Train Travel New Zealand

Relax and Enjoy the Scenery

Buying a ticket to train travel New Zealand is a popular way of experiencing the natural beauty of the countryside. When you travel by train, you get the best elements of a scenic drive without having to worry about the actual “driving” part.

You get to see and experience a lot more from a train than out the window of a plane. The train networks that criss-cross New Zealand are perfectly suited for visitors to take in a lot of natural sights in a short time period.

North Island Train Trips

The Overlander is the most well known scenic train journey in the North Island, running from Wellington to Auckland. Since these two destinations are typically on many a New Zealand tourist lists anyway, it makes sense to take in the countryside on the way. The Overlander runs on a daily basis throughout the warm season (late September through to the 1st of May) and three days a week for the rest of the year.

South Island Train Trips

Train - Cass, South Island - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
Photographer: Roy Sinclair, South Island

The TranzAlpine trip from Christchurch to Greymouth is one of the most beautiful train adventures you can undertake in New Zealand. This train journey takes you from one coast of the South Island to the other, taking you through the Southern Alps on the way.

This trip allows you to experience the diversity of the New Zealand landscape, from the farming plains to the bushlands to the alpine regions. It’s also not uncommon to spot a Kea on this trip - a native New Zealand bird which is the world’s only alpine parrot.

If you only have time for one train travel New Zealand trip while you’re in NZ, make it the TranzAlpine.

TranzAlpine Train Arthurs Pass, South Island - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
TranzAlpine, Arthurs Pass, South Island - Photographer: Roy Sinclair

The Scenic Rail Pass

TranzScenic, the company the runs these train journeys, offer a free-for-all pass that allows you unlimited access to all their train journeys for either 7 or 14 days. This includes the Overlander, the TranzAlpine and the TranzCoastal (from Christchurch to Picton along the Pacific coast of the south island, where you can catch glimpses of native wildlife like penguins and dolphins).

It’s a good money saving option if you want to see a lot of the country by train.

TranzAlpine, South Island - Photographer: Roy Sinclair
TranzAlpine, South Island - Photographer: Roy Sinclair

Train Travel within Cities

Train travel New Zealand is an effective means of public transport in some NZ cities - but in others it’s a bit of a waste of time, or non-existent. In Christchurch, for instance - the largest South island city - there are no trains for getting around town. Public transport is essentially limited to buses (but the bus system is very effective).

In Wellington, catching trains around the city is an option with the Tranz Metro network. But in general, Kiwis tend to rely more on buses than trains for getting around within urban areas.

Owning your own car is also a point of pride in New Zealand culture, so many Kiwis would much rather drive than take public transport.

Auckland also has a public train system, but it's less effective than the Wellington one and less used by locals.

If you would like a nostalgic scenic tour through part of Auckland on a restored tram, take a ride on the Auckland Dockline Tram, after 55 years the services of the Dockline Tram started up again on 6th August 2011.

Train News and Updates

The vintage Kingston Flyer steam tourist train is back on track! Travelling fourteen kilometres along the original branch line running from Kingston to Fairlight on rails laid in the 1870s is an experience that will take you back fifty years!