There was once a time when steam engines puffed their way across the North Island. Today, however, modern freeways and air travel have rendered trains obsolete—save for the romantic, mechanical wonder that’s still found on the tracks. Luckily for train enthusiasts visiting Auckland, one of the North Island’s best railways is located just south of the city, covering nine miles of rural countryside south of Manukau Harbor. Before even boarding the classic train, take a ride on the hand-propelled jigger to pump your way down the track, and read the history of locomotives in founding New Zealand’s towns. Once the final whistle has blown and the train is steaming ahead, gaze out the window at rolling hills that look the same as they did in the days when New Zealand was originally settled. Stretch your legs in the town of Waiuku as the train uncouples and adjusts, and steam uphill towards Pukeoware Workshops for a 20-minute stop of learning the intricacies of restoring classic trains. While the ride itself is only an hour, it’s an enchanting way to experience the rural South Auckland countryside, and revel in a simplicity that in too many places has altogether been lost.
The Glenbrook Vintage Railway departs from the town of Glenbrook, approximately 35 miles and 45 minutes south of downtown Auckland. Trains operate on Sundays and holidays, with daily service often offered on the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Train fares are $20 for adults and $10 for children, and trains depart at 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, and 3:30pm—lasting about an hour.