If you’re travelling the North Island of New Zealand, you might be wondering, is it possible to get from Auckland to Wellington by train? If you don’t want to drive or fly then the train is a great option. This article will walk you through how to travel from Auckland to Wellington by train or vice versa.
New Zealand is a stunningly beatuful country but it’s not always the easiest to get around. The train network in New Zealand is nowhere near as extensive as the railways in Europe, Asia or even North America. However, it does exist and it can be a good option for travellers.
The intercity trains in New Zealand are run by one company, Great Journeys of NZ (the consumer face of KiwiRail) and there are only 3 routes: The Northern Explorer (Auckland to Wellington), Coastal Pacific (Picton to Christchurch) and TranzAlpine (Christchurch to Greymouth).
The Auckland Wellington train, and both other routes, are very much tourist trains. They’re not designed for or frequently used by locals. This means they are pricier but the service onboard is top class with all the comforts you could need.
Auckland to Wellington Train Route
The Northern Explorer is the name of the train service that connects Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand’s North Island and where most visitors arrive in the country, to Wellington, the vibrant capital city.
This train journey from Auckland to Wellington covers approximately 680 kilometres (422 miles) and takes you through some of the most spectacular landscapes the country has to offer.
The Auckland to Wellington train journey usually takes around 10 to 11 hours, depending on the weather conditions and any unforeseen delays.
Scenery along the Train Route
As you board the Northern Explorer in Auckland, get ready to witness some truly stunning landscapes unfold before your eyes. The train passes through all the besy bits of the North Island including the green Waikato farmland, majestic Mount Tongariro, and the becahes of the Kapiti Coast.
One of the highlights you can only experience when travelling the North Island by train is the Raurimu Spiral, a remarkable feat of engineering where the train navigates a series of tight spirals to climb a steep incline.
While the train journey itself is a captivating experience, make sure to allow yourself some time to explore the vibrant cities at each end of the route.
Auckland, often referred to as the “City of Sails,” offers a bustling urban experience with its iconic Sky Tower, waterfront promenades, and diverse dining scene.
I’d reccommend at least 2 days in each of these cities before or after your train journey to make the most of your New Zealand adventure. See my weekend in Wellington itinerary for inspiration.
Onboard the Auckland-Wellington Train
The Northern Explorer provides a comfortable and relaxing travel experience. The train has massive windows, so you can take in all the sights from the comfort of your seat. And if that isn’t enough, there is an open-air viewing carriage on every train which is the best place to get photos.
There is audio commentary along the route that tells you a bit about what’s out the window, but you’ll need to bring your own headphones with a jack to plug into the armrest.
Food and Drink
There is a cafe car on board to Auckland to Wellington train that serves full meals as well as snacks and drinks (including alcohol). I’d describe the quality as slightly above airplane level.
If you book a Scenic Plus ticket you get restaurant-style meals delivered to your seat.
You can bring large pieces of luggage onboard the train, think the same as an airline baggage allowance. And like an airline, you’re required to check in large bags before departure and collect them at the end station. Smaller bags without wheels can stay with you and go in overhead racks or under the seats.
Best Stops on the Auckland to Wellington Northern Explorer train
If you don’t wnat to travel the whole way from Auckland to Wellington in one go, you can jump off the train at one of the stations along the route and continue your jounrey another day.
You don’t need to book seperate tickets to do this, you just have to add a stop when making your booking. So it’s a great way to see some North Island attractions.
As someone who grew up in the North Island, the stops I’d actually say are worthwhile are Hamilton (2 hours south of Auckland) and either National Park or Ohakune (another 3-4 hours further south).
Hamilton is my hometown and is growing fast with lost of amazing cafes and restaurants (try The Kirk for brunch and Guthenberg for dinner) as well as the stunning Hamilton Gardens. See my Hamilton 2 day itinerary for more ideas on what to do.
With National Park and Ohakune, both are awesome but they’re very similar, with alpine scnery and ski-town vibes. If you want to do the Tongario Crossing hike then go to National Park, otherwise go to Ohakune, it has slightly more infratsructure. Both are good for skiing at Ruapehu.
Schedules for trains between Auckland and Wellington
The Wellington to Auckland train only leaves has one departure each day, leaving Auckland at 7:45 am and arriving in Wellington at 6:25 pm or leaving Wellington at 7:55 am and arriving in Auckland at 7 pm.
It;s annoying that there aren’t more options but at least these times ensure you can enjoy the secnery in the daylight and arrive in time for dinner.
Important Note: Changes in schedules or services are possible so it’s recommended that you check the official website of the Northern Explorer for the most up-to-date information before planning your trip.
How to buy Wellington-Auckland train tickets
The easiest way to book your tickets is online, through the Great Journeys of NZ website. You’ll get the latest prices, and they sometimes have discounts advertised, so it’s worth signing up to their mailing list if you plan on travelling soon. You can also purchase tickets through authorised travel agents.
The website’s booking system isn’t great so you have to call or email for any changes.
Definititely book your tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons (November to March), to make sure you don’t miss out on your preferred travel dates.
As for the cost, the ticket prices for the Auckland to Wellington train journey vary depending on factors such as the class of travel, time of year, and any promotional offers available.
A standard one-way ticket can range from $150 in autumn winter to $250+ on a weekend in summer. That may or may not be cheaper than flying but it’s dfeineitly a better experience. Train tickets also don’t tend to go up that much so it can be cost-effective for last minute travel.
Generally, there are two classes of tickets available: Scenic and Scenic Plus class. Scenic Plus is basically like business class on a plane with the main perk being better food. Scenic PLus isn’t always offered.
Frequently asked questions about travelling Wellington to Auckland by train
The train takes 10-11 hours each way, subject to delays.
Tickets start from $189 per adult one-way but discounts are often available in the off-season (autumn and winter).
The train runs once per day in each direction with one train leaving Auckland and one leaving Wellingto every morning.
Yes, you can add stop-offs when you book your ticket.
No, the train only leaves in the morning and arrives in the evening, but this way you can enjoy the scenery in daylight.
In Short: Wellington to Auckland by train
So, can you travel from Auckland to Wellington by train? Absolutely! The Northern Explorer offers a captivating journey through New Zealand’s landscapes, showcasing the country’s natural beauty in all its glory.
From the lush farmlands and dense forests to the awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes, this train journey is an experience not to be missed. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply seeking a unique way to explore New Zealand, hop aboard the Auckland to Wellington train and prepare for a remarkable adventure.
More North Island travel guides
If you’re planning a trip to the North Island of New Zealand, check out these other travel guides to help you plan your trip:
- North Island 7/10 Day Itinerary
- Best North Island Beaches
- Best Places in New Zealand to Vist in Winter