Connecting Your Journey

The Northern Explorer connects the North Island cities of Auckland, Hamilton and Palmerston North with Wellington and the South Island. When it comes to exploring New Zealand, there is no greater (or longer) journey!

map of The Great Journeys of New Zealand

Connecting with New Zealand on the Northern Explorer

The Northern Explorer will connect you with the best that New Zealand has to offer. At 675km long, the Northern Explorer's route from Auckland to Wellington  passes many of the North Island's top destinations - and those that it doesn't pass, are in easy reach from the four cities that the Northern Explorer connects together.

With our through-fare tickets, you can stop off along the journey for a day or a week for no extra charge. This allows you to explore New Zealand fully, whilst returning to the relaxing calm of the Northern Explorer at any time to continue your journey onwards.

The Northern Explorer begins its journey in the bustling metropolis of Auckland, where you can enjoy the bright lights and the razzle-dazzle of New Zealand's super-city.

The Northern Explorer's first stop is the city of Hamilton, where you can step off and explore the mighty Waikato. Top destinations that you can reach from here include the surfers paradise of Raglan and the Hobbiton film set. You can also catch long distance buses to Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga and Napier from Hamilton.

One of the most popular stops on the Northern Explorer's route is Otorohanga, which is just a few minutes drive from Waitomo Caves. From Waitomo, you can organise a tour that includes Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton and Te Puia in Rotorua before returning to the tracks to continue your scenic journey to the Central Plateau.

National Park station is situated in the volcanic heartland of the North Island. For those interested in hiking the Martian terrain of the Tongoriro Crossing or scaling the active cone of Ngaurahoe (Mount Doom), the Tongoriro National Park is the place for you!

Ohakune is next along the tracks and is a popular alpine resort for skiers in wintertime. More recently though, Ohakune has become a popular stop for mountain biking and walking, with the newly restored "Old Coach Road" becoming one of New Zealand's favourite cycle and walking trails.

The Northern Explorer terminates at Wellington, our quaint harbourside capital and one of the coolest cities in the world. Wellington is a great place to enjoy everything from street food to haute cuisine, washed down with award winning local wine or sophisticated craft beer. Give yourself at least a couple of nights to soak up the atmosphere of this sparkling city.  

Connecting with the South Island

From Wellington, you can connect with the Interislander and cruise across the Cook Strait on one the one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world. The journey takes three hours, much of which is spent meandering through the inspiringly beautiful Marlborough Sounds. If you are planning to visit both of our islands, then this is the way to do it!

The Interislander will take you to Picton, which is an ideal spot to explore the serenely beautiful hills of Marlborough. From Picton, you can also head west around the coast to the popular tourist town of Nelson and explore the Abel Tasman National Park.

Connecting with Christchurch

From Wellington, you can also connect directly with Christchurch via our interconnecting Interislander and Coastal Pacific services. Starting in the morning, you travel across the Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry. Arriving in Picton in the early afternoon, you have time to stretch your legs around this quaint harbour-town before boarding the Coastal Pacific train.

Aboard the Coastal Pacific, you will venture through Blenheim and Kaikoura, both of which are worthy places to stop, before arriving at Christchurch in the early evening in perfect time to check in to your hotel and head out for dinner.