Cities and Sea; Auckland to Christchurch Rail Tour

Duration: 12 Days

Price: from NZ $8,999

Departure From: Auckland

Departure Date: Monthly from September 2023

Tour Type: Escorted Tour

Meal Plan: B&B and selected meals

Physical Grading: 2/5


Explore New Zealand’s cities and sea journey via its remote regions, travelling on this Auckland to Christchurch rail tour. Travel off the beaten track in comfort and style as we guide you on this scenic adventure from coast to coast.

On our Signature Auckland to Christchurch train tour, you will see it all,  travelling aboard all four of our world-famous journeys. Boarding in Auckland, your first few days include a series of journeys aboard our Northern Explorer train travelling through the volcanic heart of the North Island.

Cruising between islands, the Interislander ferry plots a leisurely course around Wellington Harbour and through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds to Picton.

From Picton, you’ll voyage through vineyards and along the Pacific Coast to Kaikoura aboard the Coastal Pacific train. 

Your final journey is again aboard the Coastal Pacific train, meandering alongside secluded beaches on your way to Christchurch.

We trust you will enjoy this Cities and Sea; Auckland to Christchurch rail tour across a wonderful twelve days in New Zealand.

Auckland to Christchurch Rail Tour Cities and Sea Map

Auckland to Christchurch Rail Tour Highlights

  • Enjoy a visit to the renown Hamilton Gardens
  • Encounter the volcanic peaks of Middle Earth in Tongariro National Park
  • Experience the bioluminescent glowworm caves of Waitomo 
  • Marvel at the mesmerising coastal views of the Kapiti Coast
  • Discover the sandstone cliffs of the Rangatikei River Gorge
  • Cruise through magnificent views while crossing the Cook Strait
  • Sip world-class wine amongst the vines in Marlborough
  • Experience the wonder of marine wildlife in beautiful Kaikoura
  • Be captivated by the storytelling of your local Tour Director along this great journey
Visit world-class Hamilton Gardens

Auckland to Christchurch Rail Tour Included Excursions

Each option on our is included allowing you to make the most of your Auckland to Christchurch rail tour. Ask at the time of booking.

Hamilton Garden Tour – Guided by an experienced botanist, you’ll earn the history and context of each garden before picnicking on the lawn.

Raglan Dinner Cruise – Enjoy freshly prepared seaford and sensational views on a sunset cruise in Raglan

Waitomo Glowworm Caves – Enter an underground universe sparkling with starry glowworms

Tongariro National Park – Explore Mount Ruapehu and the volcanic plateau at the heart of the North Island

Wellington Introduction Tour – Your tour host will provide an intimate local view of our quaint little capital on a Wellington tour.

Wellington Cable Car

Marlborough Wine Experience – Get a taste of New Zealand’s world-famous wine on a relaxing wine tour.

Whale Watch Kaikoura – Head offshore for a fantastic display of Humpback whales in a stunning natural environment.

Christchurch Tramway Restaurant – Enjoy a 4-course dinner aboard Christchurch’s historic Tramway Restaurant and travel in heritage style thought the city centre.

TranzAlpine Train – Many would argue your journey is not complete without experiencing New Zealand’s premier rail trip. Add a day return ride to your tour from Christchurch once you have completed your Auckland to Christchurch rail tour.

The TranzAlpine Train LOCO Journeys
The TranzAlpine Train – An optional extra

For a detailed itinerary, departure details, and booking conditions for your Auckland to Christchurch rail tour, please see below.

Departure Dates from Auckland:

  • 13 September 2023
  • 25 October 2023 – SOLD OUT
  • 15 November 2023
  • 10 January 2023
  • 2 February 2024
  • 14 February 2024
  • 12 April 2024 – SOLD OUT
  • 17 April 2024

All departure dates on this Auckland to Christchurch rail tour are guaranteed to operate

Click here for alternate New Zealand tours.

Tour Inclusions

  • Northern Explorer Scenic Train
  • Interislander Ferry journey across the Cook Strait
  • Coastal Pacific Scenic Train
  • Hamilton Gardens and Picnic
  • Raglan Dinner Cruise
  • Sanctuary Mountain Wildlife Experience
  • Glowworm Caves Tour
  • Volcanic Geology Experiences
  • Wellington and Christchurch City Tours
  • Cook Strait Ferry Crossing
  • Marlborough Wine Tour Experience
  • Wildlife Experience in Kaikōura
  • Christchurch Historic Tramway Restaurant
  • Private Coaches to reach regional sightseeing
  • Private shuttles (excluding airport arrival)
  • 11 Breakfasts, 1 Picnic Lunches, 5 Dinners, 4 Meals on Trains
  • 4-4.5 star hotel accommodation (twin share)
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees as specified in the itinerary.

Pricing Notes

  • Advertised price based on per person, twin share
  • Non-refundable deposit of 20% per person is due at the time of booking
  • Full non-refundable balance of tour payment is required 66 days prior to departure booking
  • A single supplement is available or you can choose to match up with another single travelle
  • Price is subject to change unless paid in full
  • Full terms and conditions will be advised at the time of booking.
  • Maximum group size 20 people

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 | Auckland (D)
Kia Ora! Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand’s City of Sails! Auckland is known for its multicultural hub of food, music, arts, and culture. After checking into your hotel and reading your welcome letter from your Tour Director, head out and explore all that Auckland has to offer. This is the perfect opportunity to visit the Sky Tower or shop along bustling Queen Street. You may even fancy a drink in one of the charming bars or eateries of Vulcan Lane. Your tour officially begins this evening, as you join your fellow travellers and Tour Director this evening for a welcome reception.
Your journey awaits as you join the Northern Explorer scenic train. Marvel at rural New Zealand’s lush landscapes from the comfort of your scenic carriage. From the sparkling waters of the Waitemata Harbour to the green pastures of the Waikato – you won’t want to miss a moment. Arriving in Hamilton, your coach awaits you to bring you to the famous Hamilton Gardens. Engross yourself in the garden’s collection of themed rooms as you are led by an experienced guide. Learn about the history, context and meaning of each garden before finishing this delightful morning with a picnic on the lush lawns. Surrounded by beauty, you will be in utter bliss. In the early afternoon, enjoy some free time in the heart of Hamilton before departing for an evening visit to Raglan – a seaside surfer town. It’s here that you’ll enjoy a Sunset Dinner Cruise on the pristine harbour.
This morning you will depart for your next exciting excursion – Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain. Let your guide transport you into an ancient world of ecological wonders as you explore New Zealand’s very own pest-free environment, within native forest. On this excursion, you will walk through the home of some of New Zealand’s most endangered species. Discover North Island’s robins, tomtits, kākā, pōpokotea, bellbirds, hihi, tīeke, fantails, kereru and wētā. This pre-human paradise has one of the world’s longest pest-proof fences. Your expedition continues after a lunch stop in New Zealand’s “Kiwiana Capital”, Otorohanga. Make sure you capture a photo of the giant Kiwi birds! Next, discover the famous Waitomo Glow worm Caves and be dazzled by the seemingly star-filled sky as you glide by boat through this impressive cave formation. Tonight, explore Hamilton's riverside walks and shops on this free evening. Enjoy one of the many nearby restaurants as the sun sets over the Waikato River.
Joining the Northern Explorer train once again, today you’ll soar over icy mountain streams as you travel to Tongariro National Park, the home of three volcanic mountains. Tongariro National Park has a diverse range of ecosystems and spectacular landscapes. In 1993, it was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and was the first property to be inscribed with the criteria describing the cultural values it holds for Māori. Enjoy a mini excursion up to Tūroa ski field. Here you'll want to capture a panoramic photo of Middle Earth before descending into Ohakune. Tonight, enjoy a special dinner with your fellow travellers.
Today is free for you to discover one of the region's many exciting excursions. Choose from the optional activities on offer and personalise your perfect holiday. Perhaps you will hop aboard a rail cart journey or join a horse trekking experience that takes you along expansive hills, mountains, rivers and into native bush. If you're after an active day, why not explore Ohakune’s historical cycle trail? Rent e-bikes and discover old viaducts, tunnels, old settlers’ camps and reclaimed native forests along the Old Coach Road.
Your day begins with an elevated experience up the northern face of Mt Ruapehu for panoramic views of the volcanic landscape. Drink in the views of Mt Ngāuruhoe, Mt Tongariro, and beyond across the central North Island. Joining the Northern Explorer train once again, waving goodbye to Tongariro National Park, as you settle into your uber-comfortable seat. Don’t get too comfortable though; dramatic rivers, gorges, and ravines are just around the bend! Stretch your legs and explore the open-air carriage to get the best view from the train. A little later, why not indulge in a treat from our onboard licensed café? As you glide through rich green farmland and past dramatic coastlines, enjoy the picturesque Porirua Harbour as you arrive into Wellington. Welcome to Wellington – New Zealand’s windy capital! You’ve arrived at Wellington Railway Station, which is just a stone’s throw from downtown, the Beehive, and Parliament Buildings. You won't want to waste a moment of time after checking into the hotel - your evening is free to explore this culinary capital from Queen’s Wharf to Cuba street and beyond.
The perfect day does exist – and it includes exploring Wellington! Today is free for you to experience vibrant Wellington as you please. Start by joining our Wellington City introduction tour and then head off to explore Cuba Street’s cafés, bookstores, and eccentric shops. Get cultured at Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum, or visit Zealandia Eco-Sanctuary to surround yourself by native birdlife and regenerating forest. You won’t get bored with the plethora of activities on offer. From coffee, culture, historic buildings to botanic gardens and much more… the list goes on! If you need any suggestions or recommendations, just reach out to your helpful Tour Director or our Travel Centre to pre-book an experience. Enjoy dinner tonight with your fellow travellers.
This morning you will say poroporoaki ki te motu raki (good-bye to the North Island) as you sail to the South Island, crossing the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry. As the shores of the North Island slowly disappear, settle down in the comfy seats in the Premium Lounge. Treat yourself to a mimosa and enjoy a hearty seafaring breakfast, but save some room for morning tea! On your journey across Cook Strait you may spot pods of dolphins playing in the wake or, if you are very lucky, whales. Don’t spend all your time inside – as you enter the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound, enjoy the views as you cruise past the remnants of whaling stations, remote working sheep farms, pristine native bush and mussel farms. Admire the beauty of this coastal paradise as you arrive into the gateway of the South Island, Picton. Step off the Interislander Ferry and join your next world-class experience aboard a Marlborough Wine Tour.
The morning is yours to explore Picton. Meander through the impressive Edwin Fox (one of the world's oldest surviving merchant sailing ships), local craft stores, art galleries and coastal walks. Enjoy the waterfront cafés before boarding the Coastal Pacific train for another highlight rail journey through the Marlborough Wine Region. Today you will be travelling into Kaikōura. Relax as the train glides across remote beaches, between mountains and sea, on a timeless journey of breath-taking beauty. Keep an eye out for the fur seals lazing on the rocks! Once in Kaikōura, the evening will be yours to enjoy some iconic kai moana (seafood) at one of the quaint restaurants before enjoying your luxurious ocean-front hotel.
Today will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience of whale, dolphin, or albatross watching! Enjoy today’s thrill of an up-close encounter with the world's largest-toothed predator, the Giant Sperm Whale, who reside in Kaikōura’s waters year-round. If you preferred to gain an aerial experience of the wildlife, why not request a plane ride to capture the true grandeur of it all? After this outstanding experience, we're sure you will be feeling peckish. Head to the beach to sample some iconic New Zealand food – you can't go wrong with the humble Kiwiana fish and chips. Work off the deep-fried delights by wandering through the wonderful array of local artisan stores and souvenir shops. In the late afternoon, your highlight day will continue as you rejoin the Coastal Pacific Train en route to Christchurch. The spectacular scenery doesn’t cease to amaze as you journey south through the rolling hills and extensive plains. Enjoy the relaxing journey with a glass of wine in hand as you indulge in a gourmet meal from the onboard scenic café. Sit back and relax for the remainder of the evening before hitting the town the following day.
Christchurch, the hub for South Island exploration, is also a wonderful city that blends modern architecture and technology with the 19th-century Anglican 'gothic revival' architectural influence. Often remembered for its earthquake in 2011, the city is rebuilding itself into a multicultural haven. Today you are free to explore the museums, Riverside Markets, Punting on the Avon, Gondola and botanical gardens. There is also a multitude of delicious cafés tucked into quaint side streets we're sure you will love. This evening, you will re-join your fellow travellers for a special dinner and a ‘final hurrah’ on Christchurch’s historic dinner tram. Enjoy a wonderful circuit of the city while indulging in fantastic conversation and seasonal cuisine.
Your journey will end after enjoying a final breakfast at your hotel. If you are wanting to extend your journey, including the opportunity to journey on the TranzAlpine to complete your great journeys experience, please let LOCO Journeys know at the time of booking.

For more information about this tour, price queries and updates on specials, please Enquire Now.