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The Best New Zealand Train Journeys to combine with your coach tour

Sometimes you can't quite get there on a coach. Combine your coach tour with a New Zealand train journey to see some of the best views in a country known for its spectacular views.

Taieri Gorge Railway, Dunedin

Thanks to smart engineering, these journeys allow you to traverse snowy alpine passes, remote national parks, volcanic fields and windswept coastlines. It's all about the comfort of a reclining seat and wide views through panoramic windows!

Maximise the scenery you’ll see with one of these rail travel experiences.

The Northern Explorer:

Travelling through the heart of the country, The Northern Explorer travels between Wellington and Auckland. Heading north you'll traverse the rugged Kapiti Coast cross the plains of the Manawatu and wind through the tightly packed hills of the Rangitikei where you'll pass over many spectacular viaducts. Then it's across The Volcanic Plateau before you traverse the lush farmland of the Waikato and on to Auckland. 

The route across the Volcanic Plateau offers great views of Tongariro National Park, home to Mordor from the Lord of the Rings trilogies. Ancient lava flows, native beech forest and deep river gorges can be spotted along with the park’s three active volcanoes (Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngauruhoe). You’ll also go through the astounding engineering feat that is the Raurimu Spiral.

Passengers can choose to sit around tables, or in recliners that can be rotated to face whichever direction the train is travelling. The carriage windows are non-tinted, non-reflective glass — optimal for taking pictures as you travel. Overhead HD screens keep track of your journey while an automated commentary is available via headphones at your seat.

We recommend: Travelling in a southbound direction, starting in Auckland.

Driving Creek Railway:

Located in the Coromandel, this railway trip traverses a narrow gorge and provides a thrilling insight into the history of the area. Originally, the railway was developed by an acclaimed potter, Barry Brickell as a means of transporting clay to his kiln.

The carriages journey through regenerating kauri forest and native bush ending with soaring views of the Hauraki Gulf and surrounding islands. You’ll also see interesting pottery sculptures and outdoor art lining the tracks as you go.

We recommend: Taking the time to see the Driving Creek Wildlife Sanctuary on any tour that includes The Coromandel Peninsula.

The Forgotten World Railway Adventures:

Travelling in specially adapted golf carts along decommissioned railway lines, you'll cross bridges and pass through tunnels to faded ghost towns. Visit the Whangamomona, a thriving pre-war town that declared itself an Independent Republic in the late 1980’s. The population is only 40 people but the Republic is a must-see destination / experience.

As you travel, you’ll learn about the pioneers who built this line, allowing for jobs such as coal mining and farming, only viable due to the railway. You’ll go through abandoned train stations, decaying with age all of which add to the eerie ‘apocalypse now’ experience. Choose between one and four-day tours.

We recommend: Spending at least two days to get the most out of this experience.

The TranzAlpine:

From Christchurch to Greymouth (or vice versa) the TranzAlpine is considered one of the world's greatest scenic railway journeys. Cross the Canterbury Plains, travelling through the river valleys and gorges of the Waimakariri. Then ascend the Southern Alps and take in the sheer grandeur of these dramatic snow covered peaks. The track then descends through native beech rainforest, before you arrive on the coast in the town of Greymouth.

Huge panoramic windows and an open-air viewing car enable better photography and passengers can choose to sit one way or around a table. As with the Northern Explorer, HD screens track the journey while at-seat audio commentary is available throughout.

We recommend: Taking your time and choosing to stay overnight along the way.

The Oamaru Seasider:

Looping around the Otago Harbour before climbing the slopes to Port Chalmers, this train traverses the Clifftops with breathtaking views of the rugged Otago coastline. You’ll see spectacular Blueskin Bay and the surrounding inlets, beaches and hills. The seasider also makes a stop in Moeraki, home to the unique Moeraki boulders, before continuing through coastal farmland.

As you travel, a fascinating commentary is given about the history of the area and its farming community. This trip is a ‘must-do’ if you're a rail enthusiast.

We recommend: hopping off in Moeraki to visit the Moeraki boulders.

The Taieri Gorge Railway:

Leaving from the famous Dunedin Train Station this journey travels through the spectacular Taieri River Gorge offering an insight into the history of pioneers who built the line as well as well as yet more stunning views.

Travel through the city's south end before arriving at the junction of Wingatui where the train begins its lazy trip into the Taieri Gorge. This route has a long and fascinating history which you’ll hear about as you go.  
Part of what makes this journey so unique is the opportunity to disembark at specific scenic locations for photos and to stretch your legs.

We recommend: Taking some time to explore the renowned Dunedin Railway station before beginning this train journey