Northern Explorer

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The heart of the North Island

Experience the North Island’s extraordinary range of scenery in one journey, the Northern Explorer takes you through rolling green farmland and virgin bush, past quaint country towns and along rocky coasts.

The journey through Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains – Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu – is a highlight, a place of extremes and surprises, where snow-blanketed fields, ancient lava flows and dense beech forests can be seen side by side.

The Northern Explorer operates a six day timetable, departing Auckland on Monday, Thursday & Saturday, and Wellington on Tuesday, Friday & Sunday.

Northern Explorer Timetable

Auckland / Wellington  

Auckland depart 7:45 am
Papakura depart 8:40 am
Hamilton depart 10:15 am
Otorohanga (Waitomo) depart 10:54 am
National Park depart 1:15 pm
Ohakune depart 1:45 pm
Palmerston North depart 4:20 pm
Paraparaumu depart 5:30 pm
Wellington arrive 6:25 pm

Timetables shown are subject to change at short notice. Heat restrictions may cause delays to services during the summer season.

Journey Highlights

Feat of railway engineering

The Raurimu Spiral, near National Park, enables the train to climb 139 metres in less than 6 kilometres.

World Heritage views

Mount Ruapehu, one of three active volcanoes in the World heritage Tongariro National Park.

Rural New Zealand

Pass lush green landscapes, rolling farmland, and quaint country towns. The heart of rural New Zealand.

Sunsets and sunrises

Spectacular sunrises and sunsets can often be seen as the Northern Explorer travels along the Kapiti coastline.

Travel Stories

"Fantastic journey from Auckland to National Park for 2 weeks and return trip. Loved the scenery, the train and the staff were very friendly."


Newark upon Trent, UK

"My parents found the train staff very friendly, regularly offering help and also giving an occasional commentary, which was informative"

Heather Rakoroi

For me, the whole enjoyable experience wasn't when I stepped into the Hotel, but when I stepped aboard the KiwiRail service.

C. Stodart

Auckland, NZ