Explore Otago by Train!
As soon as you lay eyes on the grand building that is the Dunedin Railway Station, how can you not help wanting to hop on a train to experience the whole thing?
If you have a Sheldon Cooper-like obsession for locomotives combined with a desire to see some awesome New Zealand landscape, which obviously you are in New Zealand to do, then taking a rail journey from Dunedin is a must. Dunedin Railways consists of two railway journeys: the Taieri Gorge Railway and The Seasider. Taking the train is an all-weather activity, so it is certainly a trip you can depend on. All you have to decide is what epic Otago scenery you want to see!
[Update: the Taieri Gorge Railway and The Seasider trains are no longer operating].
What You Need to Know About a Dunedin Railway Journey
- Booking is essential!
- Collect your seating ticket from Dunedin Railway Station before you board the train
- This is a scenic rail journey meaning the train will slow down or even stop for you to get photos and stretch your legs at points of interest
- Get uninterrupted views from the open-air platforms in between sitting in the enclosed carriages
- Food and drinks are available onboard but they only accept cash.
- There’s live commentary
- There’s wheelchair access if reserved in advance
- Bike transport is around NZ$10.
The Dunedin Railway Station
All rail journeys begin and end with the iconic Dunedin Railway Station. Dunedin is a city like no other in New Zealand with its distinct gothic architecture, made possible by the wealth the city gained during the Gold Rush.
Dunedin Railway Station was opened in 1906 and remains to this day impressive both inside and out. Today, the train station is used for the Taieri Gorge Railway, The Seasider, a farmers market every Saturday, and as the “most photographed heritage building in New Zealand”.
Taieri Gorge Railway
Discover Otago scenery only seen by train! The Taieri Gorge Railway travels inland from Dunedin, showcasing the best of Dunedin city, the Taieri Plain and Taieri Gorge along the way. Pass alongside sheer drops into the gorge and jagged rock formations known as The Notches. No matter what the season is or what the weather is doing, it only just add to the dramatic look of dark pools, towering viaducts, white water rapids and 10 tunnels.
You’ll come to notice pretty quickly the effort it must have taken to construct a railway in such a rugged environment. The live commentary on board will tell you everything you’ll want to know.
There are two options for the Taieri Gorge Railway journey:
- Dunedin-Pukerangi – a 4-hour return journey that operates daily to a farm hamlet where the train stops a short time while the train switches ends for the return.
- Dunedin-Middlemarch – a 6-hour return operating Fridays and Sundays in summer (October-April) and Sundays in winter (May-September). Combine this trip with the Otago Central Rail Trail, one of the 10 Great Bike Trails on the South Island! You can take your bike on the train.
Book your Taieri Gorge Railway Journey here.
Keeping things coastal? Then the Seasider journey along the Pacific Coast Railway is the journey to take! The railway relives the magic of the old South Island Main Trunk Line, which was considered one of the most scenic in the country. Take in the views of the Otago Harbour in the morning then travel along the cliff tops overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Blueskin Bay. Inland, you’ll see rolling hills and lush green farmland.
There are three Seasider journeys to choose from:
- Waitati Seasider – a 90-minute return, which makes a brief stop at Waitati before returning.
- Palmerston Seasider – a 4-hour return taking you beyond Waitati, above Karitane Beach to Palmerston and return.
- Oamaru Seasider – a 7-hour return with a 1-hour stop in Oamaru, check out the must-do activities in our Oamaru Guide. There is an option to hop-off at the Moeraki Boulders, so you can get that must-have touristy photo, then hopping back on the train when the train returns from Oamaru.