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South Island Autumn Rail Tour

Welcome to our 18th exclusive-chartered New Zealand rail tour to the South Island.

 Our New Zealand Rail Tours give you an armchair ride and a front row seat to some of the world’s most stunning scenery - Aotearoa

 The Scenic South Island

Experience the scenic south in style, travelling aboard our exclusive charter train – the refurbished ‘Silver Fern.’

In April, autumn provides a stunning panorama of colour and when coupled with the magnificent southern mountain scenery, this tour will be a wonderful New Zealand experience.

We resume the scenic rail section from Picton and along the Kaikoura coastline to Christchurch after the 2016 earthquake – a credit to the outstanding work that has gone on since.

We traverse the Southern Alps in both directions, plus ride the historic Taieri Gorge Train through the spectacular Central Otago hinterland.

No South Island tour would be complete without including Central Otago, Queenstown, Te Anau and Milford Sound and we take you to these special places.

Our tour escort and hosts ensure your 14-day tour is relaxing, fun and memorable.

“It was my very first tour and I thoroughly enjoyed myself” – Tom

 “A thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish” – Helen

 “I will recommend this tour, fabulous, no worries way to travel, especially for solo travellers. You make new friends” – Suz

Your travel itinerary

Saturday 20 April

Auckland – Wellington

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Your adventure begins at The Strand in downtown Auckland or at any other regular stations on the main trunk line to Wellington. Board your carriage on the new Northern Explorer train for the daylight journey and travel through lush rolling hills to Hamilton, Otorohanga and Te Kuiti.

Among today’s highlights is the circular climb up the famous engineering feat – the Raurimu Spiral to the Central Plateau and Tongariro National Park with spectacular views of Mt Ruapehu. Continue on to Ohakune, Waiouru and alongside the Rangitikei River to Palmerston North, before the scenic Kapiti Coast and the run into the capital for an overnight stay. Welcome dinner tonight.

Sunday 21 April

Wellington – Picton - Christchurch

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After breakfast transfer to the Inter-islander ferry for a morning Cook Strait crossing to the picturesque Marlborough Sounds. On arrival in Picton, free time before boarding the ‘Coastal Pacific’ train early afternoon for a leisurely journey along the picturesque Kaikoura Coastline and rolling hill country of North Canterbury to Christchurch to our centrallylocated hotel. Dinner served on the train.

Monday 22 April


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After a leisurely breakfast, enjoy a city tour before travelling to Akaroa on Banks Peninsular. Stop along the way and explore the British, French-influenced seaside town of Akaroa before returning to Christchurch.

Tuesday 23 April

Christchurch – Greymouth

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After breakfast, board the Silver Fern railcar to journey across the spectacular Southern Alps to the rugged West Coast on the route known as the Tranz Alpine Railway. Cross the Canterbury Plains through Darfield and after a short stop in Springfield, climb the mountain range with scenic stops along theway including Arthurs Pass famous for its Weka population. Our descent by coach takes
us to Otira where we re-join the train and travel through the renowned rain forests and wetlands to arrive in Greymouth late afternoon for a two night stay.

Wednesday 24 April


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A sightseeing day to this unique part of New Zealand, passing through typical west coast bush and rain forests to Hokitika (famous for its greenstone) and Shanty Town (a replica of an old gold mining town). Return to Greymouth for dinner and a relaxing evening.

Thursday 25 April

Greymouth – Oamaru

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We re-trace our steps through the Southern Alps passing through Rolleston near Christchurch, Timaru and on to Oamaru (renowned for its white stone buildings), for an overnight stay. An optional evening tour to see the blue penguins is available.

Friday 26 April

Oamaru – Dunedin

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A leisurely start to the day passing through rolling farmland and coastal inlets to arrive in Dunedin around midday.

An afternoon sightseeing tour of the ‘Edinburgh of the South’ includes Signal Hill, the world’s steepest street, the Botanical Gardens, University and the new sports stadium.

Saturday 27 April

Dunedin – Queenstown

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After breakfast, board the Taieri Gorge Railway for the spectacular scenic journey over viaducts and through narrow tunnels to Pukerangi. Lunch on board the train.

Join our coaches and continue by road through vast, timeless, tundra landscapes and ancient mountains of Central Otago, stopping at Middlemarch, the rural art deco town of Ranfurly and continuing through other iconic towns to Clyde to view the impressive hudro power station. Later pass Lake Dunstan, Cromwell and along the Kawerau Valley before arriving in Queenstown for a two night stay.

Sunday 28 April


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Today is at leisure to enjoy ‘The Jewel of the South’ with an optional lake cruise on the historic steamship TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Farm where the tour includes afternoon tea.
Maybe take the gondola to admire the panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu or for the more adventurous, a jet boat trip on the Shotover River or even a helicopter ride above Lake Wakatipu. The choices are extensive.

Monday 29 April

Queenstown – Te Anau

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After breakfast we head for the colourful former gold mining town of Arrowtown before following the Lake Wakatipu shoreline through farmland to the beautiful Lake Te Anau for a two night stay. An afternoon optional tour is available to the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves.

Tuesday 30 April

Te Anau – Milford Sound Cruise

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Drive through mountain beech forests framed by spectacular snow-capped mountains and the Homer Tunnel before emerging at Milford Sound.
As you cruise alongside massive rock faces rising hundreds of metres out of the sea and cascading waterfalls, you will be captivated by the closeness and beauty of this World Heritage region. Enjoy lunch along the way before returning to your hotel for dinner.

Wednesday 01 May

Te Anau – Bluff – Dunedin

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An early morning start as we drive along the scenic southern route and rich Southland countryside to Bluff with a stop in Invercargill for lunch. Bluff is one of the oldest settlements in New Zealand, home of the famous Bluff Oysters and deep water port. Return to Invercargill to board our train and head north through Gore and Balclutha to Dunedin.

Sunday 02 June

Dunedin – Christchurch

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After breakfast we head north by coach to Palmerston where we re-join our train to Oamaru, Timaru and the plains via Ashburton to Christchurch where we leave our charter train. Farewell Dinner tonight to end our wonderful southern rail experience.

Friday 03 May

Christchurch – Auckland

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Morning transfer to the airport for return flights to Auckland or other destinations.


  • Travel on a chartered train
  • 13 nights hotel accommodation (see details)
  • Cooked breakfasts daily
  • Eight lunches and 12 dinners
  • Morning and afternoon tea on board the train
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees as specified
  • Commentaries provided by your escorts, drivers and guides
  • Comfortable air-conditioned coaches with panoramic windows
  • Airfares from Christchurch to Auckland and other destinations (conditions apply)
  • Luggage handling on tour
  • All gratuities are included


Cost Per Person *
Auckland - Auckland
Twin ShareSingle
 From Auckland & other joining towns              $5499  $6544
 From Wellington (13 days)        $5295 $6240

*This is a cash or cheque price. Credit cards will incur a 2% fee
*Itinerary and costs subject to change


  • Travel insurance – please ask us for a quote
  • Items of a personal nature

Booking Conditions

  • A non-refundable deposit of $500 per person will secure a place on the tour
  • FULL PAYMENT is due no later than 22 January 2019
  • Bookings made after 22 January must be paid in full at time of booking

Cancellations and Refunds

  • Deposit – non refundable
  • After 22 January 2019 – no refund
  • All cancellation charges are on a per-person basis
  • No refund can be made once tour is underway

Travel Insurance

We strongly advise all participants to take out suitable travel insurance to cover cancellation costs. Please ask us for a quote

General Information

Included highlights at a Glance

  • Exclusive chartered train
  • Raurimu Spiral – Central Plateau
  • Cruise Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Coastal Pacific rail to Christchurch
  • Tranz Alpine rail traverse of the Southern Alps – both ways
  • West Coast highlights including Hokitika
  • Taieri Gorge Train
  • Coaching through uniquely open Central Otago
  • Queenstown’s world-renowned scenery          
  • Milford Sound lunch cruise
  • Dunedin city sights tour
  • Two nights in Greymouth, Queenstown, Te Anau and Dunedin
  • Transport and some porterage of your luggage

Frequently Asked Questions

Travelling alone?   Don’t hesitate to book if you are on your own. Although we are unable to guarantee twin share accommodation for participants travelling individually, we will do our utmost to match suitable participants in share accommodation to avoid the single room supplement.

For those who prefer, we have rooms for sole use.
Can I extend my holiday?

Yes, it is possible to extend your holiday at the end of the tour. Simply advise us before you make your final payment and prior to issuing your airline ticket (if applicable).
Can I deduct the airfare from the tour cost?

Yes, where we have included return airfares, if you wish to arrange your own airfares, simply deduct $150 (approx).


About our accommodation

Accommodation has been carefully selected on location, a high standard of comfort and friendly, helpful service. A cooked breakfast and a three course or buffet dinner are included on most days. Rooms have single, twin or double beds, en-suite bathroom, television, radio, telephone and generally have tea and coffee making facilities.

Health and Fitness

  • At times, entering and exiting the train can be very demanding for those with limited mobility
  • To ensure the tour is enjoyable for the whole group, a good standard of fitness is required with the ability to walk 400 metres unaided
  • Mobility frames are not practical or permitted

Optional Tours

The optional tours have always proved popular


Thursday 25                 Blue Penguin Colony visit (Oamaru)                          $28 per person

The birds return from their days fishing, make their way across the beach, up a stony ramp and cross to the colony. The colony began when a small number of blue penguins began nesting in a rock quarry area at the edge of Oamaru Harbour in the early 1990s. Today it is Oamaru’s largest tourist attraction.


Sunday 28                  Lake Wakatipu Cruise (TSS Earnslaw)                         $95 per person

A three and a half hour excursion departing Steamer’s Wharf in Queenstown at noon on the coal-fired TSS Earnslaw. Spectacular views of the resort township and the Remarkable Ranges abound. Enjoy afternoon tea at Walters Peak Station.


Sunday 28                  Queenstown Helicopter Flight                                                $455 per person
Look down on spectacular scenery as you cross Lake Wakatipu with a special landing during the flight. Continue over Ben Lomond and the famous historic Skippers Canyon. See the renowned steep canyon walls of the Shotover River and fly passed Coronet Peak and the Wakatipu Basin.                  

Monday 29                 Te Anau Glow Worm Caves                                       $93 per person

Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “one of the most unusual limestone cave experiences on the planet’, the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves is a must-do for anyone visiting Fiordland.


These optional tours attract a separate charge and can be included at time of final payment (see booking form)

Note: Pukekohe Travel reserves the right to correct errors and omissions on our website without recourse.
* Itinerary subject to change