TranzPacific Train Ride from Picton to Christchurch – New Zealand’s Coastal Pacific is Back

In the old days you used to hear trains long before they actually came into sight, the sound of wheels chugging, the steam being released in a shrill whistle. But the arrival of the electric train means many modern trains simply roll up, almost taking the passenger by surprise.

So are the days of the classic train journey over? Far from it. In fact the comfort of modern trains simply allows the passenger to sit back and take in the view.

While many backpackers strive to get south as quickly as possible the small and charming port of Picton is worth a few days of anyone’s time, if you travelled into the Queen Charlotte Sound on the InterIslander Ferry you will be well aware of the abundance of wildlife which makes the region its home.

But after a few days exploring the delights Picton and the Sounds have to offer, why not jump aboard the Coastal Pacific and head south on one of the most picturesque train journeys in the world.

The TranzCoastal, now known as the Coastal Pacific, only reopened on 15 August after the Christchurch earthquake forced the service off-line.

It often plays second fiddle to its more illustrious sibling the TranzAlpine, but for train aficionados the Coastal Pacific is one of the top train journeys in New Zealand and the South Pacific.

The train itself is a fairly basic one-class setup with a buffet carriage and a number of passenger carriages. But where this train journey really comes into its own is the open-sided viewing carriage.

I highly recommend spending the majority, if not ALL, the journey outside in the viewing carriage, come rain or shine.

Rolling out of Picton the Coastal Pacific is a journey designed to excite the senses. The rich wine growing fields of Blenheim soon give way to the Kaikoura Mountain range on your right and the Pacific Ocean coastline on your left.

Travelling through the heartland of New Zealand’s Canterbury Plains, while hugging the Pacific coast, travellers aboard the Coastal Pacific can spot the countless seals, penguins and dolphins as the train chugs its way south.

The Coastal Pacific crosses 175 bridges of varying sizes, including New Zealand’s only road-rail bridge, as well as travelling through 22 tunnels.

5 Things Not to Miss on the TranzPacific:

  • Spend as much time as possible in the Coastal Pacific viewing carriage, trust me a little wind and rain never hurt anyone.
  • Explore Picton and the Queen Charlotte Sound for a day before departing on the Coastal Pacific.
  • Try and fit in both the TranzAlpine and the Coastal Pacific if possible.
  • Try and count the number of bridges and tunnels you go through.
  • Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery as the Coastal Pacific train makes it weary way south.

This is a guest post from Mike at Nomads on the Road

For more info on destinations in Australasia click here and decide where to go after you’ve ridden that rail.