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South Island

Rail Tours

Our most recommended South Island Rail Tours

Christchurch: Vintage Tram, Punt and Gondola Ride Combo

1. Christchurch: Vintage Tram, Punt and Gondola Ride Combo

Experience Christchurch from different perspectives with a combined city tour by vintage tram, punt along the River Avon and cable car ride aboard the Christchurch Gondola. Climb aboard a classic, flat-bottomed boat for a delightful punt along the River Avon. Venture through the city center propelled by a boatman dressed in Edwardian costume. Set off from Worcester Street Bridge and listen to the live commentary about how the city was rebuilt after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and remains fast-growing. See the beautiful alpine scenery surrounding Christchurch and its suburbs on board the Christchurch Gondola cable car. Explore the history of the region in the unique Time Tunnel experience, and pause for refreshments at the Red Rock Café. Marvel at the Southern Alps and Kaikoura Mountains, and get 360-degree views of the plains, mountains, city and harbor from the glass-enclosed cabin. Once at the summit, purchase souvenirs in the "Shop at the Top" or go for a hike on one of the many walking trails, such as the trek to Crater Rim, formed by the volcanic activity that created Port Hills. Journey by vintage tram and see the “Garden City” at your own pace with a full-day hop-on and hop-off ticket. Explore the regenerated city center to see innovative architecture, such as a shopping complex made out of shipping containers. Listen to a fascinating commentary from your driver as you take a full circuit in just 50 minutes, or jump on and off at leisure at 17 strategic stops. Discover the vast urban space of Hagley Park, explore the boutique stores of New Regent Street and much more!

Christchurch Gondola and Tram City Tour Combo

2. Christchurch Gondola and Tram City Tour Combo

Climb aboard the Christchurch Gondola cable car and enjoy spectacular 360-degree views across the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps as you glide across the slopes of Mount Cavendish in the Port Hills. See as far as the city and harbor as you ride up to the summit 445 meters above sea level. Make use of the facilities at the top, such as the Time Tunnel ride, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the region. Revive your spirits at the Red Rock Café before or after going for a walk or bike ride along the many nature trails. Take a unique sightseeing tour of the inner city aboard an antique tram as the driver provides a live and entertaining commentary. A full circuit takes 50 minutes and includes 17 stops, where you can hop on and off as often as you wish. Visit the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Cathedral Junction, Canterbury Museum, and much more.  

Arthur's Pass: TranzAlpine Train and Castle Hill Day Tour

3. Arthur's Pass: TranzAlpine Train and Castle Hill Day Tour

Experience the South Island's remarkable natural landscapes by taking a journey on a train from Christchurch to Arthur's Pass, which is considered one of the world's greatest train journeys for the scenery it passes. Enjoy breathtaking views of Canterbury Plains, Southern Alps, ice-fed Waimakariri River, lush beech forests, and stunning landscapes. Explore walking tracks in Arthur's Pass National Park with spectacular mountain views & pristine waterfalls. Capture mirror images at Lake Pearson & wander through the majestic limestone boulders at Castle Hill. A perfect day trip for nature lovers, hikers, and adventure seekers.

Charleston: 4-Hour Nile River Cave and Tubing Adventure

4. Charleston: 4-Hour Nile River Cave and Tubing Adventure

Set off on a superb 4-hour adventure in the enormous Nile River Cave System deep in the untamed natural wilderness of the Paparoa National Park. Discover a hidden, special place on an award-winning adventure at its best. Meet your guide at the local partner’s adventure center in Charleston and get equipped with wet suits, wet suit socks, boots, gloves, and helmets. Dressed ready for your adventure, take a short ride on the Nile River Rainforest Train into the stunning West Coast rainforest. Marvel at the towering limestone cliffs that create a magical backdrop for your adventure. A short walk leads you to the cave entrances high above the Nile River. Leave the daylight behind and enter a hidden subterranean world to explore a calcite paradise of stalactites and stalagmites. Cross huge chambers, follow a maze of passages, and wander through the heart of an ancient multi-levelled cave system. Enriched with illustrations, explanations, and stories you will connect to the fragile, precious world as you descend to the bottom level of the cave where the water guides you to a magical galaxy of glowworms. Astounded by this underground night sky, slowly float on an underground river to emerge back into daylight using only the natural light of the awe-inspiring display of glowworms as navigation. Leave this special place floating in your tube down the fun, gentle rapids of the Nile River surrounded by the lush rainforest and beautiful limestone cliffs. Finally, returning on the Rainforest Train back to Charleston.

Christchurch Tram City Tour & Punting Combo

5. Christchurch Tram City Tour & Punting Combo

Climb aboard a classic flat-bottomed boat for a delightful punt along the River Avon in Christchurch. Choose from two departure points - the Antigua Boat Sheds or Worcester Street Bridge - for a punt through the park or city center. A punter dressed in Edwardian costume will guide you down the river, providing a live commentary along the way. From the Worcester Street Bridge landing site, discover how the city is fast-growing and how it rebuilt itself after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Take off from the Antigua Boat Sheds to journey through Hagley Park. Punt alongside the Botanic Gardens, and admire some of the native flora of New Zealand. Blankets and hot water bottles are provided on cold days, so don't let the weather put you off! Climb aboard a vintage tram for a unique tour of Christchurch, and see the “Garden City” at your own pace with a full-day hop-on and hop-off tram ticket. Travel through the regenerated city center to see innovative architecture, see how the city center has been rebuilt after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Listen to a fascinating commentary from your driver as you take a full circuit in just 50 minutes, or jump on and off at leisure at 18 stops. The tram currently starts at Cathedral Junction and travels through Cathedral Square, before passing the River Avon. Jump off at Oxford Terrace and Riverside Market, or Canterbury Museum, just a short stroll from the Botanic Garden and Arts Center. Discover the city’s largest urban space at Hagley Park, or explore the boutique stores of New Regent Street, New Zealand’s “Most Beautiful Street.”

Charleston: Fully Guided Glow Worm Cave Eco-Tour

6. Charleston: Fully Guided Glow Worm Cave Eco-Tour

Your adventure starts at the Charleston Base, where you will be equipped with a caving helmet and meet your cave guide. A short drive will take you into the tranquil rainforest covered limestone valley to board the Nile River Rainforest Train. Here, start your journey into the Paparoa National Park exploring one of its highly protected and unique features – ancient cave systems, fragile cave formations, twinkling glow worms – hidden below lush rainforest. On your short walk to the cave, enjoy the tranquil beauty of the native bush and leave the river bed to gain amazing views of the river below. Leaving daylight behind you, explore the enormous Nile River Caves System, seeing, feeling, and getting close to an ancient wonderland sculpted by water and decorated with fragile calcite formations. Underground, visit the Hall of Refugees and its breathtaking calcite formations before emerging back into daylight to the awe-inspiring Ananui entrance series. Exploring the lower level of the cave system, you will find a glow-in-the-dark night sky made of amazing galaxies of glow worms. Your guides will enrich your journey with captivating illustrations, explanations, and stories connecting you with this special place. After emerging back to the daylight, a short stroll leads you back to the train.

Frequently asked questions about South Island Rail Tours

What are other things to do than Rail Tours that are worth visiting in South Island?

The other unmissable things to do in South Island are:

Other Sightseeing Options in South Island

Want to discover all there is to do in South Island? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about South Island

It was a great combi to take all 3 activities. The kids loved it. We started off with the Punting. The guide was knowledgeable and it was a relaxing ride down the river. We later drove to the Gondola base station. The views were breath taking. Do note it can get cold on the top. Taking the tram was fun and we got on and off several stations. Key is starting early at 10am to make sure you can cover all 3 activities in 1 day.

Amazing experience! The scenic train has audio commentary on the scenes along the journey. The weather was great in the morning, unfortunately it was raining and became cloudy in the afternoon. Our guide, Anuj, was really friendly and helpful. We stopped by several scenic spots after hiking at the National Park. Recommended day trip!

We turned up to the boathouse to a very warm welcome, the service was excellent and so friendly, our guide shared very interesting information and the punt skill was smooth we thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back again. The Tram ride was so enjoyable, the guide was so nice and pleasant. Really enjoyed it and so did our teenagers

Both punting and tram was awesome, however we didn’t realise you could do the two activities on seperate days, had we know this in advance we would have split the two activities into two days.

The commentary was great and it was worth doing them. Nothing wrong with any of the attractions, a little pricey but fair.