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The Rainforest Express – One of Auckland’s best kept secrets

You probably won’t find the Rainforest Express advertised in glossy brochures or promoted by tourism and booking agents, however for those in the know the Rainforest Express is an amazing way to experience stunning scenic views, native forest, birdlife, as well as glow worms and huge wetas.

Just 40 minutes drive from Central Auckland and Auckland Airport, located in the Waitakere Ranges (the main range which separates Auckland City from the west coast), the Rainforest Express is an incredible scenic railway trip which winds through dense native bush, a series of tunnels, and bridges toward the historic Upper Nihotupu Dam.

At the end of the track is a sheltered picnic area and tables where passengers can sit and enjoy the native bush surroundings or take one of two walking routes to the dam. The easier of the two routes takes about 15 minutes and is suitable for most people including children.

The railway line was originally built to carry materials and supplies for the construction workers who finally completed work on the dam in 1923. The workers who laid the tracks also built nine bridges and ten tunnels, each of them several hundred metres longs, using shovels and picks.

Running on a narrow gauge track, the train is small but modern and can seat approximately 50 people.

The Rainforest Express runs every weekend and also on weekdays during school holidays. Bookings are essential and can be made by calling the reservation centre on +64 9 302 8028 or via email

While in the area, the Arataki Visitor Centre is a short drive along the road from the train depot and well worth a visit to learn more about the local history and features of the area. A further 20 minutes drive west takes you to Piha, one of New Zealand’s most famous surf beaches.

The easiest way for a visitor to reach the Rainforest Express and Piha Beach is by Rental Car. In Auckland you can choose to hire a vehicle once you arrive in the city although during peak periods it is recommended to make a reservation prior to arrival and collect the Rental Vehicle from an Auckland Airport location.


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