New Zealand’s Northern Explorer

Northern Explorer

Northern Explorer

If you are into excellent customer service this is the trip for you. I travelled on the Northern Explorer from Auckland to National Park, about half way to Wellington, on the central plateau and then from Wellington to Auckland on this great journey.

The train of 2 carriages, buffet car and open viewing car seems designed for tourists. The seats are spacious from which to see the country side, mountains and sea through large viewing windows which were clean. Headsets are provided so passengers can listen to the optional commentary identified on the map on overhead TV screens. The commentary provided information on the area we were travelling through, significant bits of history, the Maori history, railway history and at times the Maori creation story.
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The buffet provided breakfast and lunch of soup, sandwiches, hot food and snacks with very drinkable railway coffee and wine. This was bought to our table by the ever helpful attendants. On both trips they were the most customer focused and hard working attendants I have experience on a train. They provided our boarding passes, checked tickets, serve the food, added to the commentary and unloaded the luggage. On our trip to National Park the train was about 50 minutes late due to a carriage being removed at Hamilton. The attendant asked if we were being collected by a car from the Chateau and said they would notify the Chateau of our delay.

For the technically minded the trip is 681 km, crosses 352 bridges, and goes through 14 tunnels. Even for the non technically minded like me I could not failed to be impressed by the Raurimu Spiral.


The scenery goes from farmland, to hills and mountains and on a clear day it is possible to see Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngharuhoe and Mt Tongariro, all active volcanoes. Then the white cliffs and viaducts and finally the Tasman Sea before arriving at Wellington.

View from train at National Park

View from train at National Park

The train runs from Auckland 3 days a week and returns from Wellington the following 3 days. It seems to be designed for tourists rather than locals to move from town to town. On this trip our carriage was less than one third full but costs about 3 times that of bus travel. I travelled from Napier to Wellington by bus as the passenger train from Gisborne to Wellington had been discontinued. The train was so much more comfortable. It would be a pity if this service were to be discontinued. The train from Picton to Christchurch in the south Island only runs from October to May.

At this point reviewers say that they travelled as a guest of. .. I paid for my own travel.

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16 Comments

Filed under New Zealand

16 responses to “New Zealand’s Northern Explorer

  1. Just going through Your account makes me wish I could make that trip! It all sounds so scenic and serene! I must say it is all very much opposite to ours here in India. Ours is a Great country, but as far as travel is concerned, hm… Thanks for posting this.

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    • Thank you Swamiyesudas. I have not been to India but I know NZ was so much easier for me to travel around than some other places I have been. For me it was more known.

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      • My Dear BM, I do hope You visit India sometime. It is a Beautiful country in many ways. But as for travel, unless You intend to travel by our Air conditioned coaches in Trains, our A/C buses, or cars, come prepared for Crowds, (and More Crowds), as well as the Heat and Dust! Love.

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  2. I did a road trip of the North Island a few years ago with my mum and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery of New Zealand. However a train trip would have been much more relaxing.

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  3. Looks like a very pleasant way to travel. Unlike the trains in Europe, which are often packed and not very clean.

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  4. Jan Hume

    I recognise that landscape. I hope it’s not too cold.
    Glad the service on the train was good.

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  5. Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things

    Wow, what a beautiful part of the world! Thanks so much for sharing your journey!

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  6. Sha

    What gorgeous scenery! I’ve always loved sitting in trains but it’s always a bonus when it comes with such gorgeous scenery to pass the time..:)

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    • It was great scenery Sha and the train seemed purpose built to make the most of it, unlike the train I took from Milan to Zurich a few years ago where the windows were so dirty it was hard to see the Alps.

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      • Sha

        Aww, we do our best scenery watching in trains. It’s a shame if dirty windows spoil our pleasure…Oh well, at least you had this opportunity instead. 🙂

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