Southern Rail Highlights from Wellington

Duration: 11 Days

Price: from NZ$6,299

Departure From: Wellington

Departure Date: Monthly from September 2023

Tour Type: Escorted Tour

Meal Plan: B&B and selected meals

Physical Grading: 2/5


Join us on this guided southern rail scenic tour across the Cook Strait, past the mighty Southern Alps and through the Wild West Coast to beautiful Queenstown.

This beautifully crafted southern rail and coach tour offers the best of New Zealand’s southern rail journey including stunning one-way trips aboard the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine trains.

Beginning with a taste of New Zealand’s cool little capital Wellington, you are soon aboard the Inter-islander crossing the Cook Strait to what locals call The Mainland. A tasty wine tour experience in the famous Marlborough vineyards acts as a perfect precursor to your day aboard your first southern rail journey, the Coastal Pacific via Kaikoura where you overnight, and then on to Christchurch.

The second half of your journey takes you through the Southern Alps aboard the fabled TranzAlpine southern rail train before arriving on New Zealand’s wonderful West Coast. A night by the thunderous sea in Punakaiki is a highlight, before traversing the windy roads of Westland and Glacier Country. An overnight stop in Franz Josef allows you to feel at one in the heart of New Zealand’s native forests and then onward to the Southern Lakes and the absolute gem of a destination that is Queenstown, framed by the fabulous Lake Wakatipu and the stunning Remarkable mountains.

Southern Rail Highlights Tour

Southern Rail Highlights Rail Tour Highlights

  • Sip world-class wine among the vines in Marlborough
  • Experience the Southern Alps by world-renowned TranzAlpine train journey
  • Whales, dolphins, and sea life – spend a day by the ocean in Kaikōura
  • Discover Haast Pass on a unique Kiwi-style Road Trip adventure
  • Uncover the home of the sacred pounamu, mesmerising blue lakes, and ancient forests on the West Coast.
  • Be captivated by the storytelling of your Tour Director throughout your Southern Rail Highlights journey
Your Southern Rail Highlights journey starts with a stunning inter-island cruise across Cook Strait

Southern Rail Highlights Rail Tour Optional Excursions

Each option on is highly recommended to make the most of your Southern Rail highlights tour. Ask at the time of booking.

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

Punting on the Avon – Enjoy the peace and tranquility of punting on the Avon River through the heart of Christchurch

Milford Sound Day Tour – Add New Zealand’s most popular day out to your trip and explore the beauty of Fiordland and the irrepressible Milford Sound.

TSS Earnslaw Dinner Cruise – Voyage across the pristine Lake Wakatipu with its stunning mountain backdrop for a sumptuous BBQ dinner at Walter Peak and a steamship cruise.

South Island New Zealand
Dinner at Walter Peak and a steamship cruise – An optional extra

For a detailed itinerary, departure details, and booking conditions, please see below.

Departure Dates from Wellington:

  • 30 September 2023
  • 10 October 2023 – SOLD OUT
  • 28 November 2023
  • 12 December 2023
  • 30 January 2024
  • 27 February 2024
  • 5 March 2024
  • 26 March 2024
  • 9 April 2024

All Departure Dates Are Guaranteed to Operate

Click here for alternate New Zealand tours.

Tour Inclusions

  • Coastal Pacific train journey
  • TranzAlpine train journey
  • Inter-island ferry cruise
  • Services of our Experienced Tour Director
  • Christchurch City Tour
  • Marlborough Wine Experience
  • West Coast Treetop Aerial Walkway
  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk
  • Cook Strait Ferry Crossing
  • Private Coaches to reach regional sightseeing
  • 10 Breakfasts, 3 Dinners and 2 meals on the train
  • 3.5 – 4 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 traveller
  • Price is subject to change unless paid in full
  • Full terms and conditions will be advised at the time of booking.
  • Maximum group size of 35

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 | Wellington (D)
Kia Ora! Welcome to Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city! Wellington is known for its world-class dining, great coffee and eccentric shops. After checking into your hotel and reading your welcome letter from your Tour Director, head out and explore all that Wellington has to offer. This is the perfect opportunity to get cultured at Te Papa Museum or grab a drink at one of the many quirky bars on Cuba Street. You may even fancy a ride on the cable car! After an exciting day on the town, your tour will officially begin as you join your fellow travellers and Tour Director at this evening’s welcome reception.
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, enjoy a hearty seafaring breakfast on board. Around midday, you will be spoiled with captivating harbour views as you enter the Queen Charlotte Sound. Admire the beauty of this coastal paradise as you arrive at the gateway of the South Island, Picton. Step off the Interislander Ferry and join your next world-class experience onboard a Marlborough Wine Tour!
After enjoying a delightful breakfast, the morning is yours to explore. You’ll hear the hoot of the Coastal Pacific train as it pulls in, to bring you on yet another scenic experience. This time – along the rugged coastline of the South Island. On this train journey, you will glide across remote beaches, between mountains and sea, on a timeless voyage of breathtaking beauty. Keep an eye out for the fur seals lazing on the rocks! Once in Kaikoura, the evening will be yours to enjoy some iconic kai moana (seafood) either at the sublime Sudima Kaikoura or at one of the popular restaurants.
Today will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You will have the opportunity to go whale watching! Enjoy today’s optional thrill of an up-close encounter with the world's largest-toothed predator, the Giant Sperm Whale, who live in the waters of Kaikoura year-round. Want to get an aerial experience of the wildlife? Why not request a plane ride to capture the true grandeur of it all? Whether you have decided to go whale watching or swimming with the dolphins and seals, we're sure you will be feeling peckish. Head to the hub of the action on the main street 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 journey will continue, once again, on the Coastal Pacific Train en route to Christchurch, or “The Garden City”. The spectacular scenery won’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.
Christchurch, the hub for South Island exploration, is also a wonderful city that blends modern architecture and technology with the existing 19th-century Anglican ‘gothic revival’ architectural influence. Often remembered for its earthquake in 2011, the city is rebuilding itself as a multi-cultural haven. So, without further delay, jump on the historic tram to learn the history, tales, and culture of Ōtautahi Christchurch. Enjoy your free time as you explore the Arts Centre, Quake City Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery, and Botanical Gardens. Ride on the city tram to uncover Christchurch's great history, or relax as you punt on the Avon River. There is also a multitude of delicious cafés tucked into quaint side streets we're sure you will love. If you are in the mood for something different, set off for Akaroa, an ‘incroyable’ French coastal settlement just an hour and half from the city centre. Dinner awaits as you join your fellow travellers once again to tell them about the exciting places you have discovered.
The moment has come to experience the world-famous TranzAlpine scenic train journey through the Southern Alps, emerging in the West Coast! On this fantastic escape, you will see epic vistas, soar on the edges of the ice fed Waimakariri River, traverse through the Great Divide, and experience ever changing landscapes. The natural scenery isn’t the only marvel though. The TranzAlpine passes through the Otira Tunnel, a true engineering marvel of 100 years! Once you arrive at the West Coast, a private coach will take you even further off the beaten track to Punakaiki, where you will explore curious limestone rock formations and blowholes.
This morning you start your West Coast adventure by visiting one of the South Island’s most popular activities– the Treetop Aerial Walkway. This elevated adventure will get you acquainted with the locals – the ancient Rimu and Kamahi trees. After your sky-high experience, continue south into Glacier Country. Franz Josef Glacier is quite special in that it survives in the warm coastal rainforest temperatures. With a short walk to a viewpoint, you'll get a fantastic view of the vast valley, as well as a sneak peek of Franz Josef Glacier itself. If you would prefer to get up close, we recommend booking an optional helicopter flight. This will ensure you are getting the best possible view of this natural wonder. After your glacial experience and checking into the hotel, you’ll have some free time to enjoy Franz Josef town. Indulge in a helicopter flight, nature walk or tap into some natural tranquillity at the local hot pools.
Today you will be exploring the mountainous Haast Pass. With changing landscapes around every bend, this journey to Queenstown will be one of the most scenic drives you may ever take. Marvel at the beaches, crystal blue lakes and rivers, mountain peaks, lush vineyards, charming plains and stunning glaciers as your Tour Director guides you between local hidden gems. Emerging on the other side of the pass, explore a local fruit hotspot before exploring the cobblestone streets of the historic goldmining settlement of Arrowtown. After an exciting plunge into the history of this gold rush village, you will arrive in the world-famous resort town of Queenstown!
Enjoy a free day to explore everything Queenstown has to offer. Today, we highly recommend you join an excursion to the 8th Wonder of the World - it truly is a remarkable experience. Milford Sounds/ Piopiotahi is a scenic escape approximately three hours from Queenstown. The natural landscape will engulf you as you waltz through plunging valleys and towering peaks. Take this encounter to the next level by booking a return visit by plane or helicopter and soar like the Piopio (ancient bird) back to Queenstown. Whether you’ve decided to hop aboard the steamship lake cruise on the iconic TSS Earnslaw, or marvel at the power of ancient roaring rivers - tonight you have a free evening to indulge in Queenstown's exciting nightlife. Sip cocktails and indulge in the sparkling views of Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown truly has something for everyone. Personalise your day to be as active or relaxed as you’d like. Whether it’s exploring Walter Peak on a horse trekking adventure, joining the historic steamship across Lake Wakatipu or sipping wine in Gibbston Valley, there is no shortage of activities to delight your senses. This evening, is your ‘final hurrah’ as you enjoy a farewell dinner. This is the perfect time to reminisce and share photos and phone numbers with your new friends.
Your journey will end after enjoying a final breakfast with your fellow travellers including a transfer to the airport. Not ready to leave? Reach out to our Tteam and we'll pre-organise your extended stay.

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