Fantastic food and wine, unforgettable scenery, incredible wildlife, charming characters… whatever your reason for visiting or exploring New Zealand, chances are you’ll find it during a trip on the Coastal Pacific train.
The Coastal Pacific train journey runs from Picton to Christchurch (or vice versa) via the horticultural hub of Blenheim, the coastal town of Kaikoura and the wine region of Waipara. The trip - approximately 340km in length - is considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world and, as well as the amazing views, you’ll experience an informative commentary, 22 tunnels and 175 bridges en route.
The best way to experience the Coastal Pacific journey is to take the full trip, from Picton to Christchurch (or vice versa), and purchase a Stopover Fare (for just $10 extra), which will allow you to disembark the train for 24 hours at your preferred destination, then get back on board when the train next passes through. Kaikoura is an ideal stopover, as it’s approximately half way through the train journey and lets you immerse yourself in the incredible marine and mountain scenery that most train-trippers only view from afar.
The scheduled early afternoon departure from Picton means you have the morning free to experience the picturesque Marlborough Sounds and even a tasty lunch matched with the region’s world famous wines! Then it’s time to jump on board the Coastal Pacific train and begin your relaxing, scenic journey towards Christchurch.
Travelling via Blenheim and Seddon, you’ll amble through wide open farmland and expansive vineyards before joining the stunning, sparkling Pacific Ocean. The tumultuous coastline rolls by revealing a new, rugged landscape around every bend; a different, sprawling scene at the end of every tunnel. Eventually, around mid-afternoon, you reach the seaside town of Kaikoura. If you’ve purchased the Stopover Fare you can now spend your afternoon enjoying a whale watching or dolphin swimming tour, or perhaps a long coastal walk, taking in the spectacular, towering mountains that rise without warning from the vast emerald ocean.
Kaikoura is a small town with a rich history that includes moa hunters, Maori settlers, whalers and fishing. Today, the town is known internationally for its successful marine-based tourism operations - particularly whale watching - as well as its culinary specialty: crayfish. The word ‘Kaikoura’ translates from Maori as ‘meal of crayfish’, so ordering crayfish for dinner is an essential Kaikoura experience! If crayfish isn’t to your liking, you’ll find plenty of other fresh fish and seafood on the menu, as well as a wide range of ethnic, local and takeaway restaurant options. Finish off your day with a seaside stroll along the esplanade, beneath the stars.
Next day, consider a seal swimming tour, a scenic whale watching flight, winery tour or Maori culture tour to fill your morning. Your train departs Kaikoura at 3.28pm, so give yourself plenty of time to get to the train station and board!
As you leave town, head for the train’s open-air carriage to get the full coastal sensory experience: the sea air, expansive ocean views and glimpses of seals sunbathing just off the shore. If you’re lucky you may even spot dolphins or albatrosses in the distance. This is what a New Zealand holiday is all about!
Later, you can relax in your carriage and enjoy the variety of scenery that leads you from Kaikoura to Christchurch on the final stretch of your journey: from small farming towns to wide open plains, the endless vineyards of the Waipara wine region and, finally, the bustling suburbs of Christchurch.
The Coastal Pacific operates an extended summer season, with services running daily from October to April. The train also connects with the Interislander Ferry and Sounds Air scenic flights, making travel to and from the North Island a breeze.
For more information about the Coastal Pacific Train Journey and booking head into your nearest i-SITE.
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