Thought the Glacier Express and the Trans-Siberian were impressive? In 2019, New Zealand could boast its very own luxury train. Marketed as the Antipodean Explorer, the high-end service will take off from Auckland and whisk passengers to the South Island over six incredible nights.
While the exact details are being kept under lock and key, there are some exciting rumours and snippets flying around. Here’s what we know so far:
A boutique voyage
With 16 carriages and a capacity of just 56 passengers the atmosphere will be intimate and exclusive. The journey will end with a luxury bus service to Queenstown, where passengers will find themselves in one of New Zealand’s most iconic destinations.
Along the way passengers will alight at a host of different destinations, with the option of signing up for unique tours. This could mean anything from glacier trekking, whale watching and helicopter tours to wine tasting, scenic cruises and hot spring soaks. Developers are currently on the lookout for partners that can offer passengers exceptional experiences that capture the spirit of the voyage.
“[It’s] for visitors that don’t have four weeks or the information to drive around New Zealand. We will use the beauty and elegance of rail to show them all of New Zealand, tailored to their personal preferences,” explains Antipodean Explorer co-founder and general manager Amanda Johnston.
“We will have two luxury coaches that will follow the train around that will take people to activities. We are not doing this on our own – this is a collaboration and we really want to hear from operators who would be interested in working with us.”
KiwiRail gets onboard
Negotiations are already underway with state-owned enterprise KiwiRail, and so far it seems like the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“KiwiRail is keen to welcome new tourism ventures to New Zealand and views the proposed sleeper service as complementary to our Great Journeys of New Zealand tourism experiences,” says a KiwiRail spokeswoman.
From commuter trains to luxury carriages
As for how the journey will unfold. In what seems like a well-timed coincidence, Auckland Transport currently has 31 rail carriages for sale that are currently being stored at Taumarunui. While they once serviced the city’s suburban network, they could soon be reimagined as luxury Antipodean Explorer carriages.
A new era of luxury tourism
For New Zealand the Antipodean Explorer represents an exciting opportunity to tap into the luxury travel market and offer an experience that really appeals to the lucrative Chinese demographic. And of course, the rail journey will also be open to New Zealand locals who simply want to indulge and experience their nation through a luxury lens. From honeymoons to diamond anniversaries, the Antipodean Explorer could soon emerge as a firm favourite with the local market.
Would you splurge on a journey of this scale? While pricing is yet to be confirmed, the luxury experience will no doubt come with a price tag to match. Will it be worth it? From what we know so far, absolutely.