Following our stay in Auckland, we took the Northern Explorer train right the way down New Zealand’s North Island. Destination – Wellington!
The train takes about 12 hours, give or take a few hours either way (yeah, things are that vague here!) It runs three days a week, and alternates in direction. So if you’re thinking of using it, check the direction you want to go in matches up with the rest of your journey before booking.
The train we took left Auckland’s Britomart at 8am so we were up bright and early. We checked in our bags (rather timidly I might add) and found our seats. I must say I was really really impressed. The seats were really comfortable, roomy, there was food and coffee available on board. And it boasted a windowless viewing carriage (yay for photos) and head sets to listen to the commentary, if you’re interested in learning about the surroundings as you traveled. (I didn’t know for example that there is a Maori King! Google it!)
And so we were off. The train took us through low level farm land, and then through the Tongariro National Park, where you get to see the parks three impressive (and still active) volcanic mountains, Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngāuruhoe. After the National Park, we headed towards Palmerston North, and then down the West coast of the North Island. Past Kapiti Island, and then we reached the beautiful Wellington Harbour.
The trip is a stunning one, and if you have the time it’s definitely worth taking the opportunity to do it. Towering mountains, beautiful rolling hills, the coastline, it has it all! Incidentally a chap we got chatting to on the train was telling us how a few years ago the train wasn’t doing so well financially and the services were being cut, as most people tend to take the 1 hour plane journey instead. But following a re-brand and advertisement push they are apparently doing better. It’s one of those use it or lose it things, so definitely consider taking the Northern Explorer train if you can. It would be a shame if it disappeared, it’s a wonderful trip and yes it takes a lot longer to get there, but it’s calm, relaxing, and full of some truly magnificent sights.
And so 12 wonderful hours later we arrived in the lovely Wellington. (Thank you to the chap we sat near by the way for terrifying me towards the end of the journey. Who kindly filled us in on the very high likelihood of an earthquake/tsunami.)
Honestly, I don’t know how else to tell you how cool a journey this is… I’ll just let the photos do the talking.