crafts, and more.”
With panoramic windows and skylights, Scenic Class carriages are both open and airy, offering ample seating space and airbag suspension for a comfortable ride. You can also opt to travel in open carriages, which are ideal for enjoying the fresh air and taking pictures.
A selection of New Zealand wines and beers are available at the onboard Scenic Cafe, along with dishes that highlight local ingredients, such as roasted free-range chicken with Manuka honey, lamb dishes from the High Country, and salmon salads from the South Island.
Scenic Plus service will be added to Great Journeys on April 14. The new carriage will feature a dedicated chef and will feature a new, custom-built carriage.
Classic tours are offered from January through May, with a group size maximum of 35, and Signature tours are available from January through early May, with a group size maximum of 20).