Summer Bookings for 2021/2022 are OPEN

Three Great Journeys

Duration: 3 Days+ (timetable dependent)

Price: Price On Request

Departure From: Auckland or Christchurch. Greymouth or Wellington departures are also available.

Departure Date: Check under Departures & Timetable

Tour Type: Independent Tour

Physical Grading: 2

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Travel New Zealand’s three great rail journeys, each a contrasting experience and an absolute delight of scenic beauty, taking you right through New Zealand’s heartland.

There really is no better way to see New Zealand than by train, how else can you sit back, relax and let the scenery come to you. This trip combines each of New Zealand’s famous scenic rail journeys, an inter-island ferry plus accommodation all packaged into a flexible tour that will suit every traveller.

There is no absolutely fixed itinerary with this tour. LOCO Journeys can tailor-make a journey that delivers you to your desired destinations, your time, budget and the train timetable.

Great New Zealand Rail Journeys Map

Your Scenic Rail Journeys

The three great rail journeys of New Zealand in this tour include:

The TranzAlpine

New Zealand’s premier great rail journey dissects the Southern Alps running East to West from Christchurch to Greymouth and return. A stunning day-trip whatever the season, you can be sure to enjoy the contrasts from the Canterbury Plains to the rugged West Coast punctuated by stunning alpine splendour. Choose to take an optional stop along the way in Arthur’s Pass and find your inner alpine adventurer.

The TranzAlpine offers two booking classes, Scenic Class and Scenic Plus. Please see below for further details on the inclusions.

Coastal Pacific

The other of New Zealand’s great South Island train trips is the half-day Coastal Pacific. Tracking the Pacific Ocean from Christchurch to Picton, you will enjoy the marvellous variety of captivating coastline, mountain views of the Kaikoura Ranges and the beautiful scenery of Marlborough and it’s famous wine-growing country. If you want to take more time on this leg of your three great journeys, consider extending your stay in Kaikoura, Blenheim or Picton, each worthy destinations in their own right.

The Coastal Pacific offers two booking classes, Scenic Class and Scenic Plus. Please see below for further details on the inclusions

Northern Explorer

The third of our famous three great rail journeys is the epic Northern Explorer. A tremendous captivating adventure that traverses the varied topography of New Zealand’s North Island. This amazing train ride from Auckland to Wellington and vice versa travels 680 kilometres, from dawn until dusk. Extending your journey and hopping off to visit Waitomo Caves or spending time in the Tongariro National Park are popular options.

The Northern Explorer train offers Scenic Class service only.

Northern Explorer

Three Great Rail Journeys Highlights

  • Enjoy this trio of great rail journeys, one-way or return depending on your tour preference.
  • Reserved seating on the train journeys
  • Licensed cafe for snacks, hot drinks and meals
  • Optional upgrade to Scenic Plus Class on TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific
  • Terrific audio commentary telling the stories of what you can see
  • Air Conditioning and heating for those cooler days
  • Disability Accessible
  • Enjoy the open-air viewing carriage for that photo opportunity
  • Interislander ferry journey across Cook Strait and Marlborough Sounds
  • Activities of your choice
  • Accommodation in overnight stops at a budget that suits you
Enjoying your NZ rail journey

TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific Booking Classes

The TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific offer two distinct service levels to their train journey. Both classes are worthy of what you pay, and both a thoroughly enjoyable way to make the most of your TranzAlpine train experience.

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.

Scenic Plus Class Experience

Inside the refined Scenic Plus Class carriages, it’s more than just a journey. You’ll be treated to fresh food, captivating commentary, great hosting and spectacular views, all delivered to your seat while you ease back and enjoy the journey. There really is no better way to discover New Zealand. 

At the heart of the Scenic Plus experience is the refined Scenic Plus Class carriage, with huge panoramic windows, glass shelves and skylights, bathing you in those gorgeous coastal and mountain landscapes. 

With freshly prepared food inspired by the fields that glide past your window and regional wines to match, you’ll be immersed in the flavours of our land. As you admire the views and savour the flavours, our Scenic Plus hosts will recount the stories and histories of the passing landscapes and landmarks. 

When you step off your great rail journeys, you will have experienced some of the best New Zealand has to offer. 

Scenic Plus Class

If your budget doesn’t stretch to enjoy Scenic Plus Class on each journey, we recommend you book Scenic Plus on just one leg to give yourself and your travelling companions that extra treat.

Please note, Scenic Plus Class experience is currently suspended.


Tour Options

By travelling independently, the team at LOCO Journeys will be able to completely customise your tour on these three great rail journeys. As long as it is possible with the timetable that Kiwirail operate, we can ensure you enjoy all the highlights.

Our suggested itinerary starts in either Auckland or Christchurch including a return journey on the TranzAlpine and a one-way journey on the Coastal Pacific and Northern Explorer.

This suggested itinerary can easily be amended, for example you can take a one-way journey on the TranzAlpine and continue down the West Coast to Queenstown, or start your journey in Wellington and take a return journey on the Northern Explorer. All options and combinations are possible, just ask us how. Click here to contact us.

Click here for alternate South Island tours.

Click here for alternate North Island tours.

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

Departure Dates & Timetable

TranzAlpine

  • TranzAlpine operating days are:
    • Saturday and Sunday from 16 October to 12 December 2021 and
    • Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 17 December until 02 May 2022.
  • There is one departure each way on operating days.
  • The TranzAlpine departs Christchurch at 08.15 arriving into Greymouth at 13.05.
  • The TranzAlpine departs Greymouth at 14.05 arriving in Christchurch at 18.31.
  • You must be at the station at least 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • Please note, Scenic Plus Class experience is currently suspended.

Coastal Pacific

  • Coastal Pacific operating days are:
    • Thursday and Friday from 28 October to 17 December 2021, and
    • Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 17 December until 02 May 2022 (excludes Xmas Day).
  • The Coastal Pacific departs Christchurch at 07.00 arriving into Picton at 12.40.
  • The Coastal Pacific departs Picton at 13.40 arriving in Christchurch at 19.20.
  • You must be at the station at least 20 minutes prior to departure.
  • Please note, Scenic Plus Class experience is not available for the duration of winter.

Northern Explorer

  • Departures operating until 02 May 2022
  • The Northern Explorer departs Auckland at 07.45 arriving into Wellington at 18.25 on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
  • The Northern Explorer departs Wellington at 07.55 arriving in Auckland at 18.50 on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
  • You must be at the station at least 30 minutes prior to departure.

Pricing Notes

  • Tour pricing will be dependent on your preferred itinerary including rail journeys, ferry, accommodation and activity inclusions. A final price will be quoted once all tour elements have been confirmed.
  • LOCO Journeys standard terms and conditions should be referred to here

Rail Journey Terms & Conditions

  • You can stop at selected stations and re-board at a later date free of charge, providing we are advised 3 days prior to travel.
  • All changes to departure date and route are free up to seven days before travel. Upgrade fees may apply
  • All changes to departure date and route within seven days of travel will incur a $25 change fee. Upgrade fees may apply.
  • All cancellations are free up to seven days before travel.
  • All cancellations within seven days of travel will incur a $25 change fee. This includes partial cancellations, such as removing passengers from a booking.
  • No changes can be made within 24 hours of travel.
  • Child fare is available for 2-17 years. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Infants under 2 are free when sitting on an adults lap.

Tour Itinerary

Southbound Itinerary: Day 1 - Auckland to Wellington
Your epic three great rail journeys begins on the Northern Explorer departing Auckland Strand Station. Leaving in the early hours you will cross Hobson Bay with views of the Waitemata Harbour and Rangitoto Island briefly to the left before traversing Auckland's southern suburbs. New Zealand's beautiful landscapes will unfold in front of you within thirty minutes of your departure and this is where the journey really begins. The train passes through the Waikato Plains, the King Country, before ascending onto the Central Plateau. Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains – Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu is a terrific highlight, a place of extremes and surprises where snow-blanketed fields, ancient lava flows and dense beech forests can be seen side by side. Here the train meets a series of steepling viaducts that bridge deep ravines carved by rivers forming on the slopes of Ruapehu. On the south-eastern edge of the Central Plateau the train crosses the dramatic barren landscape of the Rangipo Desert. The Desert Road is a notoriously dangerous stretch to travel by car, especially in winter but when travelling through the Central Plateau by train its a fascinating expanse of tussock land that gives magnificent unobstructed views of the imposing Mount Ruapehu. Rumbling into the Rangitikei District and the view of the Rangitikei River carving a path through sandstone cliffs is another of the highlights of the Northern Explorer train trip. As early evening approaches the train wends its way along the Kapiti Coast arriving into Wellington in time to explore the city’s nightlife and taste some gourmet delights at one of the many renowned eateries. If time is on your side and the timetable allows, be sure to consider taking overnight stops in popular destinations such as Waitamo Caves or Tongariro National Park, or extending your stay for additional nights in Wellington. Please request at the time of booking.
This morning we leave Te Ika-a-Maui the North Island and take to the water on the inter-island ferry crossing the Cook Strait to Picton. If ever a ferry trip was more like a cruise, this is it! Once you enter the sheltered Marlborough Sounds, you will instantly relax as your ferry crossing turns into a leisurely cruise through the narrow channels and the most wonderful gentle scenery. Your lunchtime arrival into Picton will allow you to stretch your legs for a short while before boarding the Coastal Pacific, the second of your three great New Zealand rail journeys. From Picton to Christchurch in the afternoon sun, the Coastal Pacific's journey along the South Island's north-east coast is one to savour. From craggy coastal cliffs and rocky outcrops to modern vineyards and rustic farmsteads, the Coastal Pacific cruises through the full spectrum of New Zealand culture and character. Throw in a healthy dose of seals, seagulls, dolphins and the occasional whale, and the Coastal Pacific train easily ranks as one of best days out in New Zealand. The Main North Line railway, on which the Coastal Pacific runs, began its journey as two separate railways - one heading north from Christchurch to Kaikoura and one heading south from Picton to Blenheim. When it came to connecting them together, from Parnassus in the south to Mirza in the north, the impenetrable Kaikoura mountain ranges forced the railway to the very edge of the world. Today, this sensational stretch along the Pacific Coast is the highlight of the Coastal Pacific journey. Here the Coastal Pacific voyages along New Zealand's wild coastlines, pressed against the sea by rugged cliffs that arise from the Pacific Ocean and continue climbing onward and upward to form the peaks of the Kaikoura mountains. It is pure magic, with New Zealand's best scenery, wildlife and engineering feats filling the windows as the Coastal Pacific winds around bend after bend after bend. And as the train skirts around secluded bays and across isolated beaches, have your camera ready because words cannot do justice to the beauty that unfolds. Eventually as you make your way back inland through many tunnels and bridges the train finds its way across the Waimakariri River and Canterbury Plains, arriving into Christchurch at 19.20. From Christchurch station, you will head to your chosen accommodation to relax and refect on another great day. Time allowing, we'd recommend consideration is given to taking overnight stops at Picton, Blenheim and Kaikoura to enjoy and delight in some of the many attractions this beautiful part of the world has to offer. LOCO Journeys can help you make the right choice.
An early start this morning and a return to Christchurch station for your 08.15 departure to Greymouth on the most famous of New Zealand's spectacular scenic rail journeys. Some would argue you've saved the best until last. The TranzAlpine begins its journey by roaming across the vast patchwork plains of Canterbury - one of New Zealand's primary agricultural regions. On the far side of the plains, you will arrive at Springfield where the Southern Alps rise from the plains like megalithic skyscrapers, creating a seemingly impenetrable barrier. For many years, Springfield was the end of the line with the Alps fo
LOCO Journeys recommends adding extra days or additional stops in some of the following loctions, timetable allowing: Auckland - make the most of the city sights // Otorohonga for Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton // National Park for Tongariro National Park adventures // Wellington to experience this great city // Picton to discover the Marlborough Sounds // Blenheim to enjoy some fabulous wine country // Kaikoura for spectacular marine life // Christchurch, extend your stay to enjoy the re-ermerging city // Arthur's Pass for alpine activities // Moana to go off grid at Lake Brunner // Greymouth and onward West Coast destinations, a truly wonderful and uniqe place. // Connecting flights can also be arranged to get you home.
You start your New Zealand train tour with a full day return excursion on the famous TranzAlpine. Your 08.15 departure will take you on arguably New Zealand's most spectacular scenic rail journeys. The TranzAlpine begins its journey by roaming across the vast patchwork plains of Canterbury - one of New Zealand's primary agricultural regions. On the far side of the plains, you will arrive at Springfield where the Southern Alps rise from the plains like megalithic skyscrapers, creating a seemingly impenetrable barrier. For many years, Springfield was the end of the line with the Alps forming a formidable blockade. Eventually a route to the West Coast through the Alps was agreed upon and construction began. This section between Springfield and the township of Arthur's Pass is considered a masterpiece of railway engineering and is the section for which the TranzAlpine is most famed. The route firstly heads north-east to join the Waimakariri River gorge. The aqua-blue river will appear and disappear out of your window several times as the TranzAlpine clings and climbs up the cliffs above it. During the ascent to the high plains of Craigieburn, there are 15 short tunnels and four dramatic viaducts, including the 72-metre high Staircase Viaduct. The most iconic views come at the far end of the Craigieburn Straight, where the high plains stretch out to give a stunning view of Mount Binser and the edges of Arthur's Pass National Park. Shortly after, the train meets again with the Waimakariri River and then crosses it to reach Arthur's Pass. This section is stunningly beautiful and is where the famous views of the TranzAlpine crossing the Waimakariri River are taken. From Arthur's Pass, the TranzAlpine descends through the 8.5km long Otira Tunnel. This landmark structure was the second longest tunnel in the world when it was completed in 1923. Its historic completion also marked the completion of the Midland Line and the opening of the railway line from Christchurch to Greymouth. The Otira Tunnel marks the transition from Canterbury to West Coast and the landscape becomes remarkably different on the far side. The weather is typically wetter and the scenery more green and vibrant. The TranzAlpine follows a series of river valleys as it descends to Greymouth starting with the Otira River and the Taramakau River. During these stretches, you are nestled intimately between the mountainous hills with the rugged, broad, riverbeds meandering alongside the tracks. At Inchbonnie the TranzAlpine loops back on itself to head around the lush lake valleys to Moana, on the banks of the spectacular Lake Brunner. The TranzAlpine then joins the Arnold River valley which spills out into the Grey River valley on its final stretch before finally pulling into Greymouth in perfect time for lunch. If you are undertaking a return journey, your train departs Greymouth one hour later returning to Christchurch by early evening. Additional stops you can consider when travelling on the TranzAlpine include Arthur's Pass to find your inner alpine adventurer or Moana for some time at Lake Brunner. If you want to spend some extra time on the West Coast in Greymouth or destinations such as Hokitika and Punakaiki before returning to Christchurch, please let LOCO Journeys know at the time of booking.
It's an early start and a return to Christchurch station marking the second of your great New Zealand rail journeys. The Coastal Pacific isn’t just a scenic New Zealand train trip, when combined with the Interislander Ferry it is the perfect way to connect between Christchurch, Kaikoura, Blenheim, Picton and Wellington. Travelling north your train traverses the Canterbury Plains across the Waimakariri River before finally finding its way to the Pacific Coast at Hundalee. As the train skirts around secluded bays and across isolated beaches, have your camera ready because words cannot do justice to the beauty that unfolds. this sensational stretch along the Pacific Coast is the highlight of the Coastal Pacific journey. Here the Coastal Pacific voyages along New Zealand's wild coastlines, pressed against the sea by rugged cliffs that arise from the Pacific Ocean and continue climbing onward and upward to form the peaks of the Kaikoura mountains. It is pure magic, with New Zealand's best scenery, wildlife and engineering feats filling the windows as the Coastal Pacific winds around bend after bend after bend. The train takes a pause at Kaikoura where we'd highly recommend you break your journey and take in a whale watch experience. Your journeys continues into the late morning and after leaving the coast, the train passes the intriguing salt ponds of Lake Grassmere, rustic farmsteads and the vineyards of the famous Marlborough wine growing region. Another stop at Blenheim preceeds the relatively short climb to Picton arriving at 12.40. It's only lunchtime but there's another wonderful 4 hours of travel ahead of you on the inter-island ferry which will transport you to Wellington on the southern shores of the North Island. Unlike other sea crossings, as you will discover, you will instantly relax as your ferry journey turns into a leisurely cruise through the narrow channels and the most wonderful gentle scenery of the sheltered Marlbourough Sounds. Once into the open sea of Cook Strait, a swell can build but before long you will enter Wellington harbour and have this wonderful city opening up in front of you. Your mid-afternoon arrival will allow plenty of time for you to explore New Zealand's capital further and an extra couple of days will allow you to tick off all the highlights such as Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum or the famous Wellington Cable Car. Time allowing, we'd recommend consideration is also given to taking overnight stops at Picton, Blenheim and Kaikoura to enjoy and delight in some of the many attractions this beautiful part of the world has to offer. LOCO Journeys can help you make the right choice.
Today you will journey from Wellington to Auckland on the last of your three great New Zealand rail journeys. The longest of the three rail trips and arguably the most epic overland journey the country can offer, you will travel 680 km right through the heart of New Zealand's north island. It's an early start departing Wellington grand central station at 07.55, you will be travelling for almost 11 hours with your schduled arrival time into Auckland being 18.50. There are short pauses along the way at the different station stops and many passengers will take the opportunity to stop for a night or two to break the journey and extend their stay. Your journey starts winding northbound through the Wellington hills and wends its way along the Kapiti Coast with views of Kapiti Island across the water. It can be a beautiful start to your journey. You then enter the Rangitikei District and view the Rangitikei River carving a path through sandstone cliffs - another early highlight of your train trip. From here, the train starts to climb up onto the Central Plateau, a fascinating expanse of tussock land that gives magnificent unobstructed views of the imposing Mount Ruapheu. The train continues north crossing the dramatic barren landscape of the Rangipo Desert and on across a series of steepling viaducts that bridge deep ravines carved by rivers forming on the side of Raupehu. The highlight of this region is the Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains - Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu, a place of extremes and surprises where snow-blanketed fields, ancient lava flows and dense beech forests can be seen side by side. The journey is broken with a pause at National Park station, New Zealand's highest elevated station at 807m above sea level. Shortly after leaving you will traverse the famous Raurimu Spiral which almost instantly allows the railway to descend 139 metre heigh difference and enter the King Country. The final part of your journey sees you travel the lush Waikato Plains, at times following the might Waikato River, and finally entering Auckland's southern suburbs and finishing at Auckland's Strand Station in time to explore the city's nightlife. If time is on your side and the timetable allows, be sure to consider taking overnight stops in popular destinations such as Waitamo Caves or Tongariro National Park, or extending your stay for additional nights in Auckland. Please request at the time of booking.
LOCO Journeys recommends adding extra days or additional stops in some of the following loctions, timetable allowing: Arthur's Pass to find your alpine spirit // Moana for time by Lake Brunner // Greymouth for a West Coast experience // Christchurch to rediscover this amazing city // Kaikoura, gateway to the Pacific Ocean // Blenheim to enjoy Marlborough's famous wine country // Picton allowing access to the Marlborough Sounds // Wellington, NZ's 'cool little capital' // National Park for mountain walks and high-tea // Otorohonga to visit the Waitomo Caves // Auckland - city sights and Waiheke Island all await your arrival. // Connecting flights can also be arranged to get you home.

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