Scenic train journey between Christchurch and Greymouth
The TranzAlpine is regarded as one of the world’s great train journeys as it traverses the majestic Southern Alps mountain range on its route across the South Island between Christchurch and Greymouth.
The scenic New Zealand train journey on board the TranzAlpine is just under five hours, but is a showcase of sweeping farmland, snow-capped mountains, narrow gorges, braided rivers, lakes and dense native forest.
It offers easy access to Arthurs’ Pass National Park, with the chance to spend time exploring this unique area, well as vibrant Christchurch and historic West Coast towns.
*Note: Check the TranzAlpine website for the latest schedules when booking stops, accommodation and activities.
Discover the best of Christchurch
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Christchurch combines beautiful scenery and rich heritage with a revitalised city centre, providing plenty to do over a couple of days.
The Christchurch Tram is an easy and fun way to get around the inner city, or hire a bike and ride the city cycle paths. For panoramic views, ride the Christchurch Gondola high into the Port Hills.
You’ll find great shopping in boutiques and major stores in the CBD. Stroll along the Avon River, which runs through the city. Delight in the gourmet goodies at the Riverside Market and then enjoy a trip on the water with the famous Punting on the Avon.
Christchurch is a gateway to Antarctica and you can learn about life on the ice with a visit to the International Antarctic Centre – travel in a Hägglund snow mobile and feel the chill of an Antarctic storm.
Take a day tour to the French settlement of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, just 90 minutes from Christchurch. Browse Akaroa’s galleries and boutique stores and stop for lunch at one of the French-inspired eateries. The Giants House is an unmissable garden of international significance with incredible sculptures and mosaics.
Akaroa Harbour is famous for its marine life, with penguins, fur seals and the endangered Hector’s dolphin. Take an Akaroa Harbour Nature Tour with Black Cat Cruises, or go sea kayaking to see these creatures up close.
Canterbury Plains and alpine scenery
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Head to the centrally located Christchurch Railway Station for your morning departure on board the TranzAlpine. Enjoy breakfast and coffee with a view in the Scenic Café as you leave the Garden City behind and head towards Springfield on the South Island Main Trunk Line.
You’ll roll across the wide patchwork expanse of the Canterbury Plains, which is New Zealand’s largest area of flat land. At Rolleston, the train turns inland, joining the Midland Line and heading towards the distinctive braids of the Waimakariri River and on to Springfield.
You’ll see the towering Torlesse mountains at the edge of the plains as you come into Springfield.
This little town is the last stop before entering the mountains on the route known as Arthur’s Pass. Originally an ancient track used by Māori for trading pounamu greenstone, it was named for Arthur Dobson, who first mapped it in 1864.
It is the next section of railway, between Springfield and Arthur’s Pass National Park, that is considered a masterpiece of engineering. It follows the winding Waimakariri River gorge, tracking along cliffs and steep banks through 15 short tunnels and four towering viaducts.
At Cass, head to the Open-Air Viewing Carriage for spectacular views of Mount Binser rising above the Waimakariri River.
The TranzAlpine will arrive mid-morning at New Zealand’s highest operational railway station. It’s a great opportunity to explore one of New Zealand’s beautiful National Parks. There’s a range of accommodation at Arthur’s Pass Village as well as hikers’ huts(opens in new window) linked by tracks throughout Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Natural wonders in Arthur’s Pass National Park
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There’s a wide variety of walks in the National Park, ranging from family-friendly strolls with waterfalls, forest and alpine views, through to multi-day hikes. Stop in at the Visitor Information Centre for details on all of these.
Some of the highlights in Arthur’s Pass National Park include natural attractions like The Devil's Punchbowl Falls, Bridal Veil Track and Historic Village Walk.
Whatever trail you choose, look out for kea, as this New Zealand alpine parrot is famous for its cheeky antics.
In winter, the Temple Basin Ski Area is popular with skiers and snowboarders, and mountaineers enjoy the park’s climbing routes.
Lakes and lush forest on the West Coast
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From Arthur’s Pass Village it’s just a couple of hours to Greymouth with spectacular scenery on the way.
You’ll travel through the Otira Tunnel, which is carved through 8.5 kilometres of rock and marks the transition from Canterbury to the West Coast.
As you descend towards Greymouth through river valleys and ancient forest, keep an eye out for beautiful Lake Brunner, the largest lake on the West Coast and a popular spot for trout fishing.
The TranzAlpine arrives in Greymouth just after lunch. This town is considered the heart of the West Coast and there’s lots to see and do, so take a couple of days to explore.
Natural wonders on the West Coast
Greymouth has a rich mining heritage and you can step back in time at Shanty Town, a replica 1900s pioneer town with gold panning and heritage train rides. Then pop into Monteiths, part of New Zealand’s brewing history, for a brewery tour and tasting.
Just 40 minutes north of Greymouth is Punakaiki and Paparoa National Park, where you’ll find amazing coastal rock formations like the famous Pancake Rocks and spectacular blowholes, as well as cave rafting. The walks range from the short Truman Track (30 minutes return) to the Pororari River Track and Fox River Caves Track (both three hours return), or the Paparoa track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, which is a 2-3 day hiking and mountain biking track.
From Greymouth, it’s an hour north-east to Reefton, another town with a gold-mining past and home to the award-winning Reefton Distilling Co. Tour the distillery and discover how they use locally foraged ingredients from the West Coast rainforests in their spirits.
Keen to see more of New Zealand’s Great Journeys? You could return to Christchurch on the TranzAlpine and take the Coastal Explorer north to Picton, along the South Island’s beautiful east coast.
Then cross Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry and catch the Northern Explorer from Wellington to Auckland for a trip through the volcanic heart of the North Island.