Coming to NZ for the ARPA conference this year?

Kia ora koutou katoa to our Australian ARPA members!

Coming to NZ for the ARPA conference this year? Then why not take a couple of extra days and a few more dollars and treat yourself to seeing a little more of our magnificent ‘shaky isles’.

Recently my wife and I flew into Christchurch from Wellington for a family event. Afterwards we took the slow way home – by train and ferry. It took a day’s travelling but it was totally worthwhile and a day trip I would highly recommend.

We boarded the Coastal Pacific passenger train in Christchurch in time for a 7.00 a.m. departure, heading to Picton. The journey took about six hours, including a few stops. Then a 3-hour ferry trip from Picton to Wellington, arriving at 5.30 p.m. 

The Christchurch-to-Picton railway line only opened again last December after it had suffered major damage in the November 2016 Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake. The repairs to the road and the railway – which run closely together along the coastal part of the line – were massive and are still being completed. You get great views of the extent of destruction and the impressive repairs, as the train travels north. Nowadays, you may not see much of what the Christchurch earthquake left in its wake, but from the train, you will certainly get a vivid idea of the devastation left by the Kaikoura earthquake and some idea of the bravery of some of the abseilers, among others,  who made the repairs. 

There’s an on-board commentary that gives details of the places the train passes through and, of course, information about the earthquake and its aftermath.     

The train itself has very comfortable seating. Carriages are heated and there is an on-board café, the offerings of which would satisfy anyone’s hunger or thirst. 

The Coastal Pacific Train arrives in the delightful port of Picton in good time for you to take a leisurely walk to the waiting Inter-islander ferry.

When the ferry pulls out from the wharf at 2.15 p.m. you will enjoy a flat sea as you wend your way through the picturesque Marlborough Sounds for about an hour. Then you will hit Cook Strait. Depending on the weather, tide, currents and wind, you may have a very pleasant and relatively calm 75-minute crossing of the Strait, though this stretch of water can be quite unforgiving. A relative calmness returns for 30 minutes or so as you then enter Wellington Harbour and eventually dock at the northern end of the city environs. 

If you want to catch the early flight home from Wellington the next morning, you could book into the newly-opened Rydges Hotel at the Wellington airport. No matter how early your plane leaves, you are just a short, covered walk away from your room to the check-in counter. All so easy and stress-free! 

An early morning arrival in Australia means you may well be in the office before any others get there!    

Errol Pike



In and around Christchurch (if you arrive early or intend leaving later…)

For the young and/or adventurous:

The International Antarctic Centre (a ‘must-see’ if you have time):

New Zealand’s military aviation story at the place it all began:

Christchurch has no zoo as such, but some say this is even better, if different:

In Kaikoura you can leave the Coastal Pacific train in Kaikoura and re-board the next day so you can go whale-watching:

There’s much to see in the port of Picton so why not stay there for a night or two?:

If you have a few spare days, here’s one of the best train journeys ever (why not train to Greymouth and hire a car there and to drive back to Christchurch?):

If skiing is your thing, make a visit to Mt Hutt (only one hour 45 minutes drive from Christchurch):

To travel by train and ferry from Christchurch to Wellington, check out these websites for information and bookings:

Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar fly daily to the major eastern seaboard cities of Australia, many departing before 7.00a.m. most days.