New Zealand Trains

The Coastal Pacific: 10 Things You Need to Know Before Riding This New Zealand Train

Scenic train ride along Pacific ocean coast in Canterbury regoin, South Island of New Zealand
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New Zealand’s South Island is what you’ve seen in all the ads and internet images online. It is stunningly gorgeous and has all the elements of an adventurous vacation for even the hardest to please traveler in your group. Taking the Coastal Pacific train along the eastern coast, promising incredible views from the comfort of your seat. There are also many things to do along the route that will enrich your experience and create great memories of your Kiwi holiday.

Does the Coastal Pacific run all year?

The Coastal Pacific does not run all year. This line runs spring through autumn due to winter weather that can present itself in the mountains.

How long does the Coastal Pacific train take?

The Coastal Pacific train is a five-hour, 216-mile journey that will take you through some of the most arresting scenery that exists in New Zealand.

What days does the Coastal Pacific train run?

The Coastal Pacific train runs on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays from February through April, making one trip each way per day. You can choose to start in Picton or Christchurch. Travel one way or return by train the same day. You can also choose to stop at various points along the way, expanding your trip as long as you would like.

Do you need to book in advance to take the Coastal Pacific Train?

You need to book in advance to take the Coastal Pacific train. Trains are seating only and passengers are not able to walk on once seating is fully booked. Once booked, you can cancel and get a full refund within 24 hours of your scheduled trip.

How much does it cost to ride the Coastal Pacific train?

Fares for the Coastal Pacific train start at $99 one way. Fares increase, depending on what service you choose. The Scenic Class Experience is $99 one way, while the Scenic Plus Class Experience is $229, one way.

Is there a First Class on the Coastal Pacific?

There is a First Class service called the Scenic Plus Class Experience. The Scenic Plus Class Experience will pamper you with all the finer things in life. Enjoy locally inspired chef’s meals served by an attentive and knowledgeable staff right at your seat. There are specialist hosts and storytellers selected for their keen awareness of the route and its history. Panoramic windows will keep the eye-popping scenery coming for hours. If you find you want some crisp mountain air, visit the open air carriage and make sure you take your camera.

Does the Coastal Pacific train have sleeper carriages?

The Coastal Pacific train does not have sleeper carriages. However, you can book a night or two in one of the cities on the route for a perfect compliment to your trip. There are three cities in between Christchurch and Picton in which to lengthen the time of your itinerary.

What cities are on the Coastal Pacific route?

The Coastal Pacific train starts in Christchurch and ends in Picton with stops in Rangiora, Kaikoura, and Blenheim.

New Zealand Coastal Pacific Train

What is there to do in the various cities along the Coastal Pacific route?

The route that the Coastal Pacific train takes is dotted with some amazing cities that offer the adventure seeking traveler additional opportunities for recreation and exploration. Stop and take some time to get to know some of the places on this fabulous train trip.


The gorgeous gardens and English flare that Christchurch boasts is captivating and alluring. When you roll into town ready for a ride on the rails, you will definitely want to spend at least a couple of days exploring this beautiful city on New Zealand’s South Island.

Spend some time lazing around on the Avon River or go on an English-style punt boat and enjoy the flora that dazzles especially in early spring and summer.

Then, take in the sights of the Canterbury Museum where you’ll see dinosaurs and other relics of the time along with the history of exploring the South Pole.

Wine enthusiasts can tour around the countryside and then head to Cashel Street for some great shopping and farmer’s market finds.

Christchurch New Zealand
Lyttelton Harbour Christchurch New Zealand


History and beauty abound in this rural, yet vibrant little town that boasts gourmet eateries, fantastic shopping and a taste of the quintessential New Zealand farm life that you see in pictures.

Start at the The Rangiora Museum and see what life was like for the settlers of Rangiora. Then, visit the Wee Dram Farm Park to see what animals you can cuddle and swoon over that frequent Southern New Zealand. Boutique shopping is all the rage in Rangiora. Browse the cluster of shops on High Street and find that special gift you’ve been seeking.


Kaikoura is the place to be if you want to see amazing sea life. Dolphin and whale watching tours are the star of the show in Kaikoura. Step on a cruise that will show you sperm whales and dusky dolphins adding to a fantastic addition to your New Zealand travels.

Don’t forget to add a mouthwatering crayfish outing to your itinerary. The New Zealand Crafish is a Spiny Rock Lobster and is both a delicacy and a staple of the region. It’s all about the ocean in this town and there’s no better way to experience Southern New Zealand’s coast than in the fun-loving and interesting town of Kaikoura.


For wine enthusiasts, this is the place to stop and take a couple of days to drink up the sunshine and sip up the wine. Over 75% of New Zealand’s wine is made in this region as it sits perfectly, surrounded by mountains on all sides but its eastern side. Cool summers and mild winters lend to the Blenheim’s grapes being the most flavorful and plentiful of any place in New Zealand.

Starting out on your wine tasting adventure can leave you with a bit of decision fatigue as there are 65 wineries and 290 grape growers. Choosing a path can be quite daunting. Select from a variety of wine tasting tours or hire a car and set out on your own to find the best grape in New Zealand.


For those wanting to immerse themselves in nature, this is THE place in the South Island. From gorgeous scenery, to wildlife viewing, there is a Picton activity for you. The Queen Charlotte Sound it where it all happens. Hike, bike or cruise around this gorgeous inlet and you will see wildlife such as dolphins, birds of prey and occasionally a whale. Hike around the sound and take a day or two to camp or select an accommodation with a natural setting that will relax and recharge you.

What wildlife can be expected to be seen on the Coastal Pacific train trip?

Because the Coastal Pacific train route stays on the coast for much of the trip, you can expect to see marine and land wildlife of all kinds on this trip. Dolphins, whales, seals and seal lions, albatross, penguins and birds of prey are just a few of the animals that you’ll have a chance to see on this trip. The open-air carriage is a great place for the amateur and novice photographer to capture some once in a lifetime images of new Zealand’s original inhabitants.

Taking the Coastal Pacific train is a trip that will add that something special to your already amazing New Zealand vacation. Take the train from Picton, straight to Christchurch, or expand your trip into a journey filled with the chance to intimately get to know each stop along the way. New Zealand truly is as stunning and exciting as the hype you’ve heard. Experience it for yourself by train.

Wendy Edwards
Wendy is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. But for the past seven years she has traveled by RV to many National Parks, monuments and everywhere in between. She and her family of five, a furry canine friend and a bearded dragon have crossed the United States thirty one times. She never tires of hiking, biking, camping and photographing this beautiful country.