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Having done the TranzAlpine train journey many times, I totally appreciate how thrilling it must be for the train drivers on this most amazing trip. Every single day Mother Nature takes centre stage, showing off the vast Canterbury Plains with ruler-straight farm fencelines, classic rolling green hills, bustling rural towns of Darfield and Springfield, and the most imposing row of snow-capped mountains in New Zealand.
There is no doubt the extraordinary scenery speaks for itself, but on board the TranzAlpine train you have the added bonus of a live, informative commentary as various stunning points of interest glide past. It doesn't matter which way you are facing, the brilliant vistas are amazing from every angle and, of course, the wide panoramic windows ensure the impressive landscapes are enjoyed to the max.
Deep gorges and high viaducts, braided rivers and looming tunnels, native beech forest and majestic mountain peaks all combine to make every turn in the tracks a magical drama. The alpine village of Arthurs Pass, with its cheeky kea birds (alpine parrots), makes a very picturesque lunch stop en route.
With a little planning, the TranzAlpine train journey from Christchurch to Greymouth (or reverse) can be integrated into a New Zealand itinerary. It takes half a day (Christchurch/Greymouth 0815/1245 or Greymouth/Christchurch 1345/1805). Even if you are self driving, some rental car operators allow pick up or drop off of their vehicles at Greymouth Railway Station, making the train/car transition (or vice versa) super easy.
In response to popular demand we have included the TranzAlpine into one of our KiwiCombo Pass self drive itineraries. This 9 day Southern Circle route now allows drop off of the rental car at Greymouth, with the TranzAlpine train comprising the last leg of the itinerary to Christchurch.
Also, a number of escorted tours either include the TranzAlpine train in their itineraries, or offer it as an option. This 13 day South Island Ultimate small group coach tour includes the Christchurch to Greymouth train sector as the thrilling start of the itinerary. And this 10 day Classic Southern Panorama escorted tour offers Greymouth to Christchurch as an option and makes a spectacular finale to the trip.
Either way, it's a winner!