Heading south on the Northerner train!

Recently, after flying to north for a conference, I returned home on the train from Auckland – back to Wellington on the Northern Explorer.  Seems funny to be going south on the northerner! 

Britomart, Auckland’s downtown  transport hub

 I’d taken this trip about 18 months ago in reverse as this train travels three days a week in each direction – Mon/Wed/Fri from Auckland and Tues/Thurs/ Sat from Wellington. (See KiwiRail Tranz Scenic website for exact details or booking)


KiwiRail staff spot me as a Northern Explorer traveller as soon as I enter Britomart station in downtown Auckland and quickly I’m given my seat number. After breakfast and my usual ‘long black’ on the station concourse, I settle into my comfortable seat with its good leg room, and note the carriages are much improved since my last trip. With large scenic windows and a great purpose-built viewing carriage I know this will be a great journey – unfortunately the weather is not promising for great photos.


One of the waterfalls that cant be seen from the road
One of the waterfalls that can’t be seen from the road


Travelling by rail always ensures you see many parts of NZ that can’t see from the road and this route delivers. This ‘main trunk line’ had its last spike hammered into place by Prime Minster Joseph Ward in 1908. Covering 681 kilometres it has 14 tunnels and 352 bridges and of course the Raurimu Spiral. An engineering feat, on this spiral the train climbs 132 metres in under seven kilometres, and for many enthusiasts this is the highlight of the trip, while I love the viaducts and white cliffs of the Rangitikei River.


Seems the on-board crew, Antonio, Mark and Elaine have worked on the Northern Explorer for some time: Elaine tells me “How could you not love a job that has the office window changing like this one does!”


The café car has seat service so I suggest you get there as soon as you can and pre-order your meals or coffee breaks – I missed out on the chunky fruit salad as it had sold out so my warning is based on experience!


My meals were roast vegetable and feta salad for lunch, then a lamb shank for dinner – this meant I could just head home and relax without having to stop on Cuba St. for a meal or cook one J Also note that for about 2 hours of the trip, EFTPOS is not available due to the remote and windy track.

A happy traveller from the UK
A happy traveller from the UK


Comments from some of my fellow travellers include these:


  • Bath, UK woman: “Excellent. Absolutely fabulous.”

  • Tauranga, NZ couple: “Fabulous, relaxing. We bussed to Auckland to get the train and in Wellington we have a list of to-do things we didn’t complete a couple of years ago – we’ll fly back home.”

  • Virginia, USA couple:  “We have travelled all over Europe by rail and this has more than lived up to our expectations!  This trip is to celebrate our 59th and 60th birthdays and we are travelling onto the South Island by the Interislander ferry then we will train and bus too. We just love the open observation carriage. ”

  • South African couple: “We just love it. My husband has been a train enthusiast since he was a child in Namibia.”

  • A Kiwi and his new Vietnamese wife:  “This is my first trip on a train since I was a child and it’s great. My wife has never been on a train before and is really loving the ride and scenery. It’s a great way to see our own country.”

  • Auckland couple: “this has been on our bucket list for year. It’s fabulous and will absolutely recommend it. We are spending a few days in Wellington then flying home.”


So, to see rolling hills, plains, rivers, native bush, pine plantations, mountains and viaducts along with sheep, cattle, deer, birds, beehives, grapevines, ducks and llamas .. all unseen from the road, I recommend you take a journey on the Northern Explorer. As you can tell, I loved it and would do it again – but first I must travel across the Southern Alp’s by train to add to my list of great journeys I’ve taken by train!



See what a guy who recently sped around the world in only 125 days, and travelled on all three KiwiRail scenic journeys had to say about them here


You can also follow KiwiRail on their Facebook page or on Twitter @KiwiRail. (of course you can follow me here on Facebook and Twitter too @kiwitravwriter)



Interislander celebrates fifty years of service to New Zealander and tourists

Check this - InterIslander and an Air NZ plane at Wellington
Both the InterIslander & Air New Zealand at Wellington Airport!

Yesterday the Interislander ferry – which sails across the Cook Strait, connecting New Zealand’s capital city (Wellington, North Island) with Picton (South Island) –  celebrated 50 years of service to locals and tourists.

Happy anniversary Interislander!

A perfect day on an Interislander ferry: “so smooth it could have been ironed’ I overheard

Cambodia – the kiwi-travel-writer travels by bike & truck

Hire a bike by the day and see a different side of any country
Rough road, overloaded truck (incl me on the back!) = broken axle in jungle
No matter where you are, always try local food ... fresh lotus seed heads

See more of my Cambodian photos here

catch a ferry service from Auckland

Ferry to Coromandel – the naked way

Bus Promo

Nakedbus.com now has a ferry service that takes you from Auckland to Coromandel in two hours.

Winter Timetable:
Tuesday & Sunday

  • Leaves Auckland at 9am
  • Leaves Coromandel at 4.30pm


  • Leaves Auckland at 6pm
  • Leaves Coromandel at 8pm

The nakedbus ferry links Auckland and Coromandel (in both directions) on Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays. More days will be added as the weather gets warmer.

Our times are perfect for a weekend away or just a day trip. Just imagine the relaxing feeling as you the ocean breeze wafts over you as you cruise away from the hustle and bustle life of Auckland. A perfect weekend escape in the midst of winter (oh, and if you live in the Coromandel Peninsula, this could be a great way to get to Auckland).

So go for the day, go for the weekend or take a longer winter break, with nakedbus.com.

As always the first ticket goes at $1*. No, it is not a typo: ferry to the Coromandel from $1*. Book Now for your Coromandel winter escape.

How do our $1* fares work?

By now, all of you should know that our fares start at $1*. But how do you get a $1 fare?

We guarantee that at least the first seat on every bus is $1* – so as soon as we release seats for a particular date (usually 3-6 months before departure) the price will start at $1*. As soon as the $1* seat or seats have gone, the price moves up to the next bracket. Then, when THOSE seats have sold out, the price moves up to the next bracket.

So, to get the cheapest prices, it pays to book as early as possible.

how do planes fly and refugees

Do you know how planes fly? To me it’s a mysterious thing and think that they, like bumblebees, should not be able rise up into the air.

However fly they do, and fly well, and apart from a frisson of fear I have on take off, landing, and in turbulent weather, I am mostly a non-worrying-flier.

I do have some questions though. How do they get those great lumps of steel up into the air, travel thousands of kilometres, land safely, fuel up and do it all again – but can’t get the internal speaker system to work well? That’s the mystery for me. Continue reading “how do planes fly and refugees”

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