Discover Scenic Plus
The new Scenic Plus experience isn’t your everyday journey through the South. From fresh food inspired by the surrounding landscapes to interactive on-board storytelling and hand-delivered regional wines – it’s an exciting first step in the evolution of scenic train travel. Step behind the scenes of the launch of Scenic Plus.
Nothing beats a Kiwi summer. From sprawling beaches beckoning up and down the coasts, to world-class walks and stunning vineyards, there’s an adventure waiting around every corner.
But for New Zealanders looking to try something new in our beautiful backyard, the Scenic Plus experience is sure to tick all boxes. This brand-new experience is currently available on both the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific journeys.
So whether you’re already on board, or foresee a scenic voyage in your future, here’s a look at everything that Scenic Plus has on offer – and how it came to life.
A story around every turn
If you love your travels full of friendly faces and brilliant stories, the on-board hosts will certainly delight. These lively experts make sure that no guest leaves without a tale of their own. After all, they did learn from the best. Each Scenic Plus host has worked closely with Jason Gunn to develop a unique storytelling experience.
“Seriously, the hosts are a credit to the organisation. So professional yet full of personality. They made the trip exceptional.”
– Scenic Plus passenger, TranzAlpine
For Paul Trowell, Product Development Manager at The Great Journeys of New Zealand, Jason Gunn and his company Easily Said were an obvious choice to help the hosts bring the journey to life. “He has a certain mana and fantastic industry experience working with people.”
Gunn’s worked in New Zealand broadcasting for almost 40 years across both radio and television as a host, presenter, director and writer. His passion for connecting through storytelling means every journey will have little nuggets about the local surroundings to surprise and delight.
He also has a childhood connection to trains, which made him a natural fit. “Our grandfather was a train driver in the South Island, so it’s part of our family history. And Andrew, my older brother, has a love of history and trains. As kids on our trips around New Zealand, we would stop at railway stations along the way and Andrew would share stories with us.”
For Gunn, the best stories are told from the heart, not the head. And it’s this passion that’s rubbed off on all of the Scenic Plus hosts. They started by listening to the fascinating on-board commentary, then thought, “let’s dig deeper.” Stories just kept popping up – and they were stories that needed to be told.
We have the best scenery in the world and the most fascinating stories of incredible people and their journeys,” says Gunn. “It’s been a real honour to help the wonderful hosts connect the two. With heartfelt authenticity and Kiwi good humour, our hosts take this journey to a whole new level.”
If you listen closely, you’ll even hear stories Gunn and the crew have picked up directly from the locals. There’s everything from hundreds-year-old history and geography, to wildlife and stories of local food and wine. Plus, the stories pay respect to those who went before us, building the railway tracks and structures that we travel on today.
“As a New Zealander, there will be a real sense of pride to hear these stories. They are heartfelt and when you hear them, you’ll want to share them.”
– Jason Gunn
The on-board team
The Great Journeys of New Zealand are fortunate to have an established, experienced crew in place. Complementing the crew are new Scenic Plus staff, who have joined from airline backgrounds like Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Virgin Australia. So you may recognise a couple of familiar faces.
For these long-time pros, the switch from flight attendants to ‘train attendants’ was a no-brainer. They’re trained in premium service, so every trip can go off without a hitch.
One Scenic Plus Train Attendant, Carla Elliot, had been working in the airline industry for more than eight years before joining in August. “I’ve travelled all over the world as a flight attendant, but I’ve actually never seen parts of my own backyard here in New Zealand,” says Carla. She wants to encourage other flight attendants to keep seeking out new ways to use their skillset, despite the challenging year it’s been.
For Carla, it was a welcome change to travel by train. “The view outside the window is better, it’s not just clouds but beautiful coasts or mountains.” Similarly, former flight attendant Ash Nobari says he’s noticed that train passengers are much more relaxed than those in the sky. “They are in holiday mode and happy to enjoy the journey, the food and the scenery.”
Ash even moved back to his hometown of Christchurch for the new role and is enjoying the change of pace. After flying long and short haul for several years, he’s happy to be able to sleep in his own bed every night.
“On the airlines I used to recommend the TranzAlpine and trains for people to do as an activity. I’d never been on it before I took the role as a Scenic Plus attendant and it’s been amazing. I keep telling everyone to book a seat. It’s such a relaxing way to travel.”
The team were eager to take their skills for a test-ride, so Scott McGregor, Food and Beverage Development Lead, got the team to run trials on a number of travelers who received a lucky upgrade. These took place over two weeks onselected services on the TranzAlpine and the Coastal Pacific.
“We’re small enough that front-line recommendations are listened to,” says McGregor. “We’re constantly looking at solutions to improve and make the journey a nicer experience.” The team, as well as the customer feedback, was an essential part of ensuring premium service.
Taste the regions
Like any good journey, it’s important to bring your appetite along for the ride. The dining experience on Scenic Plus has been carefully curated to complement the surrounding landscapes. And with a regionally inspired menu including a range of local flavours across breakfast, lunch, cheese platters and farewell canapés – there’s something for everyone.
If you’re craving something a bit lighter, you can still relax with a coffee or a number of other tasty snacks available to everyone on board. But one thing you won’t find is plastic. All food comes freshly prepared and served on crockery. With real cutlery, glasses and linen napkins for elevated dining comfort.
“The inclusion of linen serviettes and quality cutlery was a pleasure, as so many travel experiences have abandoned this.”
- Scenic Plus passenger, Coastal Pacific
Along with homegrown delicacies and sustainable tableware, guests can enjoy main courses tailored to their trip. For guests on the TranzAlpine this season, this means succulent roast lamb loin from Canterbury. Or, if you’re travelling on the Coastal Pacific, you can indulge in delicious Marlborough salmon.
Our king salmon are raised in one of the cleanest rearing environments in the world. From the crystal-clear waters flowing from Te Waikoropupū Springs in Takaka, Golden Bay, to the majestic marine environment of the Marlborough Sounds – it’s a true local flavour.
For Ahleen Rayner, Executive General Manager of Tourism & Marketing at KiwiRail, the need to support local was obvious. “It is really important for us to showcase the regions that we travel through. We know it’s been a tough year for tourism operators or those impacted by the effects of lockdown on tourism. The new Scenic Plus experience will highlight what the Southern regions can offer Kiwi holidaymakers.”
By partnering with LSG Sky Chefs, The Great Journeys of New Zealand can tap into LSG Sky Chefs’ strong network of local suppliers in the regions surrounding our journeys. Their network allows them to supply local food inspired by the flavours of the land.
One local supplier is Barkers of Geraldine, whose fresh, delicious jam is served with scones on board the Coastal Pacific. They’re known for bringing fun, flavour and flair to their food – all of which is proudly made on a corner of the original family farm in Geraldine, South Canterbury.
The best of wine country
If you fancy a drink, why not sip on a range of wines from the surrounding vineyards? The entire wine and beer selection on board Scenic Plus is produced in New Zealand.
For beers, Monteith’s was the natural choice for an on-board partnership. Located in Greymouth, where travellers can choose to start or end their TranzAlpine journey, Monteith’s is one of New Zealand’s original breweries. So if you find yourself in Greymouth, it’s well worth the trip.
The current wine selection features Tohu Wines and Tiki Wines. Tohu is acknowledged as He mātāmua taketake - the original. It’s the first Māori-owned and operated wine label, enjoyed by wine lovers across the world and winners of many prestigious awards. Tohu Wines is also part of Kono, a Māori, whānau-owned company based in Te Tauihu, the top of the South Island. With more than 4000 owner families, they hope to preserve and enhance their taonga for present and future generations.
Tiki Wines gets their name from the Tiki whānau, indigenous New Zealand wine producers committed to sustainable winegrowing with an uncompromising commitment to quality. They care for their vines under the guiding Māori principles of Kaitiakitanga: guardianship, protection and preservation of the earth. And they do it well – founder Royce McKean’s family have been living and farming in Aotearoa for hundreds of years.
Each drink off the menu is handpicked to complement the flavours of the local food.
So you can enjoy local, while feeling like one too. You may even return home with a newly refined palette.
Comfort in a carriage
At the heart of our South Island journeys, regardless of which class of ticket is purchased, are still our world-class carriages with large panoramic windows and skylights through which to enjoy New Zealand’s most spectacular landscapes.
A short while ago when these carriages were out of action due to Covid-19, a team of Wellington specialists at KiwiRail took the chance to refresh the carriages to a high standard. KiwiRail owns and operates The Great Journeys of New Zealand.
When refreshing the carriages, the team examined each part closely. With excellence in mind, they replaced any parts that didn’t quite meet this standard. They worked hard within a tight timeframe to get all the carriages ready. And in just six weeks, all three carriages were completed – a huge achievement.
The future of scenic travel
It’s been a year of re-discovering everything Aotearoa has to offer. And the Scenic Plus experience is an exciting first step toward a new class of train travel – one that’s focussed on hosting, dining, and truly immersing yourself in the surrounding regions.
“We have a vision for the future of scenic train travel, with a pipeline of products and services to deliver that vision – this is only the beginning,” says Rayner. As an ever-evolving local experience, it’s so much more than getting from point A to B. It’s a bucket list must-do for all Kiwis. Watch this space.
To keep up with the Scenic Plus experience and learn more about what’s on offer, visit www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/scenic-plus.