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Is it possible to travel between New Zealand towns and cities by train?

When abroad, I always like to use rail as much as I can because train lines offer an opportunity to see scenery you otherwise wouldn't see because often train lines are more remote than roads; not to mention more comfortable than driving or travelling by bus.

Is it practical to travel via rail in New Zealand, how frequent are services? I would imagine there is better rail infrastructure on the North Island, how is it on the South Island?

Also, what sort of cost as I looking at, and how fast are trains in New Zealand, are speeds comparable to road travel?



  • edited 8:56PM
    I wouldn't say that train travel is non~existent in NZ, but it may as well be. There are only three major train trips you can take. Auckland to/from Wellington (once a day, several times a week, at least 3 hours slower than coach). Picton to/from Christchurch (very scenic on a fine day), and it probably runs the day after/before the other one. Wellington to Picton is via the Cook Straight ferry. Finally... Christchurch to/from Greymouth across and through the Southern Alps.

    You can buy a ticket that allows you to stop off on the way on all legs, but only the first one is likely to be useful. It's also the only one that differs remarkably, in places, from where coaches travel.

    Assuming you will be flying in and out of Auckland (depending on where you're coming from) I would suggest you could consider heading to Greymouth all the way on the train, stopping at the major tourist spots it affords, then doing some coach travel to get back to the train, but using coach for the return trip to Auckland and beyond. (Or flying some legs)

    googling "The Overlander" will get you into the rail network website, where you can compare prices. Use Naked Bus as one of the coach options for pricing.

    To summarise: train travel is not cheap (more expensive than air between Auckland and Wellington, as a general rule), is not quicker, is not daily, but is a comfortable way to travel for scenic purposes, but will not service all you should see of our beautiful country.
  • edited 8:56PM
    Yup NZ is not really well-covered with railways.

    I'm assuming you're into nature and would like to go into the off-beaten tracks. Well I've been to NZ before travelling by Stray bus, a hop-on hop-off bus. It didn't cover all the nature places, but it gets you to the places/towns where you can venture out further to the true sceneries. Usually all the beautiful places didn't 'stray' far from the Stray bus stops. As a bonus, some Stray passes covers the TransAlpine railway route (Greymouth to Christchurch).
    On the other hand, driving is more preferable only if you have a group of people, as you can take turn to drive and enjoy the sceneries.

    Well if you are contemplating to get Stray pass in the end, be noted that you can get extra discount by using Stray Mate Code KL3909 (applies for passes worth >$400). Cheers!
  • 2017 update for future travelers:
    rail travel between cities in NZ is definitely more scenic activity than mode of transport being slower and more expensive than flying. It is lovely scenery and the trains have an open car for photography. Auckland and Wellington are pretty much the only two cities with suburban public rail. If you google 'kiwirail' who operate all the services intercity you can get an idea of the timetables and fares. Airfares are generally cheaper. Currently rail travel between Christchurch and Picton in the South Island has been cancelled until mid 2018 due to the large earthquake off the coast in Nov 2016. They hope to have the coastal road open for vehicles by christmas 2017 but there is an overland route between Picton and Christchurch. It also looks like Stray no longer has rail access.
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