New Zealand Railway Tour
New Zealand offers many superb train journeys, many of which we will include on this rail adventure. Traverse through the Central North Island onboard the Northern Explorer; journey on the world-renowned Tranz Alpine from Christchurch through the majestic Southern Alps to Greymouth on the West Coast and experience the Taieri Gorge Railway which features engineering wonders through the hinterlands of Dunedin. We also make stops private railways, perfect for all train enthusiasts.
Day 1 Monday 12 October 2019 – HOME CITIES TO WELLINGTON (D)
This morning we depart Hamilton (or Auckland by prior arrangement) on the Northern Explorer train for a full day scenic rail journey through the heart of the North Island to Wellington. Enroute pass through picturesque farming country and forests. A highlight will be the climb up the famous Raurimu Spiral, which was a masterpiece of 19th century railway engineering. See rural towns and villages, the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and the sea views as you travel down the Kapiti Coast into Wellington. On arrival in Wellington, we’ll be met by our touring coach and driver and will be transferred to our accommodation. Tonight we’ll enjoy a group dinner at the hotel.
Accommodation: James Cook Grand Chancellor Hotel, Wellington – 2 nights
Day 2 Tuesday 13 October 2020 – WELLINGTON (BD)
Today we enjoy a rail journey to the town of Featherston on the local Wairarapa line, which passes the 8.8km long Rimutaka Tunnel. Here we’ll pay a visit to the fascinating Fell Locomotive Museum and discover an abundance of rail history and technology, including the H199, the only locomotive of its type in the world. Following this, we travel via coach a short way to Upper Hutt, where we’ll visit the eclectic collection of the Silver Stream Railway, and enjoy a ride on a diesel electric hauled goods train and an ex Public Works Department steam train (Barclay 1749)before travelling back to Wellington by coach, arriving in the late afternoon. Tonight we’ll enjoy a group dinner at the hotel.
Day 3 Wednesday 14 October 2020 – WELLINGTON TO BLENHEIM (BD)
This morning board the Interislander for a journey described as, “one of the most spectacular ferry rides in the world”. Journey across the Cook Strait to Picton, then on arrival reboard the coach for a short drive to Blenheim. After stopping for lunch in Blenheim (own cost) we board the little narrow-gauge Riverside Railway from Brayshaw to Omaka. Here visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre home to a collection of military aircraft from both World Wars, displayed in brilliantly realistic dioramas created by the magic of Weta Workshop and WingNut Films, including Sir Peter Jackson’s own WW1 aircraft and artefact collection. Dinner tonight is included at our hotel.
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Marlborough, Blenheim
Day 4 Thursday 15 October 2020 – BLENHEIM TO CHRISTCHURCH (BD)
Today depart for a scenic drive to Christchurch. On the way, we at the town of Reefton to visit a railway heritage group and view their stationary R-class Fairlie locomotive. Take some time in the town to have lunch and explore, before we continue the journey south. Next, stop at Waikari to embark on an exclusive private charter of a vintage railcar on the historic Weka Pass Railway. Travel on the 12.8 kilometre scenic line through stunning limestone formations, down the escarpment to the Canterbury Plain. This round trip is an hour in total, and it showcases the exceptional beauty of the Waikari and Waipara areas. Following this, continue onto Christchurch. Dinner tonight is at the hotel’s restaurant.
Accommodation: Quality Elms Hotel, Christchurch – 2 nights
Day 5 Friday 16 October 2020 – CHRISTCHURCH (B)
Hit by devastating earthquakes in 2011 and 2012, Christchurch lost many of its heritage buildings and churches. However, it is being rebuilt and the city is as vibrant as ever, with its open air markets and the innovative Cardboard Cathedral. Start the day with a half-day city tour with our first stop being the Ferrymead Heritage Park, an early 1900s (Edwardian) township complete with its own school, church, jail, railway station and more. Next, visit the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, the national museum for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and New Zealand military aviation. Set on the site of a former air base at Wigram, this is home to a collection of aircraft telling the story of military aviation in New Zealand. More than just planes, it’s also about the people who crewed and serviced them. From pre-World War I, through the formation of the RNZAF in the 1930s, and then World War II to the present day, the mostly original aircraft are supported by displays and other artefacts that bring the airman’s experience to life. While here we enjoy a fully-guided ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour delving into the Collections areas. Dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Day 6 Saturday 17 October 2020 – CHRISTCHURCH TO FOX GLACIER (BD)
Today we have a full day of railway highlights and changing landscapes. An early start this morning as we board the Tranz Alpine train to Arthurs Pass, a scenic rail journey across the fertile Canterbury Plains and into the heart of the mighty Southern Alps. Travel across towering viaducts, through spectacular gorges and river valleys and into the lush forest of Arthurs Pass National Park. Our coach will meet us in Arthurs Pass, and we make our way to the popular heritage park, Shantytown. Here, there will be time to enjoy lunch and explore the living museum. Take a ride on the vintage steam train and experience gold panning in the alluvial streams that flow through the area. Departing, travel by coach along the scenic West Coast to arrive in Fox Glacier in the early evening. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.
Accommodation: Heartland Hotel Fox Glacier
Day 7 Sunday 18 October 2020 – FOX GLACIER TO QUEENSTOWN (BD)
Today we enjoy a day of ever-changing spectacular coastal, rainforest, and alpine scenery. The journey along the West Coast features native rainforest, wetlands, bush-fringed lakes, sand dunes and surf-pounded shingle beaches. At Haast head in-land over the Haast Pass, the lowest of the South Island mountain passes crossing the Southern Alps. Once over the Pass the scenery changes dramatically as the road descends past the waters of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea and into Central Otago. Continue past stone fruit orchards and through the rock hewn Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown stopping enroute at the historic gold-mining town of Arrowtown. Dinner is included in the hotel restaurant.
Accommodation: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Lakefront, Queenstown – 2 nights
Day 8 Monday 19 October 2020 – QUEENSTOWN (BD)
Today is at leisure. Queenstown has a plethora of optional sightseeing activities available from jet-boating on the thrilling Shotover Jet; a jet-boat excursion along the scenic and remote Dart River; winery tours to the premier Central Otago wineries; 4WD tours into unforgettable Skippers Canyon; scenic flights; fly-fishing or if you dare – bungy jumping or tandem sky-diving! Extra cost for optional sightseeing excursions. We re-group this evening for an unforgettable steamship cruise. Steeped in Queenstown’s pioneering history, our experience commences with a cruise across Lake Wakatipu in the 1912 vintage steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. Disembark at Walter Peak High Country Farm, one of the first farms set up in the region and still a working farm. In the ambience of the Colonel’s Homestead, enjoy a delicious gourmet BBQ dinner which the chef will prepare in front of you. After dinner enjoy an entertaining brief farm experience including a sheep shearing demonstration. On the magical night-time cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a sing-a-long with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air on the moonlit decks as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.
Day 9 Tuesday 20 October 2020 – QUEENSTOWN TO DUNEDIN (BD)
After breakfast, farewell Queenstown and travel by coach to Dunedin, stopping on the way at Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead, the legacy of English immigrants Ernest and Hannah Hayes, who settled in Central Otago after their arrival in 1882. Explore the historic homestead and workshop and enjoy lunch (own cost) at leisure in the little café before moving on. Pukerangi is the departure point for an memorable experience on the Taieri Gorge Railway. The train negotiates the gorge with ease as it travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts. Natural wonders are blended with spectacular engineering on this journey; a wonderful example of the sheer determination of early railway pioneers. Arrive in the Scottish-influenced city of Dunedin at the renowned Dunedin Railway Station in the early evening. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.
Accommodation: The Victoria Hotel, Dunedin – 2 nights
Day 10 Wednesday 21 October 2020 – DUNEDIN (B)
Founded in 1848 by Scottish settlers Dunedin was envisaged as the “Edinburgh of the South”. The influence of its Scottish heritage is still strongly evident. It is a city of gracious dignity and charm, characterised by the permanence of many handsome stone buildings and historical monuments. This morning enjoy a tour of the city, highlights include the views of the harbour from the hill suburbs and the University of Otago with its historic blue stone buildings on the banks of the Leith River. Travel through the CBD along George and Princes Streets and through the Octagon which features the historic Town Hall and St Pauls Anglican Cathedral and a statue of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. Also included is a visit to the fascinating Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, which highlights the culture, history, character, technology and art of the Otago province. The museum is also home to the steam locomotive Josephine. Josephine began her career on the Dunedin-Port Chalmers Railway – one of two Double Fairlie locomotives brought from England to operate the railway in 1872. She went on to work at various other locations throughout the country, before being sent to the scrap yard 45 years later. She avoided the scrap heap, however, and, since the latter half of the 1920s, has been on display at the Museum. One of only a handful of surviving Double Fairlies left in the world, Josephine is a much-loved icon of the Museum. Wander the exhibits and enjoy lunch (own cost) in the museum’s café in your own time. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are free for you to enjoy. Perhaps stroll around to Speight’s Brewery (producing ale since 1876) for a brewery tour (extra cost).
Day 11 Thursday 22 October 2020 – DUNEDIN TO CHRISTCHURCH (BD)
On the last day of our adventure journey back to Christchurch by coach. On the way, stop at Oamaru, a gorgeous harbour town famous for some of New Zealand’s best 19th century architecture. Here, enjoy lunch in your own time (own cost) and pay a visit to Whitestone City in the Victorian precinct of Oamaru. Set in an original grain store that was built in 1882 and located within New Zealand’s most complete streetscape of Victorian commercial buildings, Whitestone City is a central heritage hub that facilitates interactive tours of the Victorian Heritage Precinct. Fit-out in the style of a colonial town, where activities, displays, merchants, and an array of people in costume provide a glimpse of what the street would have been like in the town’s early days. Live displays, video imaging and plenty of interaction will immerse visitors in a living, breathing past. The next stop is the Pleasant Point Railway, to enjoy an exclusively chartered ride on their impressive little steam train. Celebrate the completion of a successful tour with a farewell dinner on the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant, a colonial-style dining tram, incorporating fine food with city sightseeing on the reconstructed, historic tram network.
Accommodation: Quality Elms Hotel, Christchurch
Day 12 Friday 23 October 2020 – DEPART CHRISTCHURCH (B)
Farewell from New Zealand, today you will be transferred from the hotel to Christchurch Airport to connect with your homeward flight.