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Tranz Rail is the major passenger train operator in New Zealand with luxurious, modern trains linking the country's major tourist destinations. Traveling through magnificent scenery, Tranz Rail services are high on the wish list of train lovers from around the world. Tranz Rail journeys cover six routes - three in the North Island and three in the South Island.
North Island services operate twice a day each way between Auckland and Wellington (The Overlander in daylight and The Northerner overnight), daily each way between Auckland and the geothermal heartland of Rotorua, and daily each way between Wellington and the Art Deco city of Napier on Hawkes Bay in the east.
South Island services operate daily each way between the inter-island ferry base of Picton at the northern tip of the island and Christchurch in the east, its biggest city. They also link Christchurch with Greymouth, the gateway to glacier territory on the west coast, and Christchurch with Invercargill, the southernmost city in the country.
also operates the vital car and passenger ferry services linking the North
and South Islands between Wellington and Picton across Cook Strait. Aratere
and Arahura make this wonderfully scenic crossing five times a day in
both directions (four on Mondays and Saturdays). In summer, the fast catamaran
The Lynx joins the fleet to carry passengers twice daily in each direction.
The Lynx operates from about the second week in December to mid April
and makes the journey in 1 hour 45 minutes.
The Tran Coastal: The Tran Coastal operates between Picton on the north eastern tip of the South Island - the base for inter-island ferries linking it to Wellington on the southern tip of the North Island - and Christchurch about 100 kilometres to the south. The line follows the rugged Pacific Island coast against a backdrop of two mountain ranges, the Seaward and Inland Kaikoura Ranges stretching more than 2000 metres skyward for almost half its length. South of Picton the route passes through Marlborough, arguably New Zealand's best wine growing area, before the track is squeezed between the mountains and the sea until it reaches Kaikoura, a seaside village famous for its whale and dolphin watching,
Stop over if you wish and enjoy a whale watching cruise or sample the fresh seafood for which Kaikoura has a big reputation. Beautiful enough from any carriage, the scenery envelops you in the glass-domed observation car. Christchurch is the most 'English' of all New Zealand cities, with wonderful parks around the aptly named Avon River. (The TranzCoastal was formerly known as the Coastal Pacific). The trip takes 5 hours 20 minutes, departing Christchurch for the northbound journey at 7.30am, and Picton southbound at 1.40pm. These services connect with inter-island ferries.
The TranzAlpine: This train travels between Christchurch on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island and Greymouth on the wild and beautiful West Coast, the gateway to the magnificent Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers to the south. Travelling through scenery which can best be described as stupendous, it is rated as one of the great train journeys of the world. The TranzAlpine passes through the majestic Southern Alps on the eastern side and the pristine rain forest of the west. The train traverses alpine tussock country, spectacular gorges, lush native beech forests and awesome mountains. The view is inescapable from anywhere on the train as is passes mighty glacier-fed rivers and tranquil lakes. Take a seat in the observation car and get even closer to nature's grandeur.
The TranzAlpine leaves Christchurch daily at 9am, and departs Greymouth at 2.25pm. The journey takes about four hours.
The Southerner: This journey takes you into the heartland of the South Island, linking Christchurch with Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand. It travels through the rich agricultural and sheep farming country of the Canterbury Plains, through the historic town of Oamaru, and the city of Dunedin. While Christchurch is very 'English', the southern end of the South Island has powerful Scottish connections. Dunedin is known as the Edinburgh of the South and the Caledonian connection with Invercargill is pretty obvious.
The service operates daily and takes about nine hours. The southbound train leaves Christchurch at 8.15am, the northbound one leaves Invercargill at 8.25am. Both arrive at their destination at 5.15pm.
The Overlander: Northbound passengers enjoy an armchair scenic ride as this daylight train thunders 680 kilometres from Wellington to Auckland after burrowing through the hills which flank the harbour capital. The train crosses the white cliffs and viaducts of the Rangitikei River, north past the volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro before traversing the lush farmland of the Waikato on its way to New Zealand's largest city. Southbound travellers experience the same route in reverse. The journey takes about 11 hours and operates daily, departing Wellington at 8.45am and Auckland at 8.30am.
The Northerner: This service travels overnight between Auckland and Wellington over the same route as The Overlander. It departs Auckland at 8.40pm and Wellington at 7.50pm, connecting with inter-island ferry services to and from the South Island. The Northerner is an ideal alternative to flying between the two cities and spending a night in a hotel.
The Bay Express: The Bay Express links Wellington with the Art Deco city of Napier and the wine growing area around Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island. It operates daily and takes about 5 hours 30 minutes. The service departs Wellington at 8am, Napier at 2.05pm.
The Kaimai Express: The Kaimai Express links Auckland and Tauranga on the Bay of Plenty on the east coast. The track goes under the magnificent Kaimai Ranges near the bay, popular for its coastal resorts and beaches. It operates daily and takes about 3 hours 30 minutes. Trains depart Auckland at 8.20am, Tauranga at 1.05 pm.
The Geyserland: The Geyserland links Auckland with Rotorua, the heartland of Maori culture on the North Island and centre of the world famous geothermal region peppered with geysers, mud pools and hot springs. It passes through native bush, vast pine plantations and the Mamuka volcanic plateau. Operating daily, the trip takes four hours. Leaving Auckland at 8.20am and Rotorua at 1.00pm.
Inter-island ferries: Tranz Rail operates scheduled The Interislander passenger and car ferry services across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton year round. The Aratere and Arahura follow a superbly scenic route which includes Wellington Harbour, the remote coastline of the southern tip of the North Island, and the lovely Marlborough Sounds which mark the entrance to Picton. Large, comfortable vessels, they include bars, cafes, a movie theatre and children's play area. The trip takes about three hours.
The Lynx, a 74-metre high-speed catamaran makes the journey in 1 hour 45 minutes in the summer months from mid-December to mid-April. It has two large passenger cabins with airline style seating, a cafe and bar.
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