The Northern Explorer







About the journey

The Northern Explorer train service is a scenic rail journey through the five unique geographical regions of the North Island - travelling between Auckland, New Zealand's largest city - home of the Sky Tower, through the central heartland of the North Island to Wellington - New Zealand's harbour capital and arts and culture centre.

Along the way, you will see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, rugged bush landscapes before ascending up the world famous Raurimu Spiral to the volcanic plateau passing the majestic volcanoes of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu - the home of the North Island skifields and descending through stunning river gorges to the farming landscapes and rocky sea scapes of the lower North Island - all from large panoramic windows and the open air viewing deck of the Northern Explorer train.

The Northern Explorer carriages have an advanced air bag suspension system for quieter and smoother travel, un-tinted, non-reflective, panoramic side and roof windows to capture the dramatic coastal and mountain views of the magnificent North Island. GPS triggered journey commentary in five languages at your seat via headphones, plus information displays and overhead HD video and are centrally heated/air conditioned for passenger comfort.

Scenic Plus Experience

Scenic Plus will be available on the Northern Explorer train from 25 September 2024. When you take your Scenic Plus seat, in the exclusive carriage, you'll enjoy an enhanced dining experience where both hot and cold dishes are freshly made in the custom built kitchen carriage. The locally inspired, seasonal dishes are served at your seat, while you sit back and enjoy the sensational scenery. The complimentary drinks menu is carefully selected to match the sumptuous lunch and afternoon tea. Enjoy New Zealand's world famous Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir wines or sit back with a cold beer or freshly made coffee and tea.  Scenic Plus dedicated hosts are on hand to answer questions, add local knowledge and ensure you have the best journey possible.

The Carriages

Each carriage has onboard washroom/toilet facilities, with '2 Seat-Aisle-2 Seat' seating either as reclining forward facing seats with head and foot rests or 'Table Group' (4 people around a table) seating allowing you to experience the amazing views of the magnificent North Island, through panoramic side and roof windows, while enjoying the company of other passengers.

The Northern Explorer train has a café carriage offering a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, snacks and light meals and a viewing carriage for sweeping views of the North Island.

For mobility-impaired passengers, there are spaces for wheel chairs and a disabled public toilet. Wheelchair hoists provide access to the café carriage from track level.


For hearing-impaired passengers - a hearing loop covers all of the café carriage saloon and serving area. The Northern Explorer train is a reserved seating 'One Class' non-smoking service.

Operating Days

Northbound Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Southbound Monday, Thursday & Saturday

Operating days are confirmed to 30 June 2025.


Scheduled Track Maintenance

  • 29 March–01 April 2024 FULL CANCELLATION No bus replacements
  • 25-28 April 2024 FULL CANCELLATION No bus replacements
  • 31 May–03 June 2024 FULL CANCELLATION No bus replacements
  • 28 June–01 July 2024 FULL CANCELLATION No bus replacements
  • 25–28 October 2024 FULL CANCELLATION No bus replacements
  • 25 December 2024-12 January 2025* FULL CANCELLATION No bus replacements


Stops along the way include Papakura, Hamilton, Otorohanga (Waitomo), Taumarunui, National Park, Ohakune, Palmerston North and Paraparaumu.


More Details

The Northern Explorer train connects with various bus and coach services at Hamilton from Rotorua and Tauranga and at Palmerston North and Wellington to and from other North Island destinations.

So, sit back and enjoy a genuine kiwi rail experience on the Northern Explorer train travelling through 5 unique regions of the North Island with its spectacular scenic beauty.