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Location / Nearby Northern Explorer

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Image Northern Explorer

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John B
⏳ 12-2021

The worst train trip you could imagine

The worst service you could imagine

This trip takes you through the trash backyards of NZ, a 650km journey that takes 12 hours due to lack of prioritising the train over suburban trains, ie they wait behind rather than overtake suburban trains.

54km/hour - the average speed

A similar journey takes only 8 hours by car

The track takes you through some remote country, which could be good, but it’s just not. Backyards of trash line the railway, most of these being in the back of car and truck "recovery" sites in each city. If it’s not trash, its mostly farmland. Then if it is raining, there is no views, and by the way, no internet.

The rail route has little to no mobile access, so forget planning to chat or call or browse the internet, there is no service for most of the way, even views of the route on your map.

ALL of the issues are able to be sorted by any competent operator, but clearly Rail NZ would rather close down the operation than outsource it to a half competent private operator. Expect it to close.

A waste of 12 hours, a sore bum (the seats look great but are hard and do not recline) and a wasted day, unable to research or read news. To cap it off, they refused a full refund for the return trip because it was less than 7 days when I notified them - they were closed during lockdown making it impossible to call them.

Drive yourself or hire a driver.
⏳ 12-2021

Comfortable journey

A good way to travel in a leisurely, old-school manner. Scenery was not spectacular vs Coastal Pacific train. Bring your own food as the options in the cafe are not great - and exactly the same as on the other trains (so you could get bored of the food). We found it a relaxing journey - worked for me because I had a good book. But there are faster ways to get to Auckland without sacrificing the scenery.
Pashka S
⏳ 12-2021

A fun way to see the Northern Island by train

This fun adventure took me approximately 11 hours to complete. It was a great train ride with several stops along the way. Great scenery, good food and comfortable cars. Definitely a must for train lovers
Sr. Adviser
⏳ 12-2021

An Great Train Journey through the History and Geography of the New Zealand North Island

First of all, I am surprised at how few reviews there are of this outstanding train tour on KiwiRail from Parnell in Auckland City to downtown Wellington. This is surely one of the great all-day train tours in the world. It is nearly a 12-hour journey, and a super value compared to driving, which also can take at least 8 hours. You go from the Auckland Strand Station in Parnell in the morning, past the suburbs or Auckland, and into the Maori "first nation" land of the North Island, stopping at several interesting and historic landmarks along the way. The highlight of the first half is the passage through the central highlands and the Tongariro National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) which consists of a series of mostly inactive volcanoes, many snow covered even at the end of spring. The climb involves what the narrator described as a unique Raurimu Spiral route to climb by several hundred meters in a short distance.

The second part of the journey passes through the southern part of the North Island and though numerous sheep ranches, mid-size towns, and then along the dramatic Pacific Coast northwest of Wellington. The train arrives in downtown Wellington, very close to the NZ Government buildings, just in time for a late dinner.

The narration is private in that it is through earphones or earbuds (rather than over the loudspeaker as it is with Alaska Rail’s adventure trains), available in several languages. I found the English language narration to be information and entertaining, and well coordinated with the train’s passage through different towns and regions.

There is an open car at the very front for taking unobstructed photos or to feel the wind in your hair. It was rather chilly in the interior of the North Island in early December and so time spent on the open car was limited to 5 or 10 minutes. I found the incredible natural scenery to be difficult to capture with a camera from a moving train. One of the ironies of this journey, as we passed through the interior of the North Island past extinct volcanoes, is that at exactly the same time, the tragedy was occurring about 100 miles northeast of us on the offshore active volcano White Island. While travel always involves some risks, and the narrator did describe the tragic accidents associated with this train route of the years, the safety measures in place with this train route today make it an extremely safe excursion and great for families.

The food service is strictly bring your own, or buy their "take-away" prepared foods prepared by the excellent sandwich shop Wishbone in Wellington. Some prepared meals can be heated, but I recommend the breakfast food and the prepackaged sandwiches, and save your appetite for dinner in Wellington.
⏳ 12-2021

A great way to see the North Island

I took the southbound service from Auckland to Wellington. The varying landscapes of lush farmland, volcanoes and deep valleys could all be seen from the comfort of my seat or from the open air viewing carriage at the front of the train. A very relaxed journey.
the travel writer
⏳ 12-2021

Such fun!!

The Northern Explorer train that leaves from the Strand station in Parnell Auckland is such fun
Great train journey from Auckland to Wellington
You get to see the real North Island of New Zealand
Great viewing car
Great dinning car
Excellent service and staff
A fun way to travel
Tru W
⏳ 12-2021

Great train journey

Long journey from Auckland to Wellington but great chance to relax with a book or chat to your companion! Food and drink can be bought on the train. Staff very polite and attentive. Great commentary on scenic areas of interest. Train clean and comfortable.

View map go to Northern Explorer

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