Today, the tracks that once took Dunedin Railway passengers through the stunning Taieri Gorge lay mothballed. The good news is that the former Taieri Gorge railway is coming back. So, while it’s not fully back yet, we opted to keep this article intact as a historical reference, memory, and to share the natural beauty through our photos.
Note: the new Inlander run less often than once per month and follows the first portion of the route from Dunedin to Hindon through the Taieri Gorge.
Even before we boarded the Taieri Gorge train, we knew we were in for an extraordinary day. Dunedin Railways is well known for hosting some of the most impressive and scenic train trips in New Zealand. The 45 km Taieri Gorge railway trip lived up to our expectations.
The South Island of New Zealand is spectacular. Dunedin, where we boarded the train, is in the southeastern corner of the country, at the 45.8 south parallel, closer to Antarctica than the equator. We’re about as far away from our home in Auckland as we can get whilst still being in the country.
Our adventure began at the Dunedin Railway Station
The Dunedin Train Station is nicknamed the “Gingerbread House”. It is considered to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.
Even the interior is stunning. As I stood on the upper level inside the Dunedin train station, I could enjoy both the ornate decorations and a few of the 57 mosaic floor panels. And sports fans will want to allow extra time to walk through New Zealand’s only Sports Hall of Fame, located inside the station.
The boarding area is classic and also worthy of a photo. The station opened in 1906. In the early part of the last century, it was the largest and busiest train station in New Zealand.
(The Seasider is still running. Check for details and discount Seasider tickets at bookme).
Our Taieri Gorge railway journey
Our journey began as the train pulled out of the Dunedin railway station. It travelled through southern Dunedin until it reached the Wingatui junction. Here, we turned onto purpose-built tracks for this Taieri Gorge railway that were laid between 1878 and 1891.
Throughout our passage, the commentator added little-known anecdotes like the story of Wingatui, which sounds like a Maori name, but, in fact, is not. The story goes like this:
The Story of Wingatui
An early settler shot and wounded a tui bird on his arrival at a nearby town in 1848. He nursed the bird back to health and announced, “the first place we get, we will call it Wing-a-tui”.
Our train proceeded to roll past several small towns, through a dozen tunnels, and over countless bridges and viaducts. All the time we enjoyed the spectacular and vast scenery. Here are some of my favourites images from the Taieri Gorge train:
Practical information on the Taieri Gorge railway adventure
- The Taieri Gorge train is a 4-hour round-trip adventure from the Dunedin Railways station to Pukerangi, covering a one-way distance of 58km.
- It runs twice daily in the summer and once daily in the winter.
- On most Friday and Sunday mornings, the train continues to Middlemarch before returning, a 6-hour round-trip journey.
- Sit on the left side of the train on the way up and on the right side on the way back.
- Several of the cars have outdoor platforms. These are great for photography (used for photos on this page). However, you get a more expansive view from inside the train car.
- As the train travels from Dunedin to Pukerangi, there is also an outdoor platform at the back of the train. This is another great outdoor place to stand.
- There are modern cars with plush seats and climate control. On the same train are original cars with wooden seats and windows that open. Each has its charm. If you have a preference, you can make a request when you make your booking, but either way, you can move about the train throughout your trip.
- Food and drink are available onboard in the cafe car. It is also okay to bring your own snacks.
- For more information, see their official website.
- It’s one of several cool things to do in Dunedin. We did this on our last road trip between Christchurch and Dunedin.
Did you get to ride the Taieri Gorge Railway?
More from the South Island you might also like … or check out 18 Extraordinary Things to Do in the South Island.
Disclaimer: We were guests of the Dunedin Railways. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.