Now that we have been confined to our own little island for the foreseeable future, Cindy and I decided that we needed to start touring the country instead of the normal cruising holidays that we have done for the past 10 years since retiring. We saw an advertisement in the paper offering three train journeys, along with some sightseeing in between, with a company called Endeavour New Zealand run by Pete Salvesen out of Christchurch. The trains were the Northern Explorer Auckland to Wellington, the Coastal Pacific Picton to Christchurch, and the Trans Alpine Christchurch to Greymouth.
After our meet and greet in Auckland City on a Sunday evening, Monday morning we arrived early and very excited to start our journey but appalled at the awful makeshift office made out of a shipping container that is Auckland Railway Station. This trip was greatly anticipated as we hadn't been on a long train journey before, and our hosts Pete, John and Dianna warmly welcomed us, and babysat us throughout the whole week, making the experience very easy.
Not knowing what to expect, we thought the Auckland to Wellington leg was a bit long, at 11 hours 20 minutes, but there was a great dining car which helped along the way, and saw some stunning vistas including the Raurimu Spiral and the Mangaweka Gorge. We had two stops where we could get off the train for five minutes and take a walk on the platform only, but definitely not leave it as dictated by the conductor.
We had one and a half days in Wellington, during which we had a guided ethnic food tasting tour and sightseeing for a morning, a visit to Te Papa to see the Gallipoli exhibition on our own, and the next morning a hastily organized guided tour of Parliament by ourselves, which was really enjoyed. The afternoon was spent on the Inter-islander on a glassy smooth Cook Strait, and the night in Blenheim. The next day a Marlborough Sounds cruise to visit a mussle farm, and taste fresh mussles. UGH!!!! but Cindy really enjoyed them and rated them the best she has had. The afternoon train trip down to ChristChurch was amazing, with totally different scenery, and only lasted around 6 hours. The Kaikoura section of this trip was spectacular running right along the coast, along with the unexpected sight of Lake Grassmere with it's salt ponds and hills.
The next day in Christchurch consisted of a tour of the Botanical Gardens, and an afternoon free to wander around with the supplied hop on-hop off tram tickets to view the Cardboard Cathedral, the Riverside Markets, and the beautiful Avon River running through the city. The evening was spent at dinner with our grandson who is at tech college down there.
Our last day was the train trip over to Greymouth through Arthur's Pass, and a mini bus trip back, which enabled us to see a different set of scenery from the train, before being dropped off at Christchurch airport for the trip home. Although it was only 6 days, we certainly saw a lot of the countryside we normally wouldn't see, and was one of the best value trips we have done.
We would highly recommend Endeavour New Zealand for their friendliness and professional approach to touring, and if you wanted to see what else they offer check out their website below. Ciao4now, regards Russell