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Old 08-13-2014, 04:30 PM   #21
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I was researching NZ too, never been.

Has anyone tried their rail passes?

Seems like a lot of spectacular train journeys and the pass would also include the ferry between NI and SI.

Went to Sydney for a week 4 years ago, between Christmas and New Years. I think the exchange rate was worse back then than it is now. Was expensive, London expensive.
I want to bike NZ. Town to town, sample the vineyards... all on my road bike. I just need someone to do it with me and whose spouse my wife would get along with! For some reason, riding dozens of miles a day in NZ and drinking wine along the way doesn't appeal to many of my friends! Suckers.
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Old 08-13-2014, 04:57 PM   #22
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NZ rail runs on an odd gauge.

In my effort to try to find the south island tour we enjoyed I found this: Forgotten World Adventures New Zealand Rail Tours Experience Speeders! That looks like fun!!

I think this is the tour we booked: RailBus New Zealand | Rail Train Bus Ferry Travel Services | New Zealand Buses Trains Ferries | NZ National Inter-City Rail Train Bus Ferry Network | NZ Scenic Rail Train Bus Travel Journeys Routes Lines System
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Old 08-13-2014, 09:32 PM   #23
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Here's the link to the NZ railway network:

New Zealand Rail Bus Ferry Travel | New Zealand Train Rail Bus Coach Travel Services | NZ National Rail Train Bus Coach Ferry Network | NZ Rail Train Bus Coach Ferry Routes Lines System

There are only 3 passenger train services: Auckland to Wellington, Picton to CHCH, and CHCH to Graymouth.

If you take the ferry across the strait (NI to SI,) you will disembark at Picton, and from there you can take the train to CHCH. The service from CHCH to Graymouth is called the Trans Alpine. It goes through Arthur's Pass (one of three passes that link the east and west coasts of SI across the Southern Alps), and it's justifiably the most spectacular train journey in NZ.

The other two train services are ho-hum. They get you from point A to point B, but the scenery isn't particularly remarkable.

Beware that if you take the ferry from Wellington to Picton (and vice versa), some rental car agencies won't let you take the rental car across the strait. Also the ride can be choppy due to high waves.

I heard the Picton to CHCH train can be nice, with views of dolphins or whales along the coast.

But mainly, I was interested if it turns out to be more cost-effective as well as avoiding a lot of driving.

Though if more than 2 people are traveling, buying that many train tickets probably isn't cheap either.

Of course flying between the NI and SI is another option.

The Tranz Alpine looks to be something which shouldn't be missed.
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Old 08-13-2014, 09:49 PM   #24
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Given where the finest scenery is located in NZ, I don't think that the limited train network is sufficient to rely largely on trains. Buses supplement the trains, but I think you really need your own transport. I had my bike, but obviously a rental car is a good option.

I didn't think that Arthur's Pass was all that spectacular, though it certainly wasn't ugly. For me, the nicest and most unusual scenery was on the west coast of the South Island, the area around Te Anau/Milford Sound/Queenstown (though Queenstown itself is excessively developed), and the scenery while hiking in various national parks. The small road section along Queen Charlotte Sound near Picton is gorgeous, too. I did not get to Mt. Cook, Mt. Egmont on the North Island, or north of Auckland.

Tongariro NP had some interesting volcanic scenery, and the Coromandel peninsula was surprisingly nice given its proximity to Auckland.
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Old 08-13-2014, 11:23 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by explanade View Post
I heard the Picton to CHCH train can be nice, with views of dolphins or whales along the coast.

But mainly, I was interested if it turns out to be more cost-effective as well as avoiding a lot of driving.

Though if more than 2 people are traveling, buying that many train tickets probably isn't cheap either.

Of course flying between the NI and SI is another option.

The Tranz Alpine looks to be something which shouldn't be missed.
Rental car from the big ones (Hertz, Avis, Budget) generally rents for NZD $70-80 + GST (at 15%) per day. I have never taken the train so I don't know how the costs compare.

Domestic flights are relatively inexpensive so that's a good option if you don't want to spend too much time on the road.

The drive from CHCH to Picton takes about 4-5 hours, and passes through Kaikoura, which is the whale watching capital of NZ. The road hugs the coast and is very pretty on a sunny day, with multiple lookout points to see seals and whales, etc.
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