Dunedin’s Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

Move over Howarts Express. Dunedin Railway’s scenic Taieri Gorge route to Middlemarch has stolen the kids’ hearts as our favourite rail journey to date. And while we may not be en route to wizard school, it’s certainly a magical journey.

The amazing Taieri Gorge Railway journey begins in Dunedin at the city’s historic railway station, a renaissance revival confection that reminds us of a gingerbread house. But waiting not being one of Raffles and Sugarpuff’s strong suits, they are soon engaged in a game of imaginary cricket on the historic platform while we wait to depart.

Dunedin’s historic railway station

A couple of imagined wickets later and we are settled into a comfy air-conditioned booth and rolling down the track on our way to the very Hobbity sounding Middlemarch.

While our plush allocated seats, in a booth formation with a table, are amazingly comfortable, we soon find ourselves in the dining car … because Raffles. But Sugarpuff, still indulging in Hogwarts’s Express fantasies is a little disappointed to find there are no chocolate frogs or Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans on sale, though the Devonshire tea scones and southern sushi (a tricked-up, toasted and rolled cheese sandwich that’s a fave in Dunedin) prove a more than adequate substitute for my wee train spotter.  Indeed, after settling in to scoff, we have such a great time chatting with the train’s host and the dining cart staff that we forget to go back to our seats… for the entire stunning journey.

Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

It is easy to see why the Taieri Gorge railway has been described as one of the world’s most extraordinary rail journeys, and the commentary on the railway’s stunning engineering feats as well as its somewhat chequered history, along with the views, keeps us all entranced for the duration of the journey.

Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

The train takes a coastal route out of the city before heading inland and along the rugged and rampaging Taieri River. We rock and roll our rickety way through ten dark tunnels, across countless stone bridges and viaducts, passing ever changing scenery from expansive Plains to the gobsmacking depths of Taieri Gorge, where we are lucky enough to leap off the train at a colourful, sky high, railway hut, to stretch our legs and feast our eyes.

Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

Much to the excitement of my movie buff son, the train click clacks its way past a series of rock tors in Sutton which he instantly recognises as a setting from the Hobbit.

Orc-land! This setting in Sutton, near Middlemarch, starred in the Hobbit

Sugarpuff though is more interested in doing a bunny head count, dozens of the wee critters scurrying about as the train passes by. Cow’s that appear to be doing choreography also float her animal-loving boat.

Cow Boyband Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

On arrival at Middlemarch, a small town lying at the foot of the Rock and Pillar  hills in the Strath-Taieri valley, my wee lover of all things fluffy and furry is even more beside herself to discover a horse and cart waiting for us.

The welcome party at Middlemarch

There’s also a cute pooch called Spike, who appears to be the cart’s co-pilot.

Puppy power in Middlemarch

It’s a lovely way to tour the lovely town, with its population of just 300. But tearing the kids away from their new puppy pal proves a tad difficult when we arrive at the Kissing Gate Café to collect a sumptuous picnic lunch to take to Sutton Salt Lake Scenic Reserve.

Raff & Spike at Middlemarch

There are sad goodbyes but the promise of cake and adventures does the trick.

Picnic Lunch from the Kissing Gate Middlemarch New Zealand

Between bites of delectable toasted sandwiches, fruit and homemade cake, my little wizard/Hobbit hybrids clamber over and around the rock tors and shrublands of the reserve.

Sutton Salt Lake Scenic Reserve

One does battle with imaginary orcs…

Dunedin Railway’s scenic Taieri Gorge route to Middlemarch

The other casts wizardly spells from her rocky tower…

Sutton Salt Lake Scenic Reserve

So mystically beautiful and welcoming is the area that the kids and I are under its spell and make a unanimous decision that we’ll be back for a longer visit soon. But for today the adventures are over and we head to a tiny train station, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where the train appears as if by magic to scoop us up for the journey home.

Sutton Station Middlemarch New Zealand


Disclosure: The Eats Worlds were guests of Enterprise Dunedin and Dunedin Railways but, as always, all opinions, orc-hunting, spell-casting and train spotting is our own. 

2 Comments on Dunedin’s Taieri Gorge Railway with kids

  1. Michael Gleason
    July 30, 2018 at 10:29 pm (6 years ago)

    Hi Aleney,

    My name is Michael Gleason. I am based in Miami, Florida, where I publish the Train Traveling website (https:/traintraveling.com).

    One of the site’s reoccurring posts includes links to features about Train Rides (tourist trains, scenic railways, etc).

    I plan to include a link to your blog post, Dunedin’s Taieri Gorge Railway with Kids, as part of this week’s update. I would like to make your blog post the primary feature but in order to do so I need an image measuring at least 1021×640 px.

    I would particularly like to use the image you have featured at the top of your post.


    The image will be accompanied by a linked caption attributing the image to boyeatsworld and the photographer’s name you provide. A short description of the photo, based on any details provided by you, can also be included.

    The feature will be promoted on Facebook and Twitter.

    If you would like your blog post to be featured, I’d appreciate your kindly emailing (mgleason@traintraveling.com) a copy of the requested image at your earliest convenience.

    Thanks and best regards,

      July 30, 2018 at 11:09 pm (6 years ago)

      Thanks Michael. I’ve sent the image across for you in higher res.


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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