The Journey

With the Pacific Ocean lapping at its wheels on one side and the Kaikoura ranges rising majestically on the other, the Coastal Pacific is undoubtedly the most picturesque of our scenic journeys.

Sun, surf and scenery - sea it all on this magical journey!

In the freshness of early morning, the Coastal Pacific departs Christchurch and heads north, passing through the rolling countryside of Canterbury and the farmsteads and wineries of Rangiora and Waipara. The Coastal Pacific then cuts east and joins the coast to begin its amazing course along the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Coastal Pacific goes along Mikonui Beach

Okarahia Viaduct

Between the Amuri tunnel at Oaro and the tree-lined banks of Claverley, the 21m high Okarahia Viaduct comes unexpectedly, providing a spectacular coastal vista with the Pacific Ocean stretching away into the blue.

From here, the Coastal Pacific cuts a lonely course alongside the sea, with sheer cliffs on one side and gentle waves lapping on the other. In the distance, the huge peaks of the Kaikoura ranges descend dramatically into the sea. For the next half-hour, the Coastal Pacific ducks in and out of rocky bays with the mountains growing ever-larger.

Kahutara River bridge

Immediately adjacent to Riley's Road tunnel, the Kahutara River bridge provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Seaward Kaikouras to the west.

By late morning, the Coastal Pacific is easing into the seaside town of Kaikoura, famed for its marine wildlife and activities. Beyond Kaikoura, the Coastal Pacific cruises across grassy flat coastlands with nothing but sea and mountains for company.

Coastal Pacific coastal scrub north of Kaikoura 720x343

As the train continues northward, the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean and the jagged peaks of the Kaikoura mountains come ever closer on either side of the tracks. Eventually they meet near Hapaku and the Coastal Pacific once again dances along the rocky shoreline, kissing the water's edge. 

One of the most spectacular moments comes at Mangamaunu, where the train rounds the southern end of the bay and delivers exceptional close-up views of the Kaikoura mountain ranges rising up out of the water.

Coastal Pacific Looking out at Mangamaunu Bay

As the mountains descend, even the coastal path becomes obscured. The train now clings to the cliffs and ducks through a series of short tunnels as the mountains stretch out into the sea.

Lake Grassmere

The Coastal Pacific then crosses the border into Marlborough and the landscape quickly changes. The climate in Marlborough is renownedly hot and the grasses soon turn to parched shades of yellow and orange. You will also notice the landscape turn curiously pink as the Coastal Pacific travels through the heart of the salt plains at Lake Grassmere.

Coastal Pacific travelling through the salt plains of Lake Grassmere

Among the vineyards of Awatere Valley and Blenheim 

By lunchtime, the Coastal Pacific is amongst the sunny vineyards of Blenheim at the heart of Marlborough, New Zealand's premier wine region. The Coastal Pacific ends its epic voyage in the quaint port of Picton, in perfect time for the afternoon Interislander ferry to Wellington.

Explore beyond the tracks

This sleepy town of Kaikoura is one of New Zealand's most scenic destinations. The area is also renowned for whale spotting and swimming with dolphins. 

A sunny afternoon spent visiting the vineyards and cellar doors of  Blenheim is also an essential part of any New Zealand itinerary.

For detailed information on what you can see beyond the tracks, see our Coastal Pacific destinations section.

Connect with our scenic network

The Coastal Pacific links Christchurch with Wellington via the Interislander ferry and thereby links the Northern Explorer to the TranzAlpine.

For detailed tips on connecting with the South Island, see our Coastal Pacific connections section.

Explore our trains

To find out more about the on-board experience, including the seating, panoramic windows, café and open air viewing carriage, please visit the On Board Our Trains page.