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Exploring New Zealand

THE RAIL ADVENTURE

New Zealand is a magical country to explore by train. The scenery is spectacular and there is something new to discover around every corner. This trip allows you to experience the three great scenic rail journeys in New Zealand, as well as the three largest cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Finally pick up some wheels on the West Coast and explore some of the most rugged landscapes the South Island has to offer.

Your Itinerary

Day 1 - Welcome to New Zealand!

On arrival into Auckland you will be greeted at the airport and transferred by private vehicle to the accommodation of your choice. After a long flight it is recommended to get outside and stretch the legs; thankfully there is an abundance of wonderful locations around the city for such an activity.

Day 2 - Auckland

Today you are free to explore Auckland and the surrounding region. From the dramatic black sand beaches of the west coast to the picturesque islands of the Hauraki Gulf you are spoiled for choice. Relaxing in a waterfront bar or restaurant is a wonderful way to round off the day.

Day 3 & 4 - Tongariro National Park

You will board the Northern Explorer from downtown Auckland in the early morning. The journey today takes you out of New Zealand’s largest city, through rolling farmland, the rugged King Country, up the engineering marvel that is the Raurimu Spiral and onto the Central Plateau; home to the Tongariro National Park. The national park  is the oldest in New Zealand and second oldest in the entire world, and it is no wonder this special place was recognised as such so long ago. Here you will find the North Island’s largest mountains and taking a stroll in the lower reaches of the park is a great way to get a feel for what is on offer. This said, of all the activities to be had in the park, the one that takes the headlines and entices people from all corners of the world is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which many experts believe to be “the best one day walk in the world”.

Day 5 & 6 - Wellington

You will re-board the Northern Explorer in the early afternoon to complete the journey you started in Auckland. The second half of the journey takes you across incredible viaducts bridging expansive river beds that carve their way through rural New Zealand, past the Tararua Ranges, along the Kapiti Coast and right into central Wellington. With 2 nights in New Zealand’s capital there is plenty to see and do.  Wellington has always been a foodies dream with exceptional eateries at every turn; however, nowadays it is much, much more. From the world-class national museum Te Papa; to the Weta Workshop, where you can see how Lord of the Rings was brought to life; and the biosphere Zealandia, host to some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. And if you want to see how New Zealand is governed then a free tour through the Beehive provides a great insight.

Day 7 & 8 - Picton

The Inter-islander ferry leaves from downtown Wellington and is a fantastic way to get to the South Island via the Cook Straight and the undeniably stunning Marlborough Sounds. Arriving in Picton you will think you have stepped into another world. There is plenty to do in this little coastal town, and it’s yours to explore in any way you want. Jump on one of the many departing boats that ply the Sounds to remote locations only accessible by boat and walk part of the Queen Charlotte track or visit a Paua farm. If it is the vineyards of Marlborough that are calling you, not a problem, you can pick up a wine tour for the day and be chauffeured from world-class vineyard to world-class vineyard. The options are endless and one thing is for sure, you will leave wanting more.

Day 9 - Kaikoura

Departing from Picton in the early afternoon the Coastal Pacific train passes through the wineland’s of Marlborough and out onto the Pacific coast where you will be astounded at how breathtakingly close you are to the ocean. The destination today is Kaikoura, a remarkable location hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the towering Kaikoura Ranges to the west. Ordinarily this stunning setting would be enough of a draw card; however, the real stars of this small town are the giant sperm whales that call Kaikoura home year-round. Whether it is out on the water or up in the air, seeing these majestic creatures of the deep in their natural environment is something that you will treasure forever.

Day 10 & 11 - Christchurch

The morning is free and can be taken at your leisure; however, a lot of people are so taken by what they witnessed on the previous day that they are inspired to head out to get up close with the giant sperm whales once again. The choice is yours. You will board the Coastal Pacific train in the late afternoon and continue your way south, now passing across the Canterbury plains and numerous river beds that are fed by the mountains to the east. There is plenty to explore in the vastness of Hagley Park, or city centre which was severely impacted by the 2011 earthquake; the rebuilding is well under way and it is a sobering experience to watch the locals go about their daily business. Excellent examples of their resourcefulness are the Re:Start Container Mall and the Cardboard Cathedral, both of which should not be missed.

Day 12 & 13 - West Coast

Departing in the early morning aboard the TranzAlpine, one of the world’s most scenic train journeys, is an exciting adventure. Passing over the fertile Canterbury Plains towards the mighty Southern Alps is a sight to behold; as are the deep gorges you will witness along the timeless Waimakariri River. As you descend the landscape changes dramatically with an abundance of native beech forest all the way to the Greymouth and the Grey River. From here you will pick up a hire car for the remainder of your journey.

The West Coast of New Zealand is one of the last frontiers in a modern world and as such is a truly unique place. Windswept, rugged, and down to earth there is a myriad of adventures to be had. The tourist draw card is undoubtedly the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki; however, there is much, much more to see and do. The “Coast” road is unforgettable, and the walking and cycling tracks that criss-cross the area provide a great way of truly exploring New Zealand. There is also a history lesson or two to be had at Shanty Town, which is an exceptional living museum showing how the Coast came to be populated and how New Zealand’s forefathers carved out the country as we know it today.

Day 14 & 15 - Franz Josef

The town of Franz Josef has grown organically with the help of the natural wonder that is the glacier; which can be explored on foot, by plane, or by helicopter (weather permitting). The glacier is not the only attraction in town and the ruggedly beautiful setting provides the perfect backdrop for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking & canoeing, 4WD off-road tours; not to mention an abundance of self-guided walking trails, lakes to explore and a great wildlife centre.

Day 16 & 17 - Wanaka

Arriving over the Southern Alps you will immediately notice the drier, warmer climate of Central Otago. In Wanaka prepare to be greeted by a majestic lake, framed by steep mountains culminating in the sentinel Mount Aspiring standing tall far in the distance. There is plenty to see and do in Wanaka, and whether it be walking or cycling along the lake edge, sampling great local wine in a lively restaurant whilst watching the sunset over Mount Aspiring, visiting any number of world-class cellar doors, or planning to scale the heights of Roy’s Peak, it is a truly memorable location.

Day 18 & 19 - Tekapo

The drive north toward Tekapo will take you over the Lindis Pass and down into Mackenzie Country, a place of incredible natural beauty. Spend your time here marvelling at Mother Nature and what she has created. The view of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak out over the emerald lakes is truly spectacular. This however is not to be outdone by the Church of the Good Shepherd, cycling along quiet trails, or gazing with astonishment after dark at the only dark sky reserve in the Southern Hemisphere, Mackenzie Region International Dark Sky Reserve. Light pollution is strictly controlled here making it one of the best star gazing locations on the planet.

Day 20 - Christchurch

Having been left spellbound by your experience in Mackenzie Country, it is time to make your way north to the garden city of Christchurch; along the edge of the Southern Alps, through small rural towns, and down onto the fertile Canterbury Plains. Arriving in Christchurch in the early afternoon you will have time to take in anything that you felt you missed when passing through the city a little over a week ago or perhaps revisit a favourite location.

Day 21 - International return flight

Make your way to Christchurch airport where you will board a flight to Auckland and then onward to your destination.

What's included?

Included:
  • Prices start from £2,800 per person
  • Accommodation based on 15 nights bed and breakfast and 5 nights room only
  • Airport transfers on arrival to New Zealand
  • Train fares for the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine
  • Ferry from Wellington to Picton
  • Car hire (air-conditioned vehicle)
  • Local taxes
  • All trips are ATOL protected or ABTA bonded to ensure you are fully covered

 

Make a booking

New Zealand is a magical country to explore by train. The scenery is spectacular and there is something new to discover around every corner. This trip allows you to experience the three great scenic rail journeys in New Zealand, as well as the three largest cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Finally pick up some wheels on the West Coast and explore some of the most rugged landscapes the South Island has to offer.

Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a coastal area of Northern New Zealand with a collection of over 140 sub-tropical islands ready to be explored. This area is well known for its quiet and beautiful white sand beaches, sparkling emerald seas and abundant marine life. More
Auckland
New Zealand's largest city is a vibrant melting pot of cultures and a thriving hub of arts, music and cuisine. Known as the City of Sails, the beautiful harbour provides the perfect backdrop to this relaxed and easy-going metropolis. The nearby island of Waiheke; well-loved for its wine and food scene is just a short ferry ride away. More
Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is a favourite getaway for Aucklanders and with good reason. This area is blessed with great weather, fabulous beaches and some fantastic hiking trails in the mountainous, rainforest clad interior. Don't miss Cathedral Cove; one of the most picturesque spots on this beautiful peninsula. More
Rotorua
Rotorua is a hive of geothermal activity with bubbling mud pools, explosive geysers, plumes of steam and natural hot springs perfect for bathing in. It is also a great place for adventure with over 90km of world class mountain biking trails, magical redwood forests and plenty of opportunity for adrenaline with zorbing, zip-lining and luging some of the most popular activities. More
Tongariro National Park
This is New Zealand's oldest national park and home to three active volcanoes surrounded by alpine meadows, hot springs and emerald lakes. The park's most popular activity, and deservedly so, is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a one-day trek that traverses the slopes of all three mountains and takes in steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes. More
Hawke's Bay
This is one of New Zealand's warmest and driest regions which has made it one of the country's leading areas for wine production as well as an abundance of delicious fruit. There are dozens of off-road bike trails which have made wine-touring by bike a favourite pastime with locals and tourists alike. It is also home to the quirky Art Deco town of Napier where 1930s architecture has been beautifully preserved. More
Martinborough
Only an hour drive from Wellington is the sleepy rural village of Martinborough; the centre of the region's wine industry and the home of some of the best pinot noir in New Zealand. Most of the, mainly family-owned, vineyards are within walking or cycling distance from the village centre. More
Wellington
New Zealand's capital is a compact little city full of quirky shops, plenty of street art and a fantastic waterfront area. It's an ideal place for exploring on foot. The craft beer scene and coffee culture are in full swing here and there are plenty of great places to sample both. More
Marlborough
Marlborough is New Zealand's largest wine region and there are plenty of vineyards to stop off at here. But it's not all about the wine, the beautiful winding waterways of the Marlborough Sounds make up one fifth of New Zealand's coastline and can be explored on a boat trip, from the air or hiking along the ridges and through lush coastal bush on the Queen Charlotte Track. More
Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman is situated in the sunniest region of New Zealand and is a highlight on any trip. The marine reserve is home to seals, dolphins and native sea birds and best explored on a kayaking or sailing adventure. The picture-perfect, deserted, golden sand beaches are only accessible by boat or hiking through magical, untouched forests. More
Punakaiki
This area is famed for its impressive limestone rock formations. The pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki are the most well visited of these and at high tide, with westerly swells, geysers of sea water shoot skywards creating an impressive display. More
Franz Josef Glacier
The glaciers on the West Coast are some of the most convenient to visit in the world and their low altitude means that you can be on the ice yet still comfortable in just a t-shirt. The glaciers are best explored on a heli-hike or a guided walk on the ice to experience the incredible colours and formations of the frozen landscape. More
Queenstown
Queenstown has it all. A stunning natural setting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu surrounded by dramatic alpine scenery, a plethora of outdoor activities to keep even the most adventurous entertained for weeks plus fantastic restaurants, buzzing nightlife and great shopping. More
Milford Sound
Milford Sound is a remote, breath-taking and spell-binding place where the mountains rise vertically from the dark water and waterfalls plunge hundreds of metres downwards. Explore by boat, kayak or from the air, this place is magical in any weather. More
Mackenzie Country
This area is dotted with remarkable turquoise coloured lakes with a dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps, making it extremely picturesque. At night, the beauty doesn't fade with the sunset as this area is part of an International Dark Sky Reserve which makes it one of the best star gazing spots on the planet. More
Kaikoura
Kaikoura is home to some of the most nutrient rich waters in New Zealand and is a permanent feeding spot for whales, seals and dolphins. There are plenty of boat trips out to visit the wildlife or if you want to get even closer, swimming with the seals or dolphins is a highlight. It is also a great spot to try some of the local delicacy; crayfish. More
Christchurch
Known as the Garden City, Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and is well known for its beautiful parks and award-winning botanical gardens. It is a creative hub with plenty of independent boutiques, pop-up restaurants and modern art. More

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