Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington

Interactive map

Click a route for times, fares & info…


New Zealand train map

Dunedin-Queenstown by Taieri Gorge Railway Christchurch-Queenstown-Milford Sound by bus Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill by bus Christchurch-Greymouth on the Tranz Alpine train... Picton-Christchurch on the Tranz Coastal train... Wellington-Picton by Interislander Ferry Auckland-Wellington on the Overlander train...

See New Zealand by train…

Whether
you’re an overseas visitor or a born-and-bred New Zealander,
trains are the best way to travel between New Zealand’s three main cities,
Auckland, Wellington and (with a little help from the
Interislander ferry) Christchurch. 
Trains are also the way to reach the North Island’s
Tongariro National Park, the South Island’s west coast at
Greymouth, the whale-watching and dolphin-swimming centre at
Kaikoura or the Marlborough vineyards at Blenheim.  See
the route map opposite.

Unlike domestic flights, the trains take you at ground level
past superb scenery that can’t be seen by road, in civilised
comfort that cramped and uncivilised long-distance buses
can’t match.  So ditch that short-haul flight and
actually see New Zealand!

New Zealand’s long-distance
trains are operated by Kiwi Rail’s passenger division, originally called Tranz Scenic but
returned to public ownership in
2008 as KiwiRail Scenic and in 2017 rebranded yet again as Great
Journeys of New Zealand
.  Who knows what it will be called next year?  This page explains
routes, train times, fares, the best way to buy tickets, and
what there is to see on the journey.

COVID-19 update:  The TranzAlpine resumed 4 July
and the Coastal Pacific resumed in late September
running Tues, Wed, Thur.  The Northern Explorer resumed in October 2020.  Check entry
restrictions into New Zealand.

Train
times, fares, tickets…

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Auckland
to Wellington by
Northern Explorer train

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Wellington to Picton by
Interislander Ferry

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Wellington-Picton-Blenheim-Kaikoura-Christchurch by
Coastal Pacific train

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Christchurch – Greymouth by
Tranz-Alpine train

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Christchurch – Timaru – Dunedin – Invercargill

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Christchurch – Queenstown – Milford Sound

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Dunedin – Queenstown by Taieri Gorge Railway

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Flights to New Zealand

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Hotels & accommodation in
New Zealand

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Useful country information: currency,
time zone…

Interactive route map…

Click a route for info.


New Zealand train map

Dunedin-Queenstown by Taieri Gorge Railway Christchurch-Queenstown-Milford Sound by bus Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill by bus Christchurch-Greymouth on the Tranz Alpine train... Picton-Christchurch on the Tranz Coastal train... Wellington-Picton by Interislander Ferry Auckland-Wellington on the Overlander train...



  Auckland to Wellington on the 'Northern Explorer' train...  Photo James Chuang

The Northern Explorer (formerly
Overlander)…

This is an amazing journey, and one
of my favourites, so ditch that domestic flight (or nightmare
bus journey) and ride the Northern Explorer from downtown Auckland to city centre Wellington,
stress-free and in comfort at ground level.  Stop off if
you like at the Tongariro National Park.  This is an epic 681 kilometre (423 mile) journey right across the interior of
the North Island, taking you in a single day past every kind of scenery there
is, from coastline to volcanoes to mountains, from lush green
farmland to thick New Zealand rainforest.  It will take you the
length of the historic
North Island Main Trunk Railway,
completed in 1908, over such feats of engineering at the
Raurimu Spiral,
Turangarere Horseshoe and Makatote Viaduct.  It’s one of
the world’s great railway journeys, yet is remarkably
affordable!

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The Interislander
ferry…

It’s one of the
most scenic ferry crossings in the world, and easily the best way to travel
between New Zealand’s North and South Islands – a genuine experience, not a mere flight.  There
are up to 5 daily sailings across the Cook Strait between
Wellington and Picton, crossing time 3 hours.  The
08:25 sailing from Wellington and 13:15 sailing from Picton connects with the
Coastal Pacific train to/from Christchurch,
see the Wellington-Christchurch timetable below.  The Cook
Strait has a reputation for choppy seas, but in reality only a third of
the crossing is actually in the Strait itself, most of it is in very sheltered waters, and in my
experience it was rock steady on the big, modern and stabilised ferry Kaitaki.

Interislander
sailings from
Wellington:  08:45, 14:45, 17:00, 20:00.

Interislander
sailings from
Picton:  06:55, 10:45, 13:45, 18:45, 22:00.

Crossing time is 3 hours.  Times vary by season,
so check
ferry fares & timetables for your date at

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/interislander.

In Wellington,
the Interislander terminal is a long walk north of the
railway station, but a free shuttle bus clearly marked Interislander leaves from platform 9 at the railway
station 50 minutes before each sailing.  The journey
time is 5 minutes.  Foot
passengers must check in at the terminal at least 30 minutes
before sailing time.  All heavy baggage is checked in
so only hand luggage is carried on board.  Passengers
connecting with the train to Christchurch can check in bags
in Wellington all the way through to Christchurch.

In Picton, the Interislander terminal is 200 metres from the station. 
All heavy baggage is checked in so only hand luggage needs
to be
carried on board.

The 08:25
sailing from
Wellington & 13:15 sailing from Picton connect with the
Coastal Pacific train to/from Christchurch.  You can book
combined Wellington-Christchurch ferry & train tickets 
online at

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz,
but see the advice bee below
to get the cheaper tickets.  Both
these sailings are normally operated by the Kaitaki, the
largest ferry in New Zealand waters.

The Kaitaki may look familiar to
ferry travellers from Ireland or the UK.  She started life
in 1995 as the Isle of Innisfree on the Irish Ferries
Holyhead-Dublin and Pembroke-Rosslare routes, and later the
P&O’s “Pride of Cherbourg” on the Portsmouth-Cherbourg
route.  The
Interislander ferry company was started in 1962 by New Zealand Railways, hence its close connections with
the train service to Christchurch.  Another ferry
company also operates several daily ferries between
Wellington and Picton,
www.bluebridge.co.nz, but these ferries don’t connect
with the train to Christchurch.

Kaitaki
Plus first class lounge:
  For an extra NZ$45 paid
on board, you can access the Kaitaki Plus lounge with quiet
seating, power sockets, free WiFi, complimentary alcoholic
and non-alcoholic drinks and a free light hot meal. 
Over-18s only.  On the down side, the views from the
lounge are slightly obstructed, and you may spend much of
the crossing on deck, gazing at the scenery!

A voyage on the
Interislander…

  • The ship sails
    out of the Interislander terminal at Wellington and
    describes a wide arc out of Wellington harbour, with views
    of Wellington’s seafront.

  • It
    passes the suburb of Seatoun on the right and exits the
    harbour into the Cook strait separating the North and South
    Islands.  Also on the right are some wicked-looking
    rocks, including the Barrett Reef where the
    Lyttelton-Wellington overnight ferry

    m/v Wahine
    came to grief in a storm in 1968.

  • The crossing of
    the Cook Strait itself only lasts an hour, and at the other
    side the ferry passes between narrow headlands into the Tory
    Channel.  Named after the “Tory”, a migrant ship which
    passed through the channel in 1840, the Tory Channel is one
    of the Marlborough Sounds, a narrow channel between Arapawa
    Island on the right and a strip of mainland on the left.

  • The ship slowly
    follows this channel, through an ‘s’ bend, entering the
    larger Queen Charlotte Sound and finally arriving at Picton,
    a small town and the railhead for the South island.

Interislander ferry  
Interislander ferry

The Interislander ferry
Kaitaki at
Wellington.

 

The sun bursts through the clouds
out in the Cook Strait.


Interislander ferry
 
Interislander ferry

The Interislander ferry Kaitaki in the Tory
Channel.

 

Another shot of the ferry
in the Tory Channel.

Charlotte Sound from InterIslander ferry

A slow & beautiful cruise along
the Tory Channel to the Charlotte Sound…

The ferry terminal at Picton, seen from the deck of an arriving ferry from Wellington   Interislander ferry

The
ferry arrives at Picton.  The Edwin Fox
museum ship can be seen, with Picton station a
red-roofed cream building just above and to the right.

 

The
Interislander ferry Kaitaki at Picton.

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The Coastal Pacific…

The Interislander ferry and connecting Coastal Pacific
train are easily the most comfortable and scenic way to travel
from Wellington to Christchurch.  It’s also very cheap,
with inclusive train+ferry fares from just NZ$139. 
Named TranzCoastal until 2011, the train has now regained its
original name Coastal Pacific.

 Wellington ►
Christchurch

 The Coastal Pacific

Daily Sept-April*

 Wellington
depart by Interislander ferry:

09:00

 Picton
arrive by Interislander ferry:

12:30

 Picton
depart by Coastal Pacific train:

14:15

 Blenheim

14:46

 Kaikoura

17:20

 Rangiora

20:04

 Christchurch
arrive by Coastal Pacific train:

20:30

* = Runs daily from late September until late April, for exact dates see

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz.  The Coast Pacific used to run daily
all year but was reduced to running in the New Zealand
summer season only.  It was planned to restore all-year-round running, but
this didn’t happen in 2019 after all.  The train was suspended
after the earthquake damaged the line, but resumed running in December 2018.

COVID-19 UPDATE:  The Coastal Pacific was suspended in early 2020 due to
COVID-19 but should resume in late September, running on Tuesdays, Wednesdays &
Thursdays in both directions.  Check

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz.

One class of seating, cafe-bar, open-air
viewing platform.

There are other
Wellington-Picton Interislander ferry sailings, see

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/interislander,
only the rail-connected sailing is shown here.  It leaves Wellington at
08:45 on some dates, and northbound times vary too, so always check for your
date of travel.

 Christchurch
► Wellington

 The
Coastal Pacific

Daily Sept-April*

 Christchurch
depart by Coastal Pacific train:

07:00

 Rangiora

07:30

 Kaikoura 

10:23

 Blenheim

12:48

 Picton
arrive by Coastal Pacific train:

13:15

 Picton
depart by Interislander ferry:

14:15

 Wellington
arrive by Interislander ferry

17:30

 Fares

 Wellington – Christchurch (combined train+ferry
fare)

Flexi fare NZ$ 189 (£99 or
US$155)

Starter fare from * NZ$ 139 (£73 or US$115)

 Wellington – Kaikoura (combined train+ferry
fare)

NZ$ 129-159 (£68-£84 or US$105-$129)

 Picton – Christchurch (train only)

Flexi fare NZ$ 159 (£83 or
US$130)

Starter fare from * NZ$ 99 (£52 or US$81)

* Starter fare = limited availability,
non-refundable, changeable until 24 hours before departure if you pay any
difference in fare.  These cheap fares
disappear from the Great Journeys of New Zealand
website when it is viewed from a computer outside NZ, so
either use the Tor Browser workaround explained below or buy
by phone!

Children aged
2-14 travel at reduced fare,  Infants under 2 travel
free.

How to buy tickets…

You can buy Wellington-Christchurch combined train+ferry tickets (or tickets
between any other two stations on this route) at KiwiRail’s
official passenger train website

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz
with print-your-own tickets, but their cheapest Starter & promotional
fares will only appear if you give your computer a New Zealand IP address – even
though anyone from any country is entitled to buy them.  You could of
course just go ahead and buy a $169 or $199 fare (as KiwiRail would of course
prefer you to do!), but if you’d rather buy a $99 or $109 or $129 fare if it’s
available (and who wouldn’t?), then that’s perfectly legal and it’s easy to do –
The necessary workaround to give your PC a New Zealand IP address is explained
below…

1.  What you see if you book just using your PC normally:

New Zealand ticket booking with UK IP address

2.  What you see if you book with the Chrome Hola!
extension installed and switched to New Zealand, as explained below

Much cheaper prices magically appear!

New Zealand ticket booking with NZ IP address

How to buy cheaper tickets online from outside NZ:  Anyone from any country is
entitled to buy the cheaper fares shown in the second screenshot, although they
don’t appear unless you give your PC a New Zealand IP address.  So
here’s how to do that:

Option 1, use a VPN and
simply select New Zealand as your browsing location.  Then go to

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz
and book your Kiwirail Great Journey, and be amazed at how cheaper prices
magically appear that weren’t there when you browsed with your normal IP address
which reveals your home country!  Using a
VPN is the ideal solution here, but
you usually pay a small monthly fee for a
VPN.  However, a VPN useful
for all sorts of things so worth having one,
see more info on VPNs and which one
to choose.

Option 2, if you don’t want to pay for a VPN, use the free Hola!
extension for Chrome.  It’s free, but disable Hola when you’ve finished
as if left running it has some vulnerabilities.

(1)  Go to http://hola.org
and install the Hola!
extension for Google’s Chrome browser (obviously, if you don’t already use
Chrome on your PC, install it first, it’s a great browser). 
Hola! is a browser extension which allows you to surf using an IP address
located in a country of your choice.  I use Hola! to watch BBC iPlayer
catch-up TV on my laptop
when I’m in the Netherlands at my in-laws, as the BBC annoyingly blocks iPlayer when
a computer is located outside the UK.

(2)  Open your Chrome browser, and you should now see the Hola! flaming head
logo top right.  If it says ‘off‘, switch it on.  Click it and it
should say ‘Select A Country‘.  Click ‘More…’, then look down the list
and pick ‘New Zealand‘.  It should briefly say ‘Browsing from New Zealand‘ and
then a
New Zealand flag should appear top right in place of the Hola! logo. 
You are now browsing with an NZ IP address!

(3)  Now go to

www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz
and book your Kiwirail Great Journey.  Cheaper prices
may now magically appear which weren’t there when you browsed normally…

Or buy via an international phone call instead:  If you’re not
sufficiently computer-savvy, you can buy all the cheap prices if you call New
Zealand.  Call Great Journeys of New Zealand telesales on + 64 4 495 0775, as
all fares are available by phone, potentially saving money even allowing for the
cost the call.

Or book by phone, call 0800 872 467 (in NZ) or  00
64 4 495 0775 (from outside NZ)…

From outside New Zealand, call Kiwi Rail on +
64 4 495 0775, remembering that NZ is 13 hours
ahead of the UK in the UK’s winter, 11 hours in summer – you should be able to buy the full range of
fares including Webstarter and Starter fares, although recently people have said
staff have been funny about selling the full fare range if they know you’re not
in NZ.  When you’re
in NZ, call them on their free-phone number, 0800
TRAINS (0800
872 467).  Insist on a Starter or Webstarter or abort and book online as
above!

Alternatively, if you live in the
UK or Ireland you can arrange New Zealand train tickets or passes &
reservations with
UK-based train travel specialist International Rail, call 0844 248 248 3.  From outside the UK +44 844 248 248 3.  Lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.

What’s the train like?

The Coastal Pacific uses new AK panoramic
sightseeing coaches built in KiwiRail’s Dunedin workshops in
New Zealand in 2011-2012.  These replace the old rebuilt
1930s & 1940s carriages used until 2012. Photos courtesy of James Chuang

Auckland to Wellington on the Northern Explorer train  

Seats in the new 'AK' carriages on the Auckland-Wellington 'Northern Explorer'

Comfortable seats, most facing direction of travel,
some in bays of 4 around a table, all lining up with huge panoramic windows (note the roof
skylights too!), with loads of legroom even if you’re over six feet tall.  Seats are not
always allocated
at booking, but by the train manager before departure. 
However, if you book by phone (or book online and then call
KiwiRail’s freephone number when you get
to NZ and quote your booking reference) you can make a seating
request.  For example, four friends or family
travelling together could request one of the few bays of 4
seats facing each other around a table, keen photographers
could request a
seat close to the viewing
platform.  Requests can’t be
guaranteed, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! 
All your heavy baggage is checked in to the baggage van,
only hand luggage may be taken into the seating coaches.  All seats in the
new ‘AK’ cars have power
sockets for mobiles, laptops or cameras (New Zealand voltage
and plug, of course). 
Larger
photo
.

New Premium class… 
From 20 October 2020, a new Premium class carriage will be added to the Coastal
Pacific, with extra-legroom extra-width reclining seats arranged 2+1 across the
car width (the usual cars have seats 2+2 across the car) and included food &
wine, served at your seat.

Cafe car on the Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington

  Auckland to Wellington on the Northern Explorer train

Cafe-bar: 
In the centre of the train is a counter selling tea,
coffee, wine, beer, spirits, snacks & light
microwaveable meals at reasonable prices.  I can
recommend a cream tea in the afternoon, and a
glass of Sauvignon Blanc! 
You can buy at the counter and take your food & drink back to your seat, but
staff also come through the train taking orders for delivery to your seat.  Bring cash,
as cards are sometimes not accepted if the credit card
machine is out of cellphone range. 
Larger
photo
.

Viewing car on the Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington   Inside the viewing car on the Northern Explorer train

Open-air viewing platform: 
At the Wellington end of the train (rear going north, behind the locomotive
going south) is a large open-air viewing platform, ideal for seeing and
photographing the scenery, with no glass in between you and it.  Children
must be accompanied.  The viewing cars now have additional rails to prevent
you leaning out.

What’s the journey like?

Scenery seen from the Coastal Pacific train

The Coastal Pacific in the hills
south of Blenheim, a photo taken from the open-air viewing car (taken before the
train was re-equipped with the new AK carriages).

The Coastal Pacific train to Christchurch skirts the ocean

The train isn’t called the
Coastal Pacific for nothing…  Also taken before the train was re-equipped
with AK carriages.

The Coastal Pacific train stops at Kaikoura...   A typical view from a Coastal Pacific window!

The Coastal
Pacific
stops at Kaikoura, the South Island’s whale-watching and
dolphin-swimming centre…

 

The view from the
window, a stone’s throw from the sea…

Spot the seals from the train!   Misty Pacific coastline seen from the Coastal Pacific train

…the train passes 98 km of
wild misty coastline.  You can spot seals from your seat!

 

Taken from the open-air
viewing car.  This photo shows new ‘AK’ cars. 
Courtesy of Ivor Morgan.

Travel tips…

  • Shuttle bus for ferry
    departures and arrivals at Wellington:
      The
    Interislander terminal is a long walk north of Wellington
    city centre, but a free shuttle bus (clearly marked
    ‘Interislander’) operates from platform 9 at the railway
    station 50 minutes before each ferry leaves, journey time
    5
    minutes. 
    Tickets can be bought with cash or credit card from the
    ticketing station.  Similarly, a shuttle bus meets each
    ferry arrival and will take you to the railway station as
    soon as everyone has reclaimed their baggage (although
    there’s no shuttle bus for ferry arrivals after 9pm).

  • Check-in & baggage:  You
    must check in to the Wellington Interislander ferry terminal
    at least 30 minutes before departure.  At the ferry
    terminal, all bags except hand baggage must be checked in. 
    If you’re connecting with the Coastal Pacific train, you can
    check your bags all the way through to Christchurch. 
    Similarly, when checking in at Christchurch, you can check
    your bags all the way through to Wellington Interislander
    ferry terminal.  Your bags will automatically be
    transferred between ferry and train at Picton, and you
    reclaim them at your final destination, either Wellington or
    Christchurch.

  • Make a seating request: 
    If you book by phone (or book online and then call Kiwi
    Rail’s freephone number when you get
    to NZ at least the day before travel, quoting your booking
    reference) you can make a seating
    request.  The obvious request to make is for seats on
    the left-hand side of the train going south from Picton, or
    the right-hand side coming north from Christchurch, as this
    puts you on the coastal side of the train where most of the
    scenery is.  Keen photographers
    could also request
    seats at the northern (Picton) end of the train close to the viewing
    platform.  Requests can’t be guaranteed, of course,
    but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

The journey
aboard
the Coastal Pacific…

  • The 3 hour, 92km crossing of the
    Cook Strait is one of the most scenic ferry rides in the
    world.  You sail in a wide arc out of Wellington
    harbour and across the open sea of the Cook strait itself,
    before passing between headlands into the Tory Channel,
    named after the migrant ship ‘Tory’ which navigated the
    channel in 1840.  The ship
    follows this narrow channel between the island of
    Arapawa and the mainland, all the way to Picton at the head
    of Queen Charlotte Sound.

  • At Picton, the station is just a
    200 metre walk straight ahead of you.  Look out for the
    ‘Edwin Fox’, a preserved 19th century sailing ship in a
    museum on the left.  It’s the ninth oldest wooden
    sailing ship in the world, and you can see it
    from the road even if you don’t have time to go in to the
    museum.  At the station, the small wooden station building now
    houses a ‘Subway’ fast food place, a travel agency, and a
    small check-in desk for the train.  Seats on the train
    are allocated there.

  • The train leaves Picton station
    and curves around valley out of the town.  Within half
    an hour you’re in the middle of vineyards in the Marlborough
    wine region.  You’ll pass one of the main Montana
    wineries, with its huge stainless steel tanks.  The train calls at Blenheim, the region’s
    main town.

  • Soon after Blenheim, the train
    climbs hard up a long gentle pass through grassy hills.

  • Within an hour of leaving Picton,
    snow-capped mountains appear in the distance on your right,
    and you pass over what used to be a double-decker combined road and rail
    bridge over the Awatere river, with the railway on top and roadway
    underneath.  The road deck has been removed now that a
    separate road bridge has been built.

  • Just over an hour from Picton you
    skirt Lake Grassmere.  Salt is produced here, by
    letting sea water evaporate in large salt pans.  You’ll
    see piles of harvested salt on the right.

  • About an hour and a half after
    leaving Picton the train reaches the sea.  It now runs
    right along the coastline for about 98 km.  You’ll see
    beaches, cliffs, rocky headlands, in places draped with
    low-lying sea mist. 

  • Although parts of the line are
    much older, the Picton-Christchurch railway was only
    completed in 1945, although work on this coastal section
    started in the 1930s.  Until then, overnight ferries
    had linked Lyttelton (the port of Christchurch) direct with
    Wellington.

  • The train stops at Kaikoura, the
    South Island’s main whale-watching and dolphin-swimming
    centre.  The whale-watching centre is now housed in the
    old station building.  the train stops for several
    minutes here and you can get out and stretch your legs.

  • The train continues along the
    coast.  Watch out for the seal colonies just feet from
    the train.  the seals tend to be the same colour as the
    rocks, but with a  bit of practice you can spot huge
    numbers of them!

  • Just over 3 hours from Picton, the
    train swings inland again, through green hills and pretty
    valleys.

  • The train passes through the
    Christchurch suburbs and arrives at Christchurch station. 
    This is now a small modern single-platform rail terminal,
    opened in 1993 in an unremarkable industrial estate built on
    what was once the massive Addington Railway Works. 
    Much of New Zealand Railways’ locomotives and rolling stock
    were once built there, although there’s little left to show
    for it..!  The new station is some 3km from the
    city centre, but taxis and shuttles (shared minibus taxis)
    are available. 
    Until the recent earthquake,
    Christchurch’s original
    station (well, the building opened in 1960 though built
    to a design first published in 1938)
    still stood on Moorhouse Avenue to the south of the
    city centre where it had become the ‘Science Alive’
    entertainment centre.

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The TranzAlpine is the most scenic train journey in New Zealand, and one
of the most scenic train trips in the world.  Not surprisingly, it’s become
the most successful of all the Kiwi Rail Great Journeys passenger train
services, very popular with tour groups because of the spectacular crossing of
the Southern Alps between Christchurch and the South Island’s west coast at
Greymouth.  It’s a fantastic trip, though in my opinion neither as epic or
as historically-significant as the
Auckland-Wellington Northern
Explore
r.

Scenery from the TranzAlpine train

Fabulous scenery
in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, seen from the TranzAlpine…

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Once important cities, Dunedin and Invercargill have
declined in importance and apparently no longer justify a
proper train service
to the rest of New Zealand.  The last
Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill train service, the daily
“Southerner” over the South island’s Main South Line, was
withdrawn in 2004.  Nowadays, anyone wishing to
reach these towns must endure a long bus journey from
Christchurch.  Here are
the main bus services, although an additional bus may run on
Fridays and Sundays.  Please check times before
travelling at the bus operator websites,  www.intercity.co.nz.


 Christchurch ►
Dunedin ►
Invercargill  

 Bus service:

Daily 

Daily 

 Operator:

InterCity 

InterCity 

 Christchurch depart

08:00

14:00

 Timaru

10:30

17:00

 Oamaru

12:05

18:15

 Dunedin

13:45

19:50

 Invercargill
arrive

17:40


 Invercargill ►
Dunedin ►
Christchurch  

 Bus service: 

Daily 

Daily 

 Operator: 

InterCity 

InterCity 

 Invercargill
depart

08:45

 Dunedin

07:45

12:50

 Oamaru

09:30

15:00

 Timaru

11:20

16:20

 Christchurch
arrive:

13:45

18:40

Fares & how to buy tickets…

 Christchurch-Dunedin costs
NZ$33-$46.  Christchurch-Invercargill costs NZ$35-$67.  You can check fares and book
bus tickets online at www.intercity.co.nz.

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There were never any train services to Queenstown, although
historically you might have taken a slow train from
Invercargill to Kingston (the preserved Kingston Flyer train
uses part of this route), then a steamer across Lake Wakatipu
to Queenstown, a route on which Queenstown’s famous 100-year
old working steamship Earnslaw would have worked. 
Today, there are bus services operated by several companies. 
You need to change buses and overnight in Queenstown if you
are travelling to/from Milford Sound.

 Christchurch ►
Queenstown ► Milford Sound
   

 Bus service:

Daily 

Daily 

Daily 

Daily 

 Operator:

InterCity 

Newmans 

Newmans 

Topline 

 Christchurch depart

08:20

08:20

 Mount Cook
arrive

|

14:00

 Mount Cook
depart

|

14:40

 Queenstown
arrive


16:20


18:20

 Queenstown
depart

07:15

14:00

 Te Anau
arrive

09:25


16:15

 Te Anau
depart

10:05

 Milford Sound
arrive

12:45


 Milford
Sound ► Queenstown ►
Christchurch   

 Bus service: 

Daily 

Daily 

Daily 

Daily 

 Operator: 

Topline 

Newmans 

Newmans 

InterCity 

 Milford Sound
depart

15:15

 Te Anau
arrive

17:10

 Te Anau
depart

10:00

17:25

 Queenstown
arrive


12:20


19:30

 Queenstown
depart

07:30

09:30

 Mount Cook
arrive

11:30

|

 Mount Cook
depart

12:10

|

 Christchurch
arrive

17:30

17:30

Fares & how to buy tickets…

 You can
check times, fares and book bus tickets online at www.intercity.co.nz, www.newmanscoach.co.nz
&
www.toplinetours.co.nz.

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The Taieri Gorge Railway…

The most rewarding way to travel between Dunedin and
Queenstown was via the Taieri Gorge Railway’s Track & Trail
train/bus link, but sadly they no longer offer this train-bus combo (perhaps you
could arrange a private transfer between Pukerangi & Queenstown using a
Queenstown taxi service?).  However, you can still ride the Taieri Gorge Railway (www.dunedinrailways.co.nz),
a preserved railway running daily year-round tourist
trains through spectacular scenery over part of the old
Dunedin-Cromwell branch railway.  Leaving from the
beautiful and much-photographed 1906 railway station in
Dunedin’s town centre, it travels a few kilometres south
over the South Island Main Trunk Line (still well-used for
freight but sadly with no passenger service) before
branching off inland through the scenic gorge that gives the
line its name.  The train terminates at Pukerangi, 58
km from Dunedin, extended to Middlemarch on summer Fridays &
Sundays, 76 km from Dunedin. 
Highly recommended!  The Taieri Gorge Railway now also
operates a tourist train called the Seasider along the
main line between Dunedin and Palmerston.

Covid-19 update:  The
Taieri Gorge Railway has currently ceased operating..

 Dunedin ►
Queenstown

 Train+Bus service:

Daily

May-Sept 

Daily

Oct-April 

 Dunedin
depart by train 

12:30

14:30

 Pukerangi
arrive by train


14:35


16:35

 Pukerangi
depart by bus

 Queenstown
arrive by bus

 Queenstown ►
Dunedin

 Train+Bus service: 

Daily

May-Sept 

Daily

Oct-April

 Queenstown
depart by bus

 Pukerangi
arrive by bus

 Pukerangi
depart by train

14:45

16:45

 Dunedin
arrive by train

16:30

18:30

* = The railway no longer offers an
integrated bus connection.

 Fares

 Dunedin – Queenstown

 (combined track & trail fare)

No longer available

Fares & how to buy
tickets…

To check times, fares
& buy tickets, contact the Taieri Gorge Railway on

www.dunedinrailways.co.nz or call (03) 477 4449.

Dunedin station   Inside Dunedin station's main hall...

Above:  Dunedin’s
magnificent station…

 

…inside the main hall.

A trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway en route from Dunedin to Queenstown   Taking the Taieri Gorge Railway en route from Dunedin to Queenstown...

Above:  A scenic ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway,
for the daily onward bus link to Queenstown…

Trestle bridge on the Taeri Gorge Railway  
River gorge

  Rolling
through a river gorge…

 


The Taeri Gorge Railway track and trail bus connection

Above right, the connecting bus meets the train
and takes Track & Trail passengers to Queenstown.  Sadly this no
longer operates
.

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Lonely Planet New Zealand - click to buy onlineRough Guide to New Zealand - click to buy onlineMake
sure you take a good guidebook.  The Lonely Planets
and Rough Guides are easily the best out there for the independent traveller. 
Both guides provide an excellent level of practical information and historical
and cultural background.  You won’t regret buying one of these
guides..!

Click to buy
online at Amazon.co.uk…

Lonely Planet
New Zealand   
Rough
Guide to New Zealand

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Some recommended hotels…

  • In Auckland, the
    Airedale Hotel or
    Mercure
    Auckland Hotel are both sound
    central choices, the latter right near the Britomart station
    and Devonport ferry terminal, though not the cheapest options. 

  • In Wellington, the
    Shepherds
    Arms Hotel is a cosy gastro pub just 15 minutes walk from Parliament and the
    city centre with friendly staff, great food and good beer. 
    A top choice!

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com
is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free
cancellation – this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train
booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise
your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve – a feature I use all
the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably. 
I have also come to trust their review scores – you won’t be disappointed with
anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: 
HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on
Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if
there’s not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place
at
www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites
worth trying…

www.tripadvisor.com
is a good place to find independent travellers’ reviews of the
main hotels, and it has the low-down on destination sights &
attractions, too.

Backpacker hostels
in New Zealand…

www.hostelworld.com:  If you’re on a tight budget,
don’t forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld
offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in
many places in New Zealand at rock-bottom prices.

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Overland travel by train & bus
around New Zealand is an essential part of the experience,
so once there, don’t cheat and fly, stay
on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach New
Zealand in the first place.

1) 
Check flight prices at
Opodo,

www.opodo.com

2) 
Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes
worldwide across 600 airlines…

skyscanner generic 728x90

3) 
Lounge passes…

Make the
airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge
pass, it’s not as expensive as you think!  See

www.loungepass.com

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Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance…

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable
insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover
cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible
limit. 
An annual
multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip
policies even for just 2 or 3 trips
a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers. 
Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these
links.

UK flagIn
the UK, reliable insurers include

Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see
www.JustTravelCover.com
– 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou
can use

Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many
different insurers.

 
Australian flagNew Zealand flag 
Irish flag   
If
you live in
Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try

Columbus Direct’s other websites.

 
US flag
If you live in the USA try

Travel Guard USA.

A Curve card
saves on foreign transaction fees…

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor
exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  A Curve
MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market
exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of
writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or
credit cards.

How it works:  1.
Download the app for
iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they’ll send you a Curve
MasterCard – they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3.
Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve
MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a
normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto
whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change
your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself
– I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I’m recommending it here
because it’s great. 
See details, download
the app and get a Curve card – they’ll give you £5 cashback through that
link, too.

 

Express VPN

When you’re travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be
secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always
secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access
to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions. 
And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse
with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply – for
example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none
to European visitors, so if you’re not located in Europe you can avoid this fee
by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN. 
VPNs & why you need one explained. 
ExpressVPN
is a best buy and I use it myself – I’ve signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate,
and if you go with

expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal,
3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help
support this site.

 



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