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: 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.
Optional guide tour of the Glow Worm Cave - is an additional cost, ask for details
Optional snack box - is an additional cost, ask for details
Optional Waitomo Picnic Lunch - is an additional cost, ask for details
Travel Day 2: Auckland to Wellington
By Train - Depart: 7.50am - Arrive: 6.25pm
This morning you board the Northern Explorer train at Auckland and head south passing through the farming landscape of the Waikato region to the rugged bush country ascending to the Volcanic Plateau via the famous Raurimu Spiral, passing the the Volcano's of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro for a short stop at Tongariro National Park.
From Tongariro National Park you pass Mt Ruapehu the home of the North Island skifields of Whakapapa and Turoa, the ski town of Ohakune before descending through stunning river gorges to the rolling farming landscape of the Palmerston North region to Wellington - the Harbour Capital, for a 1 or more nights stay in New Zealand's capital city.
This train service operates Monday, Thursday and Saturday
Travel Day 3: Wellington to Kaikoura
By Train - Depart: 8.25am - Arrive: 3.20pm
From Wellington you board an Interislander ferry for a daytime sailing from Wellington, with it's picturesque harbour, crossing Cook Strait before entering the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The 3 hour (92 kilometers) ferry journey is on a modern ship with a range of on board facilities from eateries, a shop, movie theatre, a games arcade, a large bar with live entertainment, numerous passenger lounges, open air decks and a friendly on board crew to assist you. Your Interislander journey ends at Picton located in a sheltered marine harbor where you will have time to experience this charming small town. From Picton you board the Coastal Pacific train traveling south along the eastern coast of the South Island, passing through the local Marlborough vineyards, Lake Grassmere Salt Ponds and stopping at Kaikoura - famous for viewing whales and dolphins, for a 1 or more nights stay.
Travel Day 4: Kaikoura to Christchurch
By Train - Depart: 3.28pm - Arrive: 6.21pm
The next day you board the Coastal Pacific train at Kaikoura Station to travel south following the stunning coastline before heading inland through the Canterbury Plains to the Garden City of Christchurch for 1 or more nights stay.
Travel Day 5: Christchurch to Greymouth and Franz Josef
By Train - Christchurch to Greymouth - Depart: 8.15am - Arrive: 12.45pm
By Bus - 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 Pass you'll descend 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 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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.
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.