The Taieri Gorge Railway, Dunedin
Looking for something different to do in Dunedin? The Taieri Gorge Railway trip takes you through the outskirts of Dunedin and out to the stunning vistas of the Taieri Gorge. A lot of this area can’t be reached by car, so the train really is your only option – and it’s a beautiful (and quite different to the rest of Dunedin) place to see.
Dunedin Railway Station
The Taieri Gorge Railway journey starts at the Dunedin Railway Station, one of the nicest old buildings in Dunedin (and New Zealand). It was built in the early 1900s and parts of it kind of look like a castle. It’s a short walk from the Octagon / George Street – even if you’re not doing a train trip it’s worth a visit. If you’re doing this trip on a Saturday morning make sure to go to the railway station a little earlier and check out the weekly farmer’s market. You can find all sorts of gourmet food and drinks (and your standard fruit and vegetables etc).
Starting the Journey
The journey to Taieri Gorge first takes you through some uninspiring Dunedin industrial sprawl, but it’s not long until you’re out into the green fields of the Taieri Plains. From there you’ll join up with the Taieri River and the views start to open up.
The Taieri Gorge Railway was built in the 1890s to connect Dunedin and Central Otago. These days it only runs as far as Middlemarch or Pukerangi (we were on the Pukerangi train). It’s a tourist attraction now rather than a means of proper transport (although fisherman sometimes hitch a ride to access hidden spots). It’s an impressive piece of engineering considering the difficult terrain. The train rolls over numerous viaducts and passes by some stunning scenery. Go in spring and you’ll see heaps of gorse — it’s a weed but the yellow flowers look nice!
The train rumbles above the narrow Taieri River as it cuts through the rocky gorge — it’s an interesting slice of nature that is pretty unique in New Zealand. You can get up and walk around the train and at the end of the carriages you can stand outside to get photos and enjoy the view. There is also a dining cart where you can buy snacks and drinks (coffee, tea, wine, beer, etc). The train stops for a short time around half way into the journey so you can get out and stretch your legs. A running commentary of the area and the history of the railway will keep you entertained and informed along the way. One interesting bit was the “Reefs Hotel”. The “guide” started talking about it and building it up like it was a proper hotel – but then we passed it and realised it was a tiny building (where people did actually sleep).
The end of the line
Depending on which journey you book, the Taieri Gorge Railway will stop at Pukerangi or Middlemarch. There isn’t a lot to see at Pukerangi except for a small railway building / museum and a field full of sheep. You only stop for 10-15 minutes anyway before returning the way you came. This is definitely about the journey rather than the destination!
READ MORE: Interested in New Zealand’s railway history? Check out this site!
Taieri Gorge Railway FAQs
- How long does it take? The journey to Pukerangi and back takes around four hours. If you do the Middlemarch trip it’ll take around 6 hours.
- How much does it cost? A return ticket to Pukerangi will set you back $105 ($28 for kids). Check out the Dunedin Railways website to book and for more information.
- Where else can you go on the train? There’s another route available from Dunedin — The Seasider. This takes you up the coast to either Waitati or further on to Oamaru. I haven’t done this trip, but I’ve driven this route a lot and there is some great scenery on offer.
Are you planning a trip to Dunedin? Will you do the Taieri Gorge Railway? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Dunedin Railways for our trip through the Taieri Gorge. All thoughts and opinions are our own.