This 20 day New Zealand rail journey will deliver you many of the countries best scenic attractions and each of NZ’s three scenic rail experiences.
Starting with a journey to the beautiful Bay of Islands, you’ll enjoy incredible sightseeing including a famous Hole in the Rock cruise, shortly followed by visits to Waitomo and Hobbiton.
All of New Zealand’s renowned great rail journeys including all the famous TranzAlpine train, the scenic Coastal Pacific and epic Northern Explorer rail trips are included.
You will cruise between the North and South Island on the Interislander ferry, enjoy whale watching in Kaikoura, visit New Zealand’s famous glaciers of the wild West Coast and journey national parks including Mount Cook.
A three night stay in the alpine resort town of Queenstown will be a highlight of your time away, where you can explore the local lakes and mountains.
This is an independent journey offering you great flexibility but your featured guided day tours will be a highlight to your New Zealand rail journey holiday.
When you’re not travelling by train, you will travel by tourist coach or be enjoying the independence of a automatic self-drive car.
20 Day New Zealand Rail Journey Highlights
Travel to the picturesque Bay of Islands and cruise the Hole in the Rock
See Hobbiton, the original set from the multi-award winning Lord of the Rings trilogy
Venture in to Waitomo Caves where the darkness comes alive with mesmerising glow worms
Take a tour looking at the unique aspects of the world’s ‘Coolest Little Capital’, Wellington
Travel on board the iconic Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine train journeys
Catch the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton, considered one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world
Travel to Kaikoura, a whale watching mecca.
Explore Christchurch and see how it has been rebuilt from the devastation of earthquakes
Drive to the highest point in New Zealand, the iconic Mount Cook
Continue the drive to Queenstown, driving the stunning Crown Range
Spend time in Queenstown, the adventure capital
See both magnificent Franz and Fox Glaciers
20 Day New Zealand Rail Journey – Your Scenic Train Journeys
New Zealand’s scenic trains are travel experiences that are guaranteed to move you. The TranzAlpine, Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific will offer a picture-perfect journey through the heart of New Zealand.
From sleeping volcanoes to cascading waterfalls, sparkling cities to quaint rural farmsteads, golden beaches to snow-capped mountains, the best of New Zealand’s famous scenery to your window while you sit back and relax.
Your world-class rail journeys in Scenic Class carriage combine comfort and stunning views, making the train the perfect way to explore New Zealand.
At the heart of the Scenic Class experience are spacious reclined seats, panoramic windows, glass shelves and skylights. These details bathe our carriages in light and bring New Zealand’s famous landscapes to your seat.
Your Scenic Class carriages deliver extremely wide viewing angles by spacing the seating out. This spaciousness also creates generous amounts of legroom and comfort. The modern train carriages are complemented by an outdoor viewing carriage to grab a photo of the must-remember moments and a fully stocked cafe carriage caters for your every refreshment need.
Sit back, relax and enjoy your train rides through the heart of NZ.
20 Day New Zealand Rail Journey Optional Excursion
Each option is highly recommended to make the most of your 20 Day New Zealand rail journey. Ask at the time of booking.
Auckland City Tour – This Auckland city tour showcases the highlights of the city of Auckland and takes you on a journey to explore the history and sights as well as to see how Aucklander’s live and play. Our small group tour gives an insight into the Māori history of the area and the legends and stories behind some of the place names.
Akaroa Day Tour – Visit the beautiful unspoiled old French whaling depot of Akaroa. Stop at the Hill Top to experience panoramic views of Akaroa Harbour and visit the Cheese Factory at Barry’s Bay to sample some fine New Zealand cheeses. In the afternoon enjoy a 2 hour harbour cruise on the Canterbury Cat, sightseeing dolphins, penguins and seals.
Milford Sound Day Trip – Considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, experience this journey in comfort on our exclusive ‘state of the art’ coaches. The only operator providing glass roofed coaches with glass above every seat, enjoy the panoramic views from our theatre style, reclinable seats that are angled outwards to maximise viewing. There are multiple stops along the Milford Road and time for short walks and photo opportunities. Our friendly coach drivers provide detailed commentaries throughout the trip. On reaching Milford Sound, join a spectacular one hour 40 minute cruise to the mouth of the fiord on a modern vessel with excellent viewing opportunities. Large windows, spacious decks and comfortable lounges offer uninterrupted views of towering peaks and surging waterfalls. Hotel pick up and drop off included. Plus morning tea.
4WD Skippers Canyon Half Day Excursion – Join a Skippers Canyon adventure is a half-day heritage tour that follows the rugged and once treacherous Skippers Road. Travel the road that was hacked by hand into the sheer cliff sides of the Shotover River Valley making this an exciting adventure the whole family will enjoy. As your guide navigates this awe-inspiring canyon you will visit many historic sites such as the Skippers Suspension Bridge and the township of Skippers. Visit the restored school house where you will gain a real insight into the local heritage through photos and histories of life in this tough environment. British Automobile Association voted Skippers Canyon Road as one of the 25 most scenic roads in the world. Hotel pick up and drop off included.
For a detailed itinerary, departure details, and booking conditions for your 20 Day New Zealand Rail Journey, please see below.
Departure dates from Auckland:
9th December 2024
6th Janaury 2024
13th Janaury 2024
20th Janaury 2024
27th Janaury 2024
3rd February 2024 – SOLD OUT
10th February 2024 – SOLD OUT
17th February 2024
24th February 2024
9th March 2024 – SOLD OUT
16th March 2024
23rd March 2024
30th March 2024
6th April 2024
If these departure dates don’t suit your preferred travel itinerary, please let us know and we may be able to work around your ideal date. The 20 Day New Zealand Rail journey is an Independent Tour and this means a certain level of flexibility can be delivered to make it work. As long as you are flexible, the itinerary can be too!
Welcome to Auckland. On arrival, please make your way to your hotel for check-in. The rest of the day is at leisure to get acquainted with this vibrant city.
Day 2 | Auckland - Paihia, Bay of Islands
Make your way to the Sky City Coach Terminal on Hobson Street by 12.30pm to board your 1pm coach to Paihia. New Zealand runs one of the world’s best tourist coach networks all across the country. Intercity coaches are modern and comfortable air-conditioned buses. Note: You will be returning to the same hotel in Auckland. You may wish to leave your main suitcase and travel with an overnight bag to Paihia. If you take the below Auckland Revealed optional Tour you will be dropped off at the Sky City Coach Terminal in time to take your bus to Paihia so bring all your luggage with you. Paihia is considered the gateway to the Bays of Islands. If you want to discover the coves and beaches of the Bay of Islands, Paihia is the perfect place to start. On arrival, your coach will drop you off close to Paihia Wharf, from here it is only 200m to your hotel.
Day 3 | Pahia, Bay of Islands
Make your way to the wharf by 8.30am to board your morning ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise. Take in the stunning views as we glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’. You can expect to return to the wharf by 12pm This afternoon, take the scenic 2km walk (approximately 25 minutes) to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (entry fee included).
Day 4 | Paihia, Bay of Islands - Auckland
This morning, reboard your coach back to Auckland. Coaches depart Paihia from the location you disembarked. On arrival back in Auckland, make your way to your hotel.
Day 5 | Auckland - Hobbiton - Waitomo - Auckland
Today you will be collected from your hotel to join a guided tour of Hobbiton and Waitomo. Travel south from Auckland over the Bombay Hills to the rich farmland of the Waikato region. Your journey takes you through undulating green hills reminding you that you are approaching The Shire. Your guide will give you commentary on the way to Hobbiton with insights into the areas you are travelling through, along with some background to the movies. On arrival at Shire’s Rest you embark on your Hobbiton movie set tour. This location is the largest “green set” in the world and the only part of the set remaining in New Zealand. You see 44 hobbit holes, the Mill and the Party Tree. At this stunning location you can take a photo at the gate to Bilbo’s house, “Bag End”, looking out over the whole set to the hills in the distance. You will be treated to a sumptuous buffet lunch in the marquee. There is time for shopping before your tour continues to Waitomo. (Drive time 1 hr 20 min). On arrival in Waitomo, join a 45 minute guided tour of the incredible Waitomo Glow Worm caves. Discover an ancient world 30 million years in the making. Enjoy the delicate cave formations and be wowed in the Cathedral, before taking the iconic boat ride through the glow worm grotto (subject to water levels). Marvel in silence at thousands of magical glow worms, which are unique to New Zealand before exiting the cave. Upon conclusion you will be returned to your hotel in Auckland.
Day 6 | Auckland - Northern Explorer - Wellington
Today make your way to Auckland central station to board the Northern Explorer. New Zealand's longest running passenger service, the Northern Explorer is a long distance scenic train service running between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at Palmerston North, Ohakune, National Park and Hamilton. This iconic train journey allows you to experience the extremes of New Zealand’s scenery, from the fertile farmlands of Waikato to the volcanic peaks of the Central Plateau and the sparkling Kapiti coast. The train has panoramic windows, open-air view carriage, a fully licenced cafe plus commentary allowing you to connect with the histories, legends and myths of New Zealand. On arrival in Wellington, disembark your scenic train and make your way to your hotel. We recommend a short taxi service which can be found easily when exiting the station.
Day 7 | Wellington
This morning, you’ll be collected from your hotel to join a half day city sights tour of Wellington. An intimate tour looking at the unique aspects of the World’s Coolest Little Capital. Drive through Courtenay Place and Oriental Parade and head up Mt Victoria for spectacular views of the City and Harbour. Then travel the stunning, rugged coastline, now a marine reserve, stopping along the way to taste some famous Wellington coffee. Return to the central city for a drive through the quirky Cuba Street district and along Lambton Quay, the main shopping street, for a chance to ride the famous Wellington Cable Car. We finish the tour with stops at Parliament and Old St Paul’s Cathedral. The tour concludes at your hotel around 1:30pm where the rest of the day is at leisure.
A big day of stunning landscapes is ahead of you today. This morning, make your way to the central wharf to board the Interislander ferry to Picton. Connecting the North Island and South Island together since 1962, the Interislander ferry service is New Zealand's original Cook Strait ferry. Sailing between Wellington and Picton several times a day, the Interislander journey is considered one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world and one of New Zealand's most iconic experiences and connects seamlessly with the Coastal Pacific train which is the next leg of your journey. On arrival in Picton the ferry and the train are separated by only metres. The location is well sign posted. The Coastal Pacific train takes you along rugged coastlines, across remote beaches, between mountains and sea, on a timeless journey of breathtaking beauty. Explore the stunning Kaikōura Coastline, famous for its marine life and whale watching. On arrival in Kaikoura disembark the Coastal Pacific and make your way to your hotel either on foot or using the local Kaikoura shuttle service which can be found at the station on arrival. Note: For itineraries commencing on 27 Jan, 17 Feb, 24 Feb, 02 Mar 2024, the Coastal Pacific train is not available. Transport from Picton to Kaikōura will be by Intercity Coach.
Day 9 | Kaikoura - Coastal Pacific Train - Christchurch
This morning make your way to the wharf to board a half day whale watching tour. The main focus of your tour is to locate and view the Giant Sperm whale. They average between 1 to 2 whale sightings per tour due to the length of time the whales can stay submerged. This afternoon, make your way back to the station to take the train from Kaikoura to Christchurch. On arrival in Christchurch, make your way to your hotel. We recommend a short taxi service which can be found easily when exiting the station.
Day 10 | Christchurch
This morning you will be collected from the hotel to enjoy a half-day guided tour of Christchurch. Your guide will explain both the history of the city and the effects of the earthquake, you will see for yourself both the destructive powers of nature and the rebuild taking place. On leaving the inner city, the tour travels to Mona Vale, a historic homestead and gardens. We then travel to the Sign of the Takahe, an historic building with a lookout providing spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains and to the Southern Alps. The tour then travels via the Port Hills and Lyttleton Harbour by way of the Sign of the Kiwi and Governors Bay to the Port of Lyttleton. The tour proceeds through the Lyttleton harbour tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and cave rock before returning to your hotel where the tour will conclude. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 11 | Christchurch
Enjoy a free day at leisure to explore Christchurch at your own pace. Consider a day trip to Akaroa including a Harbour Cruise.
Day 12 | Christchurch - Mount Cook
Today the driving portion of your holiday begins! Check out from your hotel (up to 11am) and make your way to the Budget downtown office (150 Kilmore Street) to collect your vehicle. Your car includes unlimited kilometres in a compact Group C vehicle. New Zealand is a drivers paradise, stunning scenery, leisurely speeds and easy navigable roads. Leaving Christchurch, begin the drive south. Watch the scenery and skyline become jaw-dropping with the Southern Alps towering over the horizon. Mt Cook, locally known as Aoraki, is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3,754m. The drive takes approximately 4.5hrs from Christchurch. At the foot of the mountain sits the village of Mount Cook - a comfortable haven in one of the most unforgiving parts of New Zealand. On every side, the Southern Alps scrape the sky. On arrival check in to your hotel and enjoy the alpine village. The nearby Hooker River is accessible to see huge glacier carved icebergs. Approximate driving distance: 330km, 4.5-5 hrs Hotel 3 Mt Cook Lodge or
Day 13 | Mount Cook - Queenstown
Leaving Mt Cook, continue your drive south to Queenstown. It seems impossible the scenery can get any better, but today’s drive takes you even deeper into the majesty of New Zealand. On arrival in Queenstown make your way to your hotel for check in and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Approximate driving distance: 270km, 3.5-5 hrs
Day 14 | Queenstown
Enjoy a free day at leisure to explore Queenstown at your own pace. Consider taking a day tour by coach to Milford Sound and cruise the fiord to the Tasman Sea
Day 15 | Queenstown
Enjoy a free day at leisure to explore Queenstown at your own pace. If you are wanting to explore Central Otago's back country, take a trip to Skippers Canyon on a 4WD adventure.
Day 16 | Queenstown
Enjoy a free day at leisure to explore Queenstown at your own pace.
Day 17 | Queenstown - Wanaka
Today, make the short drive to Wanaka. The suggested route is via Cardrona Road along the Crown Range. The Crown Range road climbs to high altitudes and crosses a mountain chain the Cromwell route doesn’t. While the Crown Range Road is a shorter distance to journey between Queenstown and Wanaka, travel time is longer and the road is more challenging than the usual route through Cromwell. You should also allow time to stop and admire the massive views, which are often accompanied by amusing encounters with kea (mountain parrots). On arrival in Wanaka make your way to your hotel for check in and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 18 | Wanaka - Franz Josef Glacier
Leaving Wanaka, make your way up the western coast of New Zealand. This trip tracks down the West Coast through the breathtaking Haast Pass and to Glacier country. Fox Glacier and Franz Josef allow you to see two glaciers in one day. The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are unique relics of the last ice age. Mighty rivers of solid white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, they are classically beautiful in the glacial sense. Nowhere else in the world have glaciers advanced so close to the sea at this latitude. On arrival in Franz Josef make your way to your hotel for check in and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Approximate driving distance: 290km, 4.5-5 hrs
Day 19 | Franz Josef Glacier - Greymouth - TranzAlpine Train - Christchurch
Continuing driving the West Coast until arriving in Greymouth. On arrival in Greymouth, drop your car at the Budget office before 12pm and check-in to the TransAlpine train to Christchurch. Your scheduled train departure time is 2pm and you must be ready to board 20 mins earlier. Whilst there is a small cafe on board your train, we recommend you to allow time to have lunch in Greymouth before departing. Considered one of the world's greatest train journeys, this journey you’ll see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traverse the Southern Alps, and see miles of native beech forest. The train has panoramic windows, open-air view carriage, a fully licenced cafe plus commentary allowing you to connect the scenery all around you. On arrival in Christchurch, disembark your scenic train and make your way to your hotel. We recommend a short taxi service which can be found easily when exiting the station. Approximate driving distance: 180km, 2.5-3.5 hrs
Day 20 | Christchurch
Today your New Zealand Rail Journey comes to an end! At the appropriate time today make your way to the airport or continue your onward journey. Alternatively, contact us if you wish to extend your stay in Christchurch as we can help you make arrangements for additional accommodation.
For more information about this tour, price queries and updates on specials, please Enquire Now.