Winter Thriller aboard the Northern Explorer

From Auckland to Wellington, discover the sparkle of winter as it takes hold of rural New Zealand and the volcanic plateau

Snow covered Mount Ruapehu rises above the Northern Explorer train
Crossing the South Rangatiki viaduct aboard the Northern Explorer train
Northern Explorer train approaches the snow-covered Mount Ruapehu in winter

An epic adventure
across the volcanic plateau

Between the vibrant cities of Auckland and Wellington stretches 648km of stunning New Zealand countryside.

From epic highs upon the Central Plateau to expansive lows across the plains of Waikato and Manawatu, the Northern Explorer ventures through the full spectrum of New Zealand's famous scenery. Dotted with rural townships and isolated farmsteads, frozen by the chill of winter, this is the thrilling story of rural New Zealand.

Rolling through the Shire 

Landscapes filled with wispy mists and sparkling frosts, ice-cold fields and skeletal trees, smoke drifting from the chimneys of solitary homes. The opening chapters of the Northern Explorer's thrilling winter story could be straight out of Lord of the Rings - and this train journey did inspire Peter Jackson's vision of Middle Earth.

But this is no fantasy tale of dragons and wizards. These rolling shires are the beating heart of the North Island's agricultural industry. The isolated farms and communities you pass aboard the Northern Explorer represent the backbone of New Zealand's hardy rural workforce. The landscapes might be quaint and beautiful, but it is a formidable environment - especially during winter. 

View of Mount Doom (actually named Ngauruhoe) from the Northern Explorer train

Ascent to Mount Doom 

From rolling shire-like hills and quaint river valleys, the story ascends onto Central Plateau where the mountains of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu tower over the horizon.

With its soft slopes blanketed in brilliant snow, the sleeping giant Ruapehu provides a gentle winter playground for skiers. The distinctive cone of Ngauruhoe is recognisable as the ominous Mount Doom, but its pristine white winter coat makes it a picture of innocence. 

Beneath the mountains, the vast wintry hinterland of National Park stretches. Frosted tussock and frozen gorse tell the story of bleakness - even in summer, this is a harsh environment, where even only the toughest plants survive.

Frosty mornings on Kapiti Coast aboard the Northern Explorer train in winter

Twilight skyline while boarding the Northern Explorer train at Auckland Strand Station
Sunrise on the Kapiti Coast as the Northern Explorer approaches Raumati

Sunrise to sunset 

With the shorter days of winter bookending the journey in twilight, catching the Northern Explorer Wellington to Auckland train has a clear advantage. With the orange glow of the winter sun rising over the Kapiti Coast, the lonely island of Kapiti is an evocative view from the Paekakariki escarpment.

Equally, the brilliant Auckland skyline twinkling above the Northern Explorer while its stands at Auckland Strand station is an exhilarating sight when boarding the glowing Auckland to Wellington train in the early morning. 

Take a break

Winter months are the perfect time for city breaks, with cosy bars and restaurants creating a warm and alluring atmosphere, and museums and galleries providing indoors activities.

You can also stop midway on your Northern Explorer journey. National Park and Ohakune come alive during winter when the ski slopes are in full swing, and a night or two at the opulent Chateau Tongariro is a New Zealand must-do activity.  

*Book a special winter fare

Northern Explorer special winter fares start from $89 for single journeys between Auckland and Wellington. All fares are subject to availability and are changeable/refundable according to our standard terms and conditions, so if your plans change then so can your ticket. 

The winter season finale is on Saturday 16 October 2021. So book your seat now to see this sensational story unfold at these spectacular prices. 



Book a Package 

Let us do the organising while you sit back and relax. Our Northern Explorer packages are all-inclusive and customisable, so you can build your own easy break:

Chateau Tongariro Exterior 730x504

Package | Chateau Tongariro Experience (departs Auckland)

Departing Auckland, venture south into the heart of the North Island, staying in the historic Chateau Tongariro beneath New Zealand's famous volcanoes
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Package | Explore Timeless Tongariro (departs Wellington)

Departing Wellington, explore the mighty volcanic peaks of the Central Plateau whilst enjoying the 1930s grandiosity of the Chateau Tongariro
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Package | Auckland City Break

Departing Wellington, our 3-night Auckland City Break takes you on a full Northern Explorer journey to experience the magnificent City of Sails
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Wellington City Highlights

Charges Apply | Take in all the sights and learn about the history on this fascinating tour of Wellington
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