I do love a good train ride.
I’ve got fond memories of rail journeys through Europe (plus a few nightmarish ones) but I’d never done a long distance trip by train in New Zealand until this year.
Stupendously scenic, the TranzAlpine is one of the world’s most famous rail journeys. It travels between Christchurch and Greymouth through Arthur’s Pass, a national park nestled in the mountains.
I had a much needed doze in the beginning, as we rolled through the outskirts of Christchurch and the beginning of the Canterbury plains, peeking out every so often to catch glimpses of lush green fields and the darling spring lambs and calves.
When things really get exciting on the TranzAlpine is the point where we reach the ice-fed Waimakariri Gorge. It is jaw-dropping – pure aquamarine waters carving through the steep ravine. Take my advice and get your ass up to the observation carriage before then. It’s open air, no glass windows between you and the scenery – all the better for snapping pictures. (Be warned: it’s a little smoky up here near the engine, and if you don’t tie up your hair it WILL whip you painfully in the wind.)
From here the train approaches the Southern Alps and the weather gets wilder – foggier, windier, rainier. Enroute to Arthur’s Pass we snaked our way past rocky river beds and tussock, over bridges, and through tunnels and viaducts.
Past the misty mountains, there’s a beautifully still lake and couple of cute little settlements before the last stop in Greymouth, a historic mining town.
If you’re taking the TranzAlpine back the other way, it departs Greymouth in the afternoon and returns to Christchurch just in time for dinner.
Here’s what you need to know about taking the TranzAlpine train:
TranzAlpine train journey: 4.5 hours one way. Departs Christchurch at 8.15am and departs Greymouth at 1.45pm
TranzAlpine train tickets: Start at $89 one way
Getting to the train stations: The shuttle from our central Christchurch hotel took about 10 minutes to reach the train station in Addington; in Greymouth, the train station is fairly central – it’s a small town – right by the big Warehouse and the i-Site and rental car depots.
Part of #SundayTraveler!