Traveling New Zealand by train is about to get a whole lot sweeter — or rather, return to its former glory. On December 1, the country’s iconic Coastal Pacific passenger rail route will reopen to the public, reinstating a popular rail expedition that runs along the South Island’s eastern coast from Christchurch to Picton.
The Coastal Pacific railway has been closed ever since the Kaikoura earthquake devastated the island nation back in 2016. After extensive maintenance and repair work, the line was reconnected in August 2017, but it has taken until now for workers to clear the tracks of mudslides and other debris left in the quake’s wake.
The Coastal Pacific passenger route can be done as a day-long round-trip voyage departing and ending in Christchurch, or you can hop off at Picton and catch the Interislander Ferry to the North Island. The trip takes about five hours one-way and is about as Instagrammable as it gets.
As you move along the Kaikōura Coastline, you’ll be able to snapshots of marine mammals from the train and even have the opportunity to do some whale watching, before moving into the Canterbury Plains and eventually back to Christchurch. The train cars feature large windows on both sides to take in the Pacific Ocean as well as the lush countryside, and diners have the option to purchase meals to enjoy onboard. Open-air viewing carriages are also available.
If you’re stoked about an epic train voyage this winter (though it’ll be summer in New Zealand during its run), get on the booking process as soon as possible. The Coastal Pacific will run daily from December 1 through late April 2019, weather permitting, with Christmas Day being the only day on the schedule sans service. Tickets for adults start at just over $100 USD with tickets for kids running about $72.