Rail tourism

Page 1 – Introduction

Railways poster, 1920s
Railways poster, 1920s

Tripping by train

From the late 19th century New Zealand’s expanding rail network opened up exciting new leisure and tourism opportunities. Excursion day trips were popular from the 1870s to at least the 1960s, but the heyday of rail tourism, especially for longer journeys, was in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the inter-war years thousands of ordinary New Zealanders travelled by train to beaches, lakes, parks or mountains, especially over the Christmas–New Year and Easter holiday periods. So many people were holidaying by rail in the mid-1930s that Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper claimed New Zealanders were ‘the greatest travellers in the world’ – long before the era of mass car ownership, jet air travel and the big OE.

New Zealand Railways (NZR) promoted rail holidays through eye-catching posters, maps and leaflets that were produced by its own advertising studios and publicity branch. Between 1926 and 1940 NZR even published its own hugely popular monthly magazine, the New Zealand Railways Magazine.

How to cite this page

'Rail tourism', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/rail-tourism, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 6-Aug-2020