If you live in New Zealand, chances are you’ve seen a beautiful ad on TV – travel in style and comfort, courtesy of Kiwirail. If you haven’t, here is it.
A couple of weeks ago Mr C and I went to Wellington for a long weekend. No set itinerary in mind, walk around the city, eat, drink coffee and most importantly catch the train back to Auckland. Was it worth it? Let’s see…
Booking was easy. Do it online or at the stations – Britomart in Auckland or Wellington Central station down in Welly. There are special deals available, such as early bird bookings and promo prices. Full price will set you back around 120 dollars one way. Very comparable with an average plane ticket. Extra charge applies for luggage.
Level of comfort. It will take you a few hours to get up to Auckland (11 to be exact), so comfort is paramount. Seats were wide and comfy, with a handy foldable table in front. Kind of like a plane seat, but softer and wider, with more leg room compared to cattle class. Lots of windows and space to roam around (which is actually the whole point of going by train).
Coffee on board was questionable. Long black was drinkable and flat white came with an option of chocolate or cinnamon on top and half a dozen marshmallows.
Food selection – thanks to Wishbone (café chain), I really had nothing to complain about. Of course me being myself, I grabbed a few snacks to munch on board… truth is, the food at the café was so good, I brought a few things back home! We had salmon salad for morning tea, lamb shanks for lunch and seafood chowder with wrap on the side for tea.
All fresh, although not made to order and very reasonably priced (18 or so dollars for lamb shanks and mash).
Food cart was nice, never too busy, with a seat or two available if you didn’t want to eat at your seat.
Toilets were clean and tidy, well looked after throughout the train ride.
We didn’t make too many stops, only two longer than 5 mins – in New Plymouth and Hamilton. The train driver made an announcement something along the lines ‘’please chop chop and get back on board’’ when someone was left at the station. One friendly kiwi.
Views were spectacular most of the way, especially the coast just outside of Wellington and Mt Ruapehu, with surrounding hills and gorges. Picture perfect, especially on a sunny day.
Commentaries were surprisingly interesting. Each carriage had a few screens, displaying map of North Island and major interest points. Every now and then, you’ll hear a ‘’beeeep’’ sound, which meant that commentary was about to start as we were approaching a point of interest. You’ll have to put your headphones on to hear the commentary, but it was worth it.
Staff on board were great. Attentive, friendly and presentable.
Hightlight of the trip was something a little silly. The last carriage of the train was open for better viewing, i.e. no glass windows. Great when passing through picturesque parts of NZ. What do you do when going through towns or gliding along the main highway? You wave at people in cars of course. At the beginning we had about 90% chance of passengers or drivers waving back. People would smile and look extremely happy when you wave at them… making you smile in return too :).
The only thing which was a bit odd was the lack of bins throughout the train. Wasn’t a real problem, just meant that staff had to do quite a few trips up and down the train, collecting rubbish.
Between eating, drinking coffee, reading, playing cards, glazing out of the window and waving at randoms time went soooo fast. 11 hours gone and we didn’t even notice. Was it worth it? Oh yeah, and highly recommended to others. It is probably not the route you’d want to take between Wellington and Auckland if you travel often, but it makes an extremely relaxing and enjoyable day.