Ever dreamed of experiencing the whole of New Zealand without getting lost or not knowing what to do when you finally get where you want to be? Rail New Zealand offers the prospect of travelling all over New Zealand without the hassle of traffic and inconsiderate drivers. The Coastal Connection combines the ferry and train services to enable all those that want the taste of something a little different. Your journey can start in the South Island of Christchurch or Kaikoura, or in the North Island in Wellington.
Cruising Across the Cook Strait
For those in the North Island you will cruise your way between Wellington and Picton, crossing the infamous Cook Strait that separates the North and South Islands, connecting the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. While viewing the expansive ocean-life you can dine at the food court, ranging from light snacks to three course meals. For those that want to relax with some entertainment, a range of movies are available on board to satisfy all. The ferry also contains a nursery, on-board shop, three passenger lounges, work stations, children’s play area and plenty of outdoor deck to explore and get a breath of fresh sea air.
The ferry will embark at Marlborough Sounds, reminiscent of the Nordic Sounds. Marlborough Sounds is home to many islands, bird sanctuaries, marine reserves and salmon farms. You will have the chance to become familiar with the local life of Picton. Enjoying the little town containing quaint shops, and visit the Aquarium or the Edwin Fox Museum.
You will then board the Tranzcoastal train, Kaikoura to Christchurch. The train rumbles past the Marlborough vineyards, where a range of fresh New Zealand wines are made. You will pass by Lake Grassmere Salt ponds to Kaikoura, famous for the observation of whales and other sea life. The Tranzcoastal train allows viewing the scenery at leisure while enjoying a glass of wine, beer, sodas, light meals and snacks. If you so choose, you have the option of staying overnight in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is surrounded by majestic mountains, which for a large part of the year are wrapped in snow. Kaikouri offers a unique experience of ocean and mountain life. You can go whale watching, swim with the dolphins, or just wander around, picking up those titbits you can’t find anywhere else.
Locals suggest visitors take a look at the Kaikoura Museum and Fyffe House, which shows Maori and European settlement and whaling history.
Kaikoura is known for its seafood specialities like grouper, cod, mussels, paua, and the town’s namesake, crayfish. The freshly caught seafood served in the locally-owned restaurant rivals any other tasted. The next day will take you onto Christchurch.
Coast Through the South Island
For those that want to encounter the countryside of the South Island, then the Tranzcoastal from Picton to Christchurch offers that event. The train voyages through the grapevine country, over plains and river valleys. The train runs along the coastline between the ocean and mountain ranges. You will encounter the expansive farmland, tour over the Waimakariri River – meaning cold, rushing water. And cross-over into the garden city – Christchurch. Although ravaged by earthquakes and aftershocks, Christchurch locals have shown their resilience to these natural disasters, making the city stronger than it was before.
The tour will take around five hours, and during this time you will enjoy the comforts of food and drink.
Finding Your Destination
The South Island stations are situated at Picton, Blenheim, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Arthur’s Park and Greymouth.
Rail New Zealand also offers a Scenic Rail Pass that allows those that are interested in travelling by train. The Scenic Rail Pass includes the Overlander, the TranzCoastal and the Tranz Alpine trains. You can choose your route, stop and start wherever and whenever you like, and travel as many times. The pass also includes Interislander ferries between Wellington and Picton.
Rail New Zealand and the routes they take you on give you a ride to remember.
Coastal Connection, Accessed 14/07/11, www.RailNewZealand.com