Tour Date: February 2023 | Advance NoticeLocation: New Zealand

This is an advance notice of the tour at present being developed and costed by our New Zealand Operator. Some of the restored historic lines are run by volunteers who will not be opening bookings or setting prices until early calendar year 2022. However, it is expected that the vast majority of the train journeys and visits listed will be included in the final itinerary.

Welcome to Aotearoa, New Zealand. Offering you a mix of landscapes – rolling green hills, sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and rivers – an ever-changing variety packed into a landmass the same size as the UK.

Because of the terrain, the small population in the mid-1850’s, and the lack of money, 3ft. 6in gauge was very early adopted throughout the country for the railway system. At its peak the national railway system grew to over 6000km.

The closure of uneconomic lines has led to several groups of volunteers developing railway operations using a variety of equipment in various places on closed lines, and by the running of excursion trains on mainline tracks.

The national system was complemented by a large number of short lines related to the extraction industries – particularly timber and coal and other groups of volunteers have saved and restored key items of industrial heritage and now offer fascinating glimpses of bush tramways and former coal lines.

The closure of electric street trams has also seen several groups preserving and restoring key items and offering journeys on what used to be the norm in many of our cities

Your tour will include travel on all three of Kiwirail’s premier passenger services; on one of the rail ferries which enables the railway system in two islands to be operated as a single unit; visits to the best of the restored heritage lines and associated workshops; three charter trips on main lines and visits to several street tramway operations. On many days when you are travelling on trains, your tour coach will “shadow’ the train, with your large bags on board.

Your rail experiences will be complemented by an introduction to Maori culture through its people; a visit to Rotorua’s thermal reserve; a boat trip on the North Island’s largest lake; tours of several cities; views of the nocturnal kiwi and the tuatara; travel through the rain forest and around and on several of the gorgeous southern South Island lakes.


Tour Highlights

    • Tour Itinerary
    • Prices & Options
    • Booking
    • Gallery
    • Transport & Accommodation

    Tuesday 7 February 2023

    Various flight options from the UK including “Round the World” tickets.

    Thursday 9 February 2023 (D)

    Arrive International Auckland Airport. Transfer to your waterfront hotel. Free day. In the late afternoon: Orientation to your tour, followed by a Welcome Dinner. (Overnight: Auckland)

    Friday 10 February (B)

    This morning you will be introduced to New Zealand’s largest city by means of a Coach tour, including the downtown areas; the waterfront; Parnell Village; Holy Trinity Cathedral; Auckland Domain and Wintergardens and Tamaki Drive (with a stop at Bastion Point for wonderful harbour views). Following time for you to purchase lunch, tour MOTAT, NZ’s largest transport, technology & social history museum (aviation; road; rail; kiwi ingenuity; trams). The tour will include a ride on a restored heritage tram which links the two compuses. (Overnight: Auckland)

    Saturday 11 February (B,D)

    Free morning (but possible options: tour the National Maritime Museum; travel on an EMU on the West Auckland line to Swanson and return; a ferry across the harbour to Devonport to stroll around the village, then return to Auckland). This afternoon, travel by coach to Glenbrook to visit the now over 40 years old Glenbrook Vintage Railway. Enjoy a steam engine hauled charter train on the 15km round trip through rural countryside to the historic town of Waiuku on the Manukau Harbour including photo run-by’s. You will also have a conducted tour of their workshops. Steam locos on shed include two Ww 4-6-4T locos; an F 0-6-0T loco; a Ja 4-8-2 loco and a 2-4-4-2 Mallet loco. Either dinner in their “Parlour Car” on the train, or a BBQ evening meal. Return to your hotel by coach. (Overnight: Auckland)

    Sunday 12 February (B,L,D)

    Coach to Pukemiro (near Huntly). Charter steam-hauled trip on the Glen Afton Line (formerly The Bush Tramway Club), followed by a tour of their workshops. View their Climax, Heisler & Price built bush lokies, plus their former coal hauling locos. Enjoy a bush tramway jigger ride and lunch. This afternoon, travel on by coach to Rotorua. This evening enjoy a comprehensive Maori Cultural Evening, including a hangi (cooked in an underground oven) dinner. (Overnight: Rotorua)

    Monday 13 February (B,D)

    Enjoy an amphibian “duck” tour of Rotorua, then travel out on it onto two of the local Lakes. This afternoon, tour the Thermal Reserve to view geysers, steam vents, mud pools, and local Maori engaged in a variety of arts and crafts. (Overnight: Rotorua)

    Tuesday 14 February (B,L)

    Coach across country from Rotorua to Taumarunui via Taupo (including a boat trip on Lake Taupo), and Turangi. (Overnight: Taumarunui)

    Wednesday 15 February (B,L)

    Because Kiwirail’s Taumarunui to Stratford line has been “moth-balled”, you will be able today to self drive (in convoys) battery operated railcarts to Whangamomona, with lunch en route. Your 40km ride will take you past a good number of small isolated communities; through several tunnels: over several bridges; and past ever changing back-blocks scenery. Return to Taumarunui later in the day in minivans. (Overnight: Taumarunui)

    Thursday 16 February (B,D)

    This morning enjoy a Jetboat trip on the Whanganui River. Around midday, join Kiwirail’s “Northern Explorer” train on the North Island Main Trunk line from Taumarunui to Paraparaumu (arrival time: 5.30pm). You will travel through a very scenic part of the Island, including the famous Raurimu Spiral, an engineering masterpiece which overcomes a 456 feet height difference between the volcanic plateau to the east and the valleys and gorges of the upper Whanganui River to the west. (Overnight: Paraparaumu)

    Friday 17 February (B,L)

    This morning you will participate in a charter trip on one of Wellington Tramway Museum’s trams, and tour their extensive workshops and tram barns at nearby Queen Elizabeth Park. The group has the largest stable of restored electric trams in the country. This afternoon, enjoy a guided tour around one of the country’s major preservation group (Steam Incorporated)’s Workshops at Paekakariki. They have restored several large steam and historic diesel locos, including J, Ja, K, and Ka steam locos and three 1950 – 1960’s era Da A1A-A1A diesel electric locos. You will also be able to inspect the ex Rhodesian Railways Garratt which is stored for it’s New Zealand owner. All of their carriage fleet have some historical or structural significance. (Overnight: Paraparaumu)

    Saturday 18 February (B)

    Travel on Steam Incorporated’s heritage diesel-hauled excursion train from Paekakariki to Napier to tour ART Deco buildings during this weekend’s Art Deco Festival. The section of line from Palmerston North to Napier is normally a freight only line. Return to Paekakariki (Overnight: Paraparaumu)

    Sunday 19 February (B,L)

    Travel on an EMU from Paraparaumu – Wellington, then on a Wairarapa train from Wellington (dep. 9.25am) through the Rimutuka Tunnel to Featherston. Conducted tour of the Fell engine (H199 0-4-2T) and Fell brakevan and associated Museum. Prior to the opening of the Rimutuka Tunnel in the 1950’s, the Fell System was used to convey freight and passengers on the 1:13 gradient forming part of the line over the mountain. Late morning, you will be collected by your coach and taken over the Rimutuka’s to the well established working heritage Silverstream Railway in the Hutt Valley, for lunch; a charter steam-hauled trip and a tour of their workshops. Their large collection of locos include three Barclay 0-6-0Ts; a C class (0-4-2T) built by Dubs in 1875; A C 2-6-2 heavy shunting loco; two 1950’s era diesel electric locos; Ka935; an 1887 Avonside loco (L509) and both a Standard class and a Wairarapa class railcar. Later, your coach will then take you to your Wellington hotel. (Overnight: Wellington)

    Monday 20 February (B,D)

    Free morning (options include the Kelburn Cable Car and its Museum; an EMU trip on the short but scenic Johnsonville branch line; or Te Papa (New Zealand’s premier Museum). At 2.45pm depart Wellington on an Inter-islander Rail Ferry to Picton, in the northern South Island) Arrive 5.55pm. (Overnight: Picton)

    Tuesday 21 February (B)

    Another highlight this morning, you will travel on a steam hauled (Ab 608 “Paschendale”) charter trip on the main line from Picton to Blenheim, centre of one of New Zealand’s largest grape growing regions. If there is time, travel on the 2ft. gauge Blenheim Riverside train to visit the local Aviation Museum which houses many of Sir Peter Jackson’s private collection of vintage planes and/or The Riverside Train group’s workshop. Depart Blenheim 2.46pm on Kiwirail’s “Coastal Pacific” train to Christchurch. Enjoy spectacular sea views for about a third of the journey. You will be able to purchase an evening meal on board. Arrival Christchurch at 8.30pm where you will be transferred to your hotel. (Overnight: Christchurch)

    Wednesday 22 February (B,D)

    Tour the Christchurch CBD on one of several restored vintage trams which operate on a figure of eight circuit. The excellent commentary will assist you to view the rebuilding of the central city following the devastating earthquakes. This afternoon, tour Ferrymead Heritage Park. Restored locos – steam (including a Wd 2-6-4T and a D 2-4-0T); electric (examples of former Otira Tunnel and Lyttleton Tunnel locos); and diesel) plus three Vulcan railcars and trams, complement the Victorian era village. ( A charter train trip is likely.) Ferrymead is also the site of the proposed National Railway Museum of New Zealand. (Overnight: Christchurch)

    Thursday 23 February (B,D)

    Today, travel from Christchurch to Greymouth on the very best of the Kiwirail passenger trains – the Tranz Alpine. Enjoy spectacular scenery and railway engineering and travel through the 7-mile long Otira Tunnel into the West Coast. You will be able to purchase lunch on board. Following time for photos at Greymouth Station, your coach will take you to Shantytown for a tour of their complex, including a steam hauled train; gold panning and bush tramway relics. Later, travel on by coach through historic Hokitika to Franz Josef (Overnight: Franz Josef)

    Friday 24 February (B)

    Tour the Dept. of Conservation’s Wildlife Centre to view Kiwis in a nocturnal setting and the prehistoric Tuatara reptile. Then travel by coach to Queenstown. The rainforest scenery during the morning is among the best in the country. This afternoon, following the crossing of the divide at Haast, you will travel down to Wanaka, enjoying fabulous lake views, then over the spectacular Crown Range to Queenstown. (Overnight: Queenstown)

    Saturday 25 February (B,D)

    This morning, your coach will take you to Kingston for a ride on the iconic Kingston Flyer, behind another restored steam engine and historic wooden-bodied carriages between Kingston and Fairlight and return. The “Flyer”, moth-balled since 2012, is expected to be running again by the time you visit. This afternoon, back in Queenstown, travel on TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu (this steam engine driven ship is over 100 years old and is still in regular service). This evening enjoy dinner at the Skyline Restaurant, accessed by cable car. While eating, enjoy magnificent views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. (Overnight: Queenstown)

    Sunday 26 February (B)

    Coach to Middlemarch to join the Taieri Gorge Railway train bound for Dunedin. This heritage diesel hauled train will take you through the spectacularly rugged scenery and over splendid iron viaducts en route to Dunedin. On arrival, tour the station. This most photographed building is the best of the Edwardian era Gordon Troup designed railway stations in NZ. (Overnight: Dunedin)

    Monday 27 February (B)

    This morning, travel on the “Seasider” Train from Dunedin on the main line to either Waitati or Palmerston and return. Enjoy great coastal views en route. This afternoon is free, but we recommend a visit to the Toitu Otago Early Settler’s Museum, which includes a double ended Fairlie loco on static display, or take a coach tour out onto the Otago Peninsula to visit the Royal Albatross Centre (Overnight: Dunedin)

    Tuesday 28 February (B,L)

    Coach from Dunedin – Christchurch with en route stops at Pleasant Point Railway & Museum near Timaru for a charter ride on their replica Model T Ford railcar used on several South Island branch lines in the 1930’s and lunch, and later, The Plains Railway near Ashburton to view their beautifully restored 1880’s Baldwin K class steam loco (we are expecting to be able to arrange for a short charter trip behind it). (Overnight: Christchurch)

    Wednesday 1 March (B,D)

    Coach from Christchurch to Waipara for a ride on a chartered train on the Weka Pass Railway from Glenmark (near Waipara) to Waikari. This historic rural railway was laid through the unique limestone beauty of the Weka Pass. The charter will include photo run-by’s. We hope to use one of their Dg class diesels built in 1956 by English Electric (12SVT engine). See photo. This evening, enjoy a Farewell Dinner in a Christchurch restaurant. (Overnight: Christchurch)

    Thursday 2 March (B)

    After breakfast you will be transferred to Christchurch International Airport for your onward flights back to the UK.

    We hope to have prices and itinerary finalised by 31 March 2020. Please register your interest in this tour before 31 December 2020 to receive a 5% discount on the final selling price (up to £200). No deposit, or firm commitment, needs to be made before 31 March 2020.