11 Jan 2024

New Zealand by train listed as fourth best place in world by The New York Times

4:01 pm on 11 January 2024
The TranzAlpine train, which runs between Christchurch and Greymouth

The TranzAlpine runs between Christchurch and Greymouth and features in the New York Times iconic '52 places' list for 2024. Photo: TranzAlpine / The Great Journeys of New Zealand

The New York Times has voted New Zealand by train as the fourth best place to visit this year in the iconic '52 places' list.

Each year, the New York Times compiles a list of 52 places experts believe people should travel to that year.

The 2024 list highlights the best destinations for sustainability, cultural events, nature and art.

This year, "New Zealand by train" takes fourth place, after America's the Path of Totality, Paris, and Yamaguchi in Japan.

The journey that is featured is a "17-day journey on the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine trains offered by Great Journeys, the tourism division of KiwiRail."

The New York Times says "road-tripping across New Zealand via camper van is a free-spirited traveller's dream. But a simpler and more sustainable way to go is by train."

The decision to feature "New Zealand by train" may be a surprise to many, but for Dave Macpherson of Save our Trains, the surprise is the fact it's being recognised, not that it's a wonderful way to see Aotearoa.

"It's very underrated both locally and internationally so it's a wonderful opportunity for rail in New Zealand. There is rail, there's good rail lines in New Zealand, they go wonderful places.

"We just don't have enough trains doing them and enough recognition of those journeys," Macpherson told Summer Times.

Another issue for Macpherson is that the target market for the journey is "fairly well-off tourists." The journey featured will currently set you back $14,000.

"It's great for them. It'd be a magnificent holiday in New Zealand, but it also should be targeting local tourists as well.

"There's so much more that could be done with rail in New Zealand. Even with this great start and this great promotion."

Northern Explorer leaving National Park. Photo:

More investment in rail needed

The attention rail in New Zealand will gain from being added to the New York Times list is likely to raise some eyebrows, with rail journeys between cities a thing of the past in many areas.

But Macpherson sees this as a "fantastic opportunity".

"The government's not silly. They will recognise this as a fantastic opportunity, as will KiwiRail and other rail operators in New Zealand.

"But they will have to bite the bullet in terms of making the infrastructure available."

"We're not talking about building new Transmission Gully type motorways or rail lines or anything like that. We're talking about using existing rail lines and getting some more trains and carriages on those lines."

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