Photo: Great Journeys New Zealand

You Can See Penguins, Seals, and Whales From This New Zealand Train

New Zealand Train Travel
by Morgane Croissant Sep 5, 2023

In November 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck and ravaged the region around the town of Kaikoura on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The earthquake and the ensuing landslides killed two people, and demolished homes, roads, and railway tracks. Indeed, parts of the Main North Line, one of the most scenic rail routes in the world, slid into the ocean, forcing the Coastal Pacific train to stop its operation. In 2018, the line was repaired and the magnificent train journey between Christchurch and Picton resumed. Today, the Coastal Pacific still runs along the Pacific Ocean, allowing travelers to see New Zealand’s beauty, the slow and comfortable way.

What is the route of New Zealand’s Coastal Pacific train?

The train travels along the Pacific coast of New Zealand’s South Island, between Christchurch and Picton, in both directions. The train makes three stops along the way in: Rangiora. Kaikoura, and Blenheim. Passengers can book several stopovers if they want to visit the towns along the way.

Note that Picton is the getaway to the North Island, via the Interislander Cook Strait ferry that runs between Picton and Wellington multiple times daily.

How much does the Coastal Pacific train cost?

The cost of riding the Coastal Pacific does not vary according to demand or the time of the year; however, the price of the train journey changes depending on what class of service you choose upon booking.

There are two classes of service on board the train: Scenic and Scenic Plus, with Scenic Plus being the most expensive option. Passengers who opt for Scenic Plus travel in a separate car, enjoy reclining seats, and are served a complimentary meal and beverages at their seat. Scenic Plus passengers also benefit from more flexibility regarding changes and cancellations.

A one-way Scenic ticket on the Coast Pacific costs $110 (187 NZD) for adults and $73 (124 NZD) for children. A one-way Scenic Plus ticket is $264 (449 NZD) for both adults and children.

Travelers who wish to ride the Coastal Pacific from Christchurch to Picton and back on the same day, can opt for the whole-day Coastal Pacific Day Excursion which costs $176 (299 NZD) for adults and $129 (219 NZD) for children.

To purchase a ticket to ride on the Coastal Pacific, you can visit the Great Journeys New Zealand website.

How long is the Coastal Pacific train in New Zealand?

The Coastal Pacific takes between 5.5 to six hours to travel between Christchurch and Picton. The departure from Christchurch is very early: 7 AM.

Does the Coastal Pacific train run all year?

The Coastal Pacific does not run all-year-round. It operates Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting in September (September 21 in 2023), and daily from mid-December to late April (from December 14 to April 28 in 2023.)

Is food served on board the Coastal Pacific train?

Scenic Plus passengers enjoy a meal and beverages served at their seat, all included in the price of their ticket.

Scenic passengers can bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks on board or take advantage of the café that serves hot and cold food and beverages of all sorts, including adult ones. Take a look at the substantial menu.

What is the most scenic train in New Zealand?

There are three scenic passenger train journeys available in New Zealand: the TranzAlpine, the Coastal Pacific, and the Northern Explorer. The TranzAlpine, which runs from Christchurch to Greymouth and crosses the Southern Alps, is often said to be the most scenic, but the Coast Pacific isn’t far behind. While running along the South Island’s eastern coast from Christchurch to Picton, passengers will get to admire the Canterbury Plains, the vineyards of Blenheim, and the Pacific Ocean and its wildlife, including penguins, seals, and whales.

No matter what scenic passenger train journey you choose to ride while in New Zealand, you’ll get unobstructed views of the landscape; all the trains are fitted with large windows and skylights. The trains are also equipped with open-air cars for an outside experience while remaining on the move.

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