Scenic New Zealand train route to reopen 2 years after massive earthquake

November 5, 2018, 8:22 a.m.
The Coastal Pacific train as it rounds the corner into Mangamaumu Bay, heading to Picton from Christchurch
Photo: The Great Journeys of New Zealand

On Nov. 14, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the northeastern coast of New Zealand's South Island. The earthquake resulted in two deaths and caused extensive damage to a highway and rail system near Kaikoura, the tourism-centered town from which the earthquake takes its name. Rails from the Main North Line were washed into the sea and State Highway 1 was left in dire need of repair.

Instead of building new routes for the highway and the rail lines, the New Zealand government opted to repair them. The round-the-clock work is about to pay off as the Coastal Pacific, a scenic five-hour train ride between Christchurch to Picton, will reopen on Dec. 1, 2018.

The highway reopened in December 2017.

The Salt Plains of Lake Glassmere seen from the Coastal Pacific rail line The Coastal Pacific will also show off the Salt Plains of Lake Glassmere. The ponds get their color due to microscopic green algae that turn pink in the presence of salt. (Photo: The Great Journeys of New Zealand)

The Coastal Pacific runs along the eastern edge of of the South Island each day in the Southern Hemisphere's summer season. To the east, passengers can see the Pacific Ocean stretch out for miles, barely a stone's throw away from their windows while the Kaikoura Mountains dominate the horizon to the west. Passengers will travel through more than 20 tunnels and 170 bridges as they take in the sights.

The line shuts down for the winter in April. Tickets sell for around 159 New Zealand dollars (US$104) for adults and NZ$111 (US$73) for children.

The Coastal Pacific is one of three scenic train rides offered by Great Journeys of New Zealand. The TranzAlpine line is an inland train journey across the South Island from Christchurch and Greymouth. Riders on this line see Canterbury Plains and the island's Alps. Meanwhile, the Northern Explorer takes passengers on a ride between Auckland to Wellington at the southern tip of the North Island. That trip grants views of volcanoes, snow and beech forests.

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