When planning the New Zealand trip with New Zealand Self Drive Tours I asked them include two railway journeys. One was the Pacific Coast with KiwiRail, from Christchurch to Picton and the other was the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth.
The DH and I started our month of roadtripping New Zealand with the Pacific Coast trip. We loved it. And so it was, two weeks to the day since the DH aka Sleeve Notes and I had set out from Christchurch Station to Picton we were back at the station with our son. I just love railway stations and trains. And we had not seen this part of New Zealand before so I was a bit like a child in a sweet shop and even better, my son was there to share the journey. It was his first full day in New Zealand and he started his adventure travelling across the mountains of the South Island on the TranzAlpine with KiwiRail.
The son is a massive fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. I had planned, with the help of Self Drive Tours, for the two weeks he was with us to be as LOTR related as possible. And what a start. The scenery is just magnificent.
This train was much busier than the last trip – two big tour companies had booked out most of the train. This meant that one of the two open air observation carriages was jammed packed, so we made our way to the second one at the front of the train which was less busy. A good way to blow away the jet lag. And of course when it gets too cold (it does in winter) and when you have to retreat inside for part of the journey – the seating on Kiwi Rail is comfortable and the windows are extra large – so you get an excellent view.
For an introduction to New Zealand this was the best way to start his two week adventure. The contrasting scenery takes your breath away. More spectacular views (yes 24 year old young men can be impressed with views – this is New Zealand) were to come during the road trip. As he said, you never know what you will see next.
For most of our four weeks we were road tripping. And while New Zealand is the ultimate road trip destination drivers need a rest and an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the ride. And this is the best way to do it. You will need to book tickets in advance. While our first train was not full, and not currently running due to the earthquake, the second train was. All seats are reserved so if you just show up to go it is likely you won’t get a seat. Both are lengthy journeys and you will probably need food. While some people brought picnics with them there are excellent snacks (the hearty brunch wrap was my choice) available on board. Don’t miss out on the Kapiti ice cream. The Menu is here.
If you are planning to visit New Zealand, I urge you to take the train at some point during your travels. On my next visit I may just jump aboard the Northern Explorer from Wellington to Auckland. Here Flying and Travel shares their experience of the trip. Yeah, I need to go soon.