16 Jan The Fine Art of Travelling by Train
By train is perhaps the most refined way to travel. The slower rhythm, the complete immersion in a landscape, the ability to see vistas inaccessible to other forms of transport… travelling by train is truly about the journey.
There are some incredible rail journeys on offer in New Zealand. Pass through the remote reaches of world heritage-listed parks, across dramatic volcanic terrain, along rugged clifftops with the ocean stretching out beneath you, above braided river valleys and alpine passes, and across breathtakingly tall, narrow bridges.
Thanks to New Zealand’s small land mass, you’re able to experience an extraordinary variety of contrasting landscapes on one trip. Here are the two best:
It traverses the South Island, travelling coast to coast from Christchurch in the East to Greymouth in the West. The journey snakes across the lush farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, floats alongside the ice-cold Waimakariri River, and past swathes of vibrant purple lupin blooming in the countryside.
You’ll pass through ancient viaducts and tunnels which were built during the gold mining era, then climb up into the the mighty Southern Alps, surrounded by snow-covered peaks and alpine valleys. The final leg sees you descend down the mountains into thick stands of native forest before reaching the Tasman Sea. The view changes just about at every turn – this is a 4.5 hour visual feast.
Passing Lake Sarah in the winter
The Northern Explorer
Most tourists to New Zealand visit her two largest cities, travelling from one to the other by plane or car. But if time allows you to, we recommend stepping off the typical tourist trail and stepping on to the Northern Explorer.
The Northern Explorer links capital city Wellington with cool, cosmopolitan Auckland by a 12-hour daytime journey through the volcanic heart of the North Island.
Crossing the Hapuawhenua Viaduct
Tongariro National Park, with her namesake mountain in the background
Your ever-changing backdrop includes virgin rainforest and rolling green farmland, breathtaking river gorges and rocky coastline, and the towering mountain trio of Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu. The journey also passes through 14 tunnels and over 25 bridges and thrilling viaducts, and traverses the famed engineering feat that is the Raurimu Spiral.
World Class Carriages
A fleet of state-of-the-art carriages were recently rolled out across New Zealand’s scenic rail services. The jewel in the crown of the modern, air-conditioned passenger cars are their huge panoramic side and roof windows – every seat in the car gets phenomenal views. The trains slow right down at the most spectacular spots to ensure you’re able to get the perfect snap – don’t forget your camera!
Each train has a superb observation carriage at the rear of each train, surrounded by glass on three sides, as well as open-air viewing decks. (Compared to Singapore, even the clouds in New Zealand are a sight to behold!)
Both trains have a licensed onboard café; and as you soak up scenes that belong in an oil painting and sip on an award-winning wine, you can also listen to an informative commentary on your personal headset; hearing the stories and history of the landmarks you are gliding through.