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East & West North Island Rail Tour

Duration: 13 Days

Price: From $3,890 NZD

Departure From: Auckland (Glenbrook or Pukekohe)

Departure Date: 7th July

Tour Type: Escorted Tour

Meal Plan: B&B and selected meals

Physical Grading: 2


Discover the natural beauty of Te Ika-a-Māui on our East & West North Island Rail Tour. Enjoy the scenery of the North Island as you visit Palmerston North, Gisborne, Marton to New Plymouth, and the Wairarapa railway lines, onboard your very own exclusive heritage train.

In travelling by rail, we are confident there is no better way to see some of New Zealand’s best scenery, history and engineering feats, all from the comfort of your seat.

Read on for what’s included on this all encompassing North Island rail tour travelling on lines that aren’t normally available to passenger travel. Take a close look at the inclusion, optional extras and a detailed itinerary further down the page. This North Island rail tour is quite unique and an enjoyable rail journey is guaranteed.

East & West North Island Rail Tour Highlights

  • Traveling on GVR’s private Diesel-hauled heritage train on lines not usually served by passenger trains – featuring vintage carriages with open air viewing balconies
  • Passing through the scenic central plateau – steeped with railway history and including mighty viaducts and the world famous Raurimu Spiral.
  • Visit the Tangiwai Memorial, journey the Desert Road and enjoy lunch aboard a charter boat on Lake Taupo
  • Traversing the scenic Manawatu Gorge, only accessible by rail
  • Following the east coast on the line to the Art Deco city of Napier
  • Ascending the steep Westmere Bank on the line to New Plymouth offering great views of Mt Taranaki
  • Overnight stays at Ohakune, Napier, Masterton, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, and National Park
  • Specially selected ‘optional activities’ including special bus tours
  • Complimentary light refreshments served onboard at your seat
  • Extensive and diverting commentary and local history from our knowledgeable guides
North Island Rail Tour
Palmerston North

East & West North Island Rail Tour Optional Activities

The following activities are optional excursions that are available to you on your North Island rail tour. It is recommended you book these activities prior to departure to ensure you secure a seat. Prices shown are per person.

  • Day 2 – Mountains, Lakes & Lahars. Bus tour $80. Boat Cruise & lunch $115
  • Day 4 – Option 1 Prison with a View $60
  • Day 4 – Option 2 Rail & Vines including wine tasting $120
  • Day 5 – Art Deco by Road $95
  • Day 6 – Pahiatua optional lunch $25
  • Day 7 – Greytown & Gardens including lunch $145
  • Day 8 – Option 1: Coach to Castlepoint $35
  • Day 8 – Option 2: Tui Brewery, BBQ Lunch $35 Brewery Tour $20
  • Day 9 – Waverley optional lunch $25
  • Day 10 – Rails & Republic $395
  • Day 12 – Ride to Raupehu $90
  • Day 12 – Farewell Dinner $65

Your Exclusive Heritage North Island Rail Tour Train

Your North Island rail tour train is operated by the Glenbrook Vintage Railway will be hauled by restored locomotive DBR1254. Originally built by General Motors of Canada in 1965, this locomotive was rebuilt by Clyde Engineering Australia in 1981.

In 2017 the GVR took ownership of DBR1254 which underwent an intense overhaul before returning to mainline service in 2019. The carriages date from 1909 – 1940 and would have made thousands of journeys up and down the country. The carriages retain key features including the iconic flip-over seats. The seats are well-sprung allowing for a comfortable ride. Open-air platforms along the train are great vantage points to view the countryside as the wind blows through your hair!

Discover Ruapehu Rail Tours Glenbrook Heritage Train

For a detailed itinerary, departure details, and booking conditions, please see below or contact us to receive an easy read brochure.

An alternate 8 day, 7 night tour option is available finishing in Wellington. The Eastern Mini-Tour follows the East & West tour for days 1-7. On day 8, you will depart Masterton early morning on board the Wairarapa Connection, arriving in to Wellington at about 9.30am where your tour concludes. Prices for this tour option start from $3,345 per person.

Click here for alternate North Island rail tours including short New Zealand rail breaks and day trips

Tour Inclusions

  • 12 nights accommodation
  • 6 days of inclusive rail travel on the Glenbrook Heritage train
  • Morning and afternoon tea served onboard the train
  • Breakfast at all hotels/motels
  • Premium coach travel when travelling off-rail
  • All sightseeing, cruises, rail travel and entrance fees as specified in the itinerary
  • The services of an experienced tour director

Pricing Notes

  • Advertised price based on per person, twin share
  • A single supplement is available for $1,015 NZD
  • Pricing is for departure on 07 July 2022
  • Non-refundable deposit of $500 per person is due at time of booking. Date of full payment will be advised at the time of booking
  • An upgrade to Superior accommodation is available for $760 per person twin share / $1520 single – Request to upgrade must be notified at the time of booking
  • Optional Activities are not included in your price.
  • Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is required.
  • Price is subject to change unless paid in full

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Auckland (Glenbrook or Pukekohe) to Ohakune
Today we depart Auckland from both Glenbrook and Pukekohe Stations, making our first stop at Hamilton’s Frankton Station. Leaving Hamilton and exiting out of the mighty Waikato, we glide through the rolling farmland and skirt many rivers, gorges and valleys as we enter the King Country. At Te Kuiti we make a lunch stop where you can visit one of the many local establishments along the main street. From Taumarunui it is all up hill to the famous Raurimu Spiral taking us up to the central plateau. From National Park we cross the mighty Makatote Viaduct, skirting Mt. Ruapehu and crossing the grand Hapuawhenua Viaduct before arriving in Ohakune for two nights. Accommodation is Ruapehu Mountain Motel and Powderhorn Chateau for superior option.
Today is a free day for you to enjoy Ohakune, or join the Mountains, Lakes & Lahars optional tour. Departing Ohakune we travel the short distance to Tangiwai where we spend some time taking in the sombre atmosphere of that fateful night in 1953 and exploring the Tangiwai Memorial. From Tangiwai we travel through Waiouru and head north around the mountain to Lake Taupo. The Desert Road provides ample photographic opportunities with good weather. At Taupo we board our exclusive chartered boat for a 2.5 hr cruise, plying the waters of Lake Taupo for a leisurely lunch, taking in the Mine Bay Maori rock carvings. Alternatively you may choose to spend some free time in Taupo. Back on dry land we re-join our bus mid-afternoon and return to Ohakune via National Park arriving late afternoon.
Today we leave Ohakune on our way south down the North Island Main Trunk to Palmerston North. Shortly after leaving Ohakune we pass the site of the Tangiwai disaster, crossing the Whangaehu River. We start our descent from the central plateau with several crossings of the Hautapu River before arrving into Taihape. We make a stop in Taihape where you are free to explore town and grab your own lunch. South of Taihape we cross the North Rangitikei, Kawhatau and South Rangitikei viaducts, the latter being the highest viaduct on the North Island Main Trunk. After arriving in Palmerston North, we stop here for a leg stretch while our locomotive runs around the train and we depart north-east towards Napier on the Palmerston North – Gisborne line. Passing through the breath-taking Manawatu Gorge, now only accessible by rail, we pass through Woodville and head north. Rolling through the meandering countryside, north of Dannevirke we cross the six famous viaducts of Mangatera, Piripiri, Mangatewainui, Makotuku, Ormondville and Kopua. The Pekapeka Wetlands signals our entry into the horticultural heart of the Hawkes Bay where we soon greet the coastline south of Napier, shortly before arriving into the heart of town. Our accommodation tonight is Quest Napier or the superior option is Beachfront Motel.
Today is free for you to enjoy Napier or join two optional activities - Prison with a View in the morning or Rail and Vines in the afternoon. Prison with a View: When justice was ruthless and punishment unspeakably cruel, terrible things happened in the Napier Prison on Bluff Hill. Built in 1862, it is the oldest prison in New Zealand still standing. We take a bus trip up Bluff Hill to visit this prison with a view, taking in guided tour of its stone walls and compounds. We then take the scenic route to the bottom of Bluff Hill and visit the Hawkes Bay Museum of Technology. Our buses can then drop you in town, or back to the motel. Rails & Vines: After time in town for lunch, or with a pickup from the motel, we travel through the agricultural heart of the Hawkes Bay. Our first stop is the Keirunga Park Railway in Havelock North. Time for a train ride and look at the Westinghouse ‘L’ lever frame ex-Te Kauwhata. Our next stop is Craggy Range Winery, situated in the shadow of the spectacular Te Mata Peak. Following a walking tour & tasting six of the winery’s finest drops, we return to Napier via a scenic drive along the coast returning late afternoon.
Today is another free day or enjoy our terrific Art Deco by Road optional activity. After a short walk to town, we travel in vintage vehicles, escorted by a knowledgeable guide taking in Art Deco Napier. A short film and time to view the Napier Earthquake Exhibition at the MTG is also included. This experience runs from 9am - noon. The afternoon is free at your leisure.
Today’s travel retraces our steps, back down to Woodville. Leaving Napier we once again roll through the lush orchards and growing areas of central Hawkes Bay. You hear the locomotive work hard as we head up the Opapa Bank, the steepest on this part of the line between Napier and Woodville. Between Waipukurau and Dannevirke we pass through several old towns of New Zealand, now reminiscing at their glory days at the height of the New Zealand Railways. At Woodville we get the chance to see the Woodville Balloon Loop, an iconic piece of rail infrastructure as we head on our journey further south, down the Wairarapa Line. This line is not used by any scheduled freight or passenger services. Having crossed the Manawatu River, and passing the famous Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka we stop at Pahiatua for (optional) lunch and time to look at the Pahiatua Railcar Society’s magnificent collection. Our departure from Pahiatua sees us climb through stunning native bush up to Mount Bruce. Before heading through the Mt Bruce Tunnel, we are shadowed by imposing bush cuttings. The other side of the Mt Bruce Tunnel signals the last leg of our journey and our imminent arrival into Masterton. Your accommodation choices tonight are BK's Chardonnay Motor Lodge or Copthorne Solway Hotel is your superior option.
Today offers a free day in the Wairarapa. Take advantage of a optional activity, Greytown and Gardens. Departing Masterton, we travel to the Fell Locomotive Museum in Featherston. Leaving Featherston for the short journey to our next exclusive destination property we spend a few hours surrounded by enchanted plantings, sculptures and a railway – this opportunity doesn’t come often and should not be missed. We also have Lunch here (included). After our time at the property, we take a scenic route around Lake Wairarapa, stopping in Greytown on the return journey, before we return to Masterton late afternoon.
For passengers completing their journey in Wellington, we bid them farewell as they are shuttled to their early Wairarapa Connection rail journey from Masterton station. Passengers who are travelling on the full tour, enjoy our morning optional tour Coach to Castlepoint. After checking out of our accommodation, we can drop passengers in Masterton for some free time, or they can enjoy a coach ride over to Castlepoint. There is time here to walk the beach, grab some photos or do the 30min return walk up to the Lighthouse. This afternoon we relocate the entire group by coach to Palmerston North, ready for the following days rail journey to New Plymouth. This scenic trip stops at the Tui Brewery and Manawatu Gorge lookout before arriving in Palmerston North late afternoon. On the journey from Masterton to Palmerston North, we stop at the historic Tui Brewery. An optional classic kiwi BBQ lunch is on offer here, followed by an optional guided tour of the brewery and its iconic buildings. Your accommodation tongiht is Distinction Palmerston North.
This morning we transfer from Palmerston North to Feilding by coach to start our rail journey westward to New Plymouth. Leaving Feilding we travel on the North Island Main Trunk to Marton where we veer left and start our day’s travel on the Marton – New Plymouth Line. The Turakina tunnel, shortly followed by the Fordell Tunnels, are some of our first points of interest. The line west undulates over the rugged countryside near the South Taranaki Bight. You know we have reached the top of a grade as there is always is a road crossing, and at the bottom of the grade there is a river bridge. Departing the eastern suburbs of Whanganui, we cross the Whanganui river before starting our climb up the formiddable Westmere Bank. Waverley is our next stop for lunch (optional). Descending the grade into the township of Patea from the mouth of the river, we continue onward to Hawera and the start of our mountain views. We navigate the eastward side of the Egmont National Park before arriving into New Plymouth, at our stop on the coastal walkway. Disembarking here, our accommodation is only a short walk. Accommodation options tonight are Quest New Plymouth or Millenium Hotel as the superior option.
Join us for our optional activity Rails and Republic. An early departure out of New Plymouth sees us retrace some of our journey the day prior – to Stratford. Just out of Stratford we board our exclusively chartered rail carts to travel on the Stratford – Okahukura Line, now long closed to trains. Over approximately 5 hours, discover ever-changing vistas as you learn about the history of the area and the stories of the settlers. See redwood plantations, pine forest and deer farms and get up close and personal with local wildlife deep in the heart of sheep and beef country. Travel on the largest bridge over the Patea River, and discover Taranaki dairy farmland all while marvelling at the spectacular Mt Taranaki dominating the skyline. Stop for morning tea at Te Wera Station siding. After arriving in Whangamomona, we enjoy lunch (included) at the republic’s best – and only! – Hotel. Following lunch and some time to walk the town we return to New Plymouth via the scenic Forgotten World Highway, stopping along the way. We arrive back in New Plymouth late afternoon. This activity includes lunch and morning tea.
An early morning departure out of New Plymouth sees us retrace our journey to Feilding before the trip north to National Park. The rolling countryside and mountain views entertain you as we travel through the towns of Inglewood, Stratford, Eltham and on to Hawera. Passing Stratford we get a glimpse of the southern connection to the mothballed Stratford – Okahukura Line. South of Hawera we travel past one of the country’s busiest milk factories at Whareroa. Passing through Patea once again we skirt the Waipipi Wind Farm, home to some of the country’s largest wind turbines. Our next stop is Feilding for time to get some lunch and for our locomotive to be turned for the journey north. Departing Feilding we once again travel across the three deviations that formed part of the electrification of the North Island Main Trunk in the 1980s on our climb up to the central plateau. Passing through the once busy railway depot at Taihape in the age of steam, we experience the Turangarere horseshoe curve before going through Waiouru. After our train travels through Ohakune we cross the Hapuawhenua Viaduct, another notable electrification project. Horopito Motors is to our right before travelling through Pokaka. At Pokaka we crest the highest point of railway line in the country, before arriving into National Park where we are shuttled to our accommodation. Your accommodation tonight is the Park Hotel.
We encourage you to participate today in our Ride to Ruapehu optional activity. A late morning start gives you the time to relax in our National Park accommodation, we leave mid-morning and travel towards Whakapapa village, stopping here for a chance to do the Tawhai Falls walk – 20mins return. We then travel the remaining 8km to Whakapapa Village and head up the ‘Sky Waka’. Situated within the UNESCO dual world heritage Tongariro National Park, Sky Waka travels 1.8kms through one of the North Island’s most rugged and spectacular landscapes on Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu. Lunch can be purchased from one of the eateries atop Mt Ruapehu at the Knoll Ridge Chalet. We return to National Park early afternoon. oin fellow passengers as we enjoy a buffet meal and reflect on the tour, the activities, and the highlights of the trip. Always a jovial night filled with laughs, you will sit amongst the crew who are there to answer the curly questions and provide their experience and stories. A very enjoyable way to end our tour before returning to home the following day.
Our final day of the East & West ’22 tour has us retrace our steps from 13 days ago. Shortly after departing National Park we get our first glimpse of the township of Raurimu as we now head down the Raurimu Spiral. At the bottom of the spiral we continue to roll down from the plateau and down the Kakahi Bank, where we join the Whanganui River. North of Taumarunui we pass the northern connection of the Stratford – Okahukura Line at Okahukura, a once busy junction of freight and passenger services. The Poro-O- Tarao Tunnel signifies the divide of the King Country and the mighty Waikato region as we roll down to Te Kuiti, our next stop. Views of Mt Pirongia fill our window to the east as we travel the rolling countryside and peat swamps of south Waikato before arriving into Hamilton. After a short stop at Hamilton we follow the Waikato river through Ngaruawahia and the Taupiri gorge, before passing through more swampland in the northern Waikato region. Pokeno sees us start the climb up the Whangarata Bank to Pukekohe and the end of our tour. A late afternoon arrival at Pukekohe. Auckland metro connections are available here to Papakura and onward to the city.

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