Northern Explorer Train - KiwiRail Scenic Journeys

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Northern Explorer train: Auckland - Wellington

Operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys, the Northern Explorer runs alternate days between Auckland and Wellington throughout the year (see website for timetable). The journey can only be described as epic, as the Northern Explorer rumbles its way through the Heart of the North Island to complete the 682km journey from the commercial heart of Auckland in the north to the political heart of Wellington in the south in a thrilling 10 hour journey!

The Northern Explorer travels along the original life-line of New Zealand commerce, the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT). Construction began in 1873 and was completed in 1908 and required several complex feats of engineering that remain highlights of the journey today. These feats include the huge curved Hapuawhenua Viaduct, south of National Park, which curves almost 180°, spans 284m and reaches 44m in height above the valley floor. Highlights also include the Raurimu Spiral, a spiral section that was added to enable steam trains to climb the steep ascent of 200m in a linear distance of 5km as the southbound train ascends on to the Central Plateau, and the Rangitikei Viaduct, which soars across the Rangitikei River at a height of 81m.

It isn’t all engineering feats on offer though; the scenery along the route changes dramatically and the Northern Explorer’s custom built world-class passenger carriages, with their seat to ceiling windows, present passengers with incredible views of New Zealand’s contrasting landscapes from the comfort of their spacious seats. Pulling out from Auckland, the Northern Explorer seemingly floats on water as it traverses inlets and bays on narrow elevated rail corridors with nothing but water on either side. The Northern Explorer then rumbles across the plains and expansive farmlands of Waikato, before gliding through the picturesque meadows of “Hobbiton” as it approaches Otorohanga and the Waitomo Caves. The Northern Explorer then circles around the Raurimu Spiral as it climbs onto the Central Plateau where it is dwarfed by the imposing peaks of three active Volcanos – the snow-capped Ruapehu, the conical Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) and the long, lake filled, Tongoriro. The Northern Explorer then descends through luscious New Zealand bush and makes its way to the rugged Kapiti coastline before completing the journey by pulling into the picturesque harbourside Capital, Wellington. This ten hour trip is compelling and most passengers will tell you they were disappointed when it came to an end! However, if you have time, you should certainly consider breaking the journey in National Park for mountain trekking and Waitomo for the Glow Worm Caves and a trip to Hobbiton. Package tours and stopover fares can be booked on the KiwiRail Scenic Journey website.


General Bookings & Enquiries

Phone (Within NZ):  0800 TRAINS (0800 872 467)
Phone (Outside NZ): +64 4 495 0775
Fax: +64 4 472 8903


Monday - Friday: 8.00 am - 8.00 pm

Saturday/Sunday/Public Holidays: 8.00 am - 6.00 pm

Closed - 25th December

Northern Explorer Train - KiwiRail Scenic Journeys Enquiry Form


Wellington Railway Station
1 Bunny Street
Wellington Central

Phone: Outside NZ: +64 4 495 0775

Freephone: within NZ: 0800 TRAINS (0800 872 467)


Web: Visit website

The Northern Explorer Train - KiwiRail Scenic Journeys Enquiry Form