State Highway 1 is open north of Kaikoura and we are pleased to announce bus service will return to this route from 18 December onwards. Services will operate daily morning and afternoon's in both directions between Picton and Christchurch, both of which will have Gold seat upgrades available.
The Coastal Pacific will be back to service as early as possible for the 2018/2019 season and it is hoped the season will be extended if possible. This could mean an earlier start date than September 2018. We will continue to keep you updated as a return to service date becomes clearer. In the meantime we can book coach transportation for you between Picton and Christchurch.
This travel itinerary would suit a 14 to 60 day stay in New Zealand
Travel Day 1: Christchurch to Greymouth and Franz Josef
By Train - Christchurch to Greymouth - Depart: 8.15am - Arrive: 12.45pm
By Coach - Greymouth to Franz Josef - Depart: 1.30pm - Arrive: 5.05pm
Today travel between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other and return. From your carriage you'll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River, as you ascend through the Southern Alps to the alpine village of Arthurs Pass. From Arthurs you descending through the Otira tunnel to the lush beech rain forests of the West Coast through to Greymouth. This is a great base for visits to Punakaiki and the always popular glaciers. From Greymouth you can head south by coach through native alpine rain forest and over swift rivers to arrive at the South Island's glacial town of Franz Josef for 1 or more nights stopover.
Travel Day 2: Franz Josef to Queenstown
By Scenic Bus - Depart: 8.00am - Arrive: 4.15pm
This morning you leave the Glacial region by coach, heading south through lush alpine rainforests forests passing tranquil lakes encircled with native forest. Cross the Haast River and climb past towering mountains with their cascading waterfalls to Haast Pass. Leaving Westland the scenery changes from West Coast Rain Forest to the arid conditions of Central Otago. Journey along the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to the peaceful alpine community of Wanaka. From Wanaka, follow the Clutha River to the hydro lake, Lake Dunstan before entering the Kawarau Gorge with its turbulent river, passing Lake Hayes and onto to Queenstown for 2 or more nights stay.
Travel Day 3: Queenstown to Milford Sound (Day Excursion)
By Scenic Coach - Depart: 7.20am - Return: 7.45pm
This morning is your day excursion to Milford Sound, leaving Queenstown by coach, skirting Lake Wakatipu and cross northern Southland to Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland region and Fiordland National Park. Travel through the remote wilderness of Eglinton Valley, emerging from Homer Tunnel for a spectacular view of the 'Chasm' and on to Milford Sound for your cruise of Milford Sound. The cruise provides the opportunity to inspect the waterfalls and shear rock walls which rise to over 5000 feet above the Sound. From Milford Sound retrace your journey back to Queenstown. Optional scenic flight to or from Milford Sound is available. All flights are subject to weather conditions.
Optional Milford Sound Cruise - is an additional cost, ask for details
Optional one way Scenic Flight Milford Sound to Queenstown - is an additional cost, ask for details
Travel Day 4: Queenstown to Mt Cook/Aoraki and Christchurch
By Scenic Coach - Depart: 7.45am - Arrive: 6.55pm
This morning, you leave Queenstown by coach, travelling through the rugged Kawarau Gorge and ascending up the Lindis Pass to the Mackenzie Country with its expanses of tussock framed by the snow capped Southern Alps to Mount Cook for a lunch break. If time permits optional scenic flights are available. Optional lunch is available at the Hermitage Aoraki Mt Cook hotel. After lunch, you leave Mt Cook, passing Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo, before descending through Burkes Pass to the perfectly ploughed fields of the Canterbury Plains to arrive at Christchurch.
Travel Day 5: Christchurch to Kaikoura
By Train - Depart: 7.00am - Arrive: 9.45am
This morning you board the Coastal Pacific train traveling north travelling through the north Canterbury plains before heading east to the coast and north along the rugged coastline the separates the majestic Kaikoura Ranges from the sea to Kaikoura famous for viewing whales and dolphins.
Travel Day 6: Kaikoura to Wellington
By Train - Depart: 9.54am - Arrive: 4.25pm
This morning you leave Kaikoura your journey takes you north along the coastline before turning inland passing Lake Grassmere Salt Ponds and the wineries of Blenheim to the Picton – the gate way of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. At Picton, you board your Interislander ferry for your 3 hour (92 kilometre) journey is on a modern ship with a range of on board facilities from eateries, a shop, movie theater, a games arcade, a large bar with live entertainment, numerous passenger lounges, open air decks and a friendly on board crew to assist you through the Marlborough Sounds and out to Cook Strait before entering picturesque harbour of Wellington – The Harbour Capital and New Zealand's capital city for a 2 night stay.
Travel Day 7: Wellington to Auckland
By Train - Depart: 7.55am - Arrive: 6.50pm
This morning you board the Northern Explorer train heading along the Wellington's coast line to the rolling farming landscape of the Palmerston North ascending up through stunning river gorges of the central North Island to the volcanic plateau passing Mt Ruapehu to National Park for a short stop. From National Park, your journey takes you along the volcanic plateau passing the Volcano's of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro before descending down the famous Raurimu Spiral to the rugged bush country and rolling framing landscape of the Waikato region and onto Auckland – the city of sails.
This service operates Tuesday, Friday and Sunday only.
Travel Day 8: Auckland to Waitomo Caves (Day Excursion)
By Scenic Coach - Depart: 7.30am - Return: 3.10pm
Leaving Auckland in the morning, we travel through rolling farmland into the Waikato and King Country regions. Your local driver guide will point out highlights of the region, like Rangiriri, where a major battle was fought between British forces and those loyal to the Maori King movement in 1863. After arriving in the small village of Waitomo, you'll be taken on a guided tour through the world famous Glowworm Caves. Formed from limestone over 30 million years ago, the caves were first discovered in 1887 and are now one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations. Wander through subterranean caverns and learn about stalagmites, stalactites, helictites and other spectacular rock formations. Finish off your tour on a short but enchanting boat ride travelling through the Glow worm Grotto, where thousands of glow worms light up the darkness like tiny stars. After your Glowworm Caves tour you'll have leisure time at the Waitomo visitor complex, where you can enjoy the stunning views and learn more about the region After your Waitomo experience draws to a close, board the coach for the return trip to Auckland, arriving in the afternoon.
Please note: You must purchase a RailBus Scenic Freedom Pass before you can make any travel sector reservations.
Itineraries are a guide only and times / schedules are subject to change. Accommodation is additional and not included with your pass.