North Island Rail Highlights

Duration: 5 Days

Price: from NZ$979

Departure From: Auckland or Wellington

Departure Date: Flexible Dates

Tour Type: Independent Tour - Fully Flexible

Tour Operator: LOCO Journeys

Meal Plan: Selected Meals

Physical Grading: 2


This 5 day independent rail holiday offers the best North Island rail highlights from the comfort of your seat, featuring New Zealand’s epic Northern Explorer.

Journey through Te Ika-a-Māui on this excellent north island rail experience. Anchored by the intrepid Northern Explorer, witness all the must-see attractions on this train trip including impressive viaducts, volcanoes, coastal running, and the city lights of capital attractions.

Journey there and back by train and we’ll include a two-night stop in your city destination and another unique two-night stop in Ohakune in the Ruapehu district along the way.

Situated just south of Lake Taupō in the centre of the North Island, the Ruapehu region with its dramatic volcanic landscapes, lush native forests and spiritual rivers epitomise New Zealand’s pure outdoors.

The Ruapehu region is the only area in New Zealand where you can experience such dramatic volcanic landscapes of the Tongariro National Park World Heritage site and, within the same area, immerse yourself in the lush dense forest of the Whanganui National Park. The power of the mountains in the Tongariro National Park coupled with the mighty Whanganui River will leave you mesmerised and energised.

Mount Tongariro
Mt Ngauruhoe and the Central Plateau provide an impressive backdrop to your Northern Explorer rail trip

After two nights immersing yourself in the great outdoors, your Northern Explorer rail journey will deliver you right into the heart of city life. In either Auckland or Wellington you can choose to take time relaxing, shopping, or simply taking in the sights.

LOCO Journeys can tailor-make this tour to a journey that delivers to your desired destinations, your time, budget and the train timetable.

Fully Flexible Tour

North Island Rail Tour Highlights

  • Enjoy a return journey on NZ’s longest overland rail trip, the Northern Explorer
  • Choose from an Auckland or Wellington departure
  • Experience a two-night stay in New Zealand’s commercial or political capital city
  • Stay in boutique accommodation in the heart of Ruapehu
  • Access Tongariro National Park or Whanganui National Par for further adventures
  • Add an activity of your choice including quad-biking, golf, biking, trekking, walking or sightseeing
  • Two night stay in Auckland only applies if starting in Wellington and vice versa.
Kapati Coast Northern Explorer
Travelling north on the Kapiti Coast

North Island Rail Highlights – Optional Activities

There are a number of great experiences you can choose from to add to your two night stay in the Ruapehu region. Here’s a taster from which we can tailor-make your adventure;

  • Quad Biking Adventure Package – includes quad biking and a bottle of wine
  • Golf Package – green fees are included
  • Old Coach Road Bike Trail – includes shuttle transfer and bikes
  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing – includes shuttles and packed lunch
  • Local walks and hikes

There are also countless activities and day trips you can add in your two night capital city stays, whether it is Auckland or Wellington. Please ask for the most popular options at the time of booking if you want to add these in.

Cycle the old railway route across the Hapuawhenua Viaduct

Northern Explorer Scenic Class Experience

Glide through the heart of New Zealand’s beautiful scenery in Scenic Class carriages, with epic landscape views filling your window while you relax in your seat.

In Scenic Class you’ll experience spacious reclined seats with generous amounts of legroom and comfort, panoramic windows, glass shelves and skylights. And to heighten your comfort, state-of-the-art airbag suspension has been used to guarantee a smooth ride across our rugged New Zealand terrain.

While onboard, you might like a stroll to the Scenic Cafe carriage where you’ll find a great selection of hot and cold snacks, drinks and ice creams. Indulge in a freshly brewed specialty tea or barista coffee married with a sumptuous cake? Or perhaps toast your special journey with a bottle of bubbles?

The Scenic Cafe opens for coffee and breakfast before the train departs and continues serving throughout the day. You can take a seat in the Scenic Cafe carriage and feast upon the views whilst eating. But you are also welcome to return to your seat to dine and drink if you would prefer. The day is yours to do as you choose! 

During the hot summer months, the Open-air Viewing Carriage is a great place to get some fresh air and enjoy the great outdoors while on the move. You can whittle away the hours chatting and gazing out upon spectacular scenery and wildlife. It is also that perfect place for capturing those magical views on camera.

Learn the stories of our land while you travel by plugging into the Scenic Class Audio Commentary at your seat. The commentary provides a seamless stream of stories, narratives and facts about the places outside your window and is available on all three Scenic Class services, including the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine.

Scenic Journeys luggage van
Safely leave your luggage so you can fully enjoy your adventure

North Island Rail Highlights Accommodation

Here is a sample of the accommodation you can expect on your North Island Rail Highlights.

Ohakune Accommodation

Powderhorn Chateau Ohakune
Queen Suite, Powderhorn Chateau

Our preferred accommodation choice in Ohakune is the Powderhorn Chateau. A boutique accommodation nestled right in the heart of Ruapehu, this highly rated option is your home for two nights. The Powederhorn is situated one block (2 minute walk) from the Ohakune Train Station and as part of your experience, your tour includes a delicious cooked breakfast daily. The Powderhorn Chateau features a guest-only heated swimming pool, an inhouse restaurant and bar and is described as an experience that exceeds expectations.

Capital City Accommodation

Rydges Wellington
For travellers heading to Wellington from Auckland, your two night stay will be at Rydges Wellington
For passengers departing Wellington, MSocial in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour is your preferred accommodation

Should our preferred accommodation choices not be available when booking your tour we will seek to use suitable alternatives.

Should you wish to replace your return leg on the Northern Explorer with a flight from city to city, please request this at the time of your enquiry.

Please contact LOCO for any pre/post travel arrangements we can help you with beyond your North Island Rail Highlights.

Click here for alternate North Island railway adventures.

Tour Inclusions

  • The Northern Explorer departs Auckland on Mon, Thur & Sat and leaves Wellington on Wen, Fri & Sun year round.
  • Return travel on the Northern Explorer in Scenic Class
  • 2 nights accommodation at the Powderhorn Chateau in a Queen Studio
  • 2 cooked breakfasts
  • 2 nights accommodation in either Wellington or Auckland (depending on your departure city)

Pricing Notes

  • Advertised price is based on twin share, subject to availability and terms and conditions.
  • Pricing is correct at the time of submission but is subject to change without notice.
  • Optional extras packages such as Quad biking, golf, bike hire are not included in your tour cost and will be added upon request
  • Any changes to your itinerary will likely change the tour price
  • Price is subject to change unless paid in full

Tour Itinerary

Southbound from Auckland; Day 1 | Auckland - Northern Exlporer Train - Ohakune
Your epic joureny commences at Auckland Strand Station with an early morning departure on the Northern Explorer. Ensure you settle back to enjoy the ride. Once south of the Auckland suburbs, you will notice beautriful landscapes unfold in front of you. Your train will arrive in Ohakune just in the early afternoon giving you enough time to settle into your accommodation. Take a moment to enjoy the heated indoor swimming pool and look forward to a well-deserved evening meal.
Time for an adventure. There is so much to do and see in the Ruapehu you are spoilt for choice. Or maybe you simply want to stretch your legs and relax in this wonderful region. Choose from some great options. Please be sure to prebook your activity to avoid disapointment.
Today your journey commences on the intrepid Northern Explorer. An early afternoon departure will see you arrive into Wellington in the early evening. Enjoy the feast of scenic views and landscapes.
Take some time to enjoy and delight in the capital cities highlights. Wander Lambton Quay, visit Te Papa or Weta Workshop or simply enjoy the surrounds of your hotel room and book a special evening meal at one of the many great restaurants.
Make your way to the impressive Wellington station for your early morning departure to Auckland. There is no other rail journey quite like the Northern Explorer, traversing city to city across the length of the country. You will arrive in Auckland just under 12 hours later. If you wish to swap out this journey on the train for a return flight please let us know at the time of booking.

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