Alps and gorges, oh my! From Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine

Review of the Tranzalpine train ride in NZ

Scenery from the TranzAlpine train

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.

Scenery from the TranzAlpine train

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.)

Waimakariri Gorge seen from the TranzAlpine train

Waimakariri Gorge seen from the TranzAlpine train

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.

Scenery from the TranzAlpine train
Scenery from the TranzAlpine train
Scenery from the TranzAlpine train
Scenery from the TranzAlpine trainScenery from the TranzAlpine train

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.

Lake seen from the TranzAlpine train

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.

See more reviews of the TranzAlpine on Tripadvisor.

Part of #SundayTraveler!

7 thoughts on “Alps and gorges, oh my! From Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine

  • Reply Mario November 20, 2014 at 09:14

    Amazing. I do love a good gorge picture, though more than pictures, I love walking right up to them. Gorges evoke a deeply spiritual feeling in me, the darkness below reminding me that life is but a sliver of light in a universe of darkness — while we stare into the darkness of the gorge, the gorge stares back at us.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty November 21, 2014 at 02:08

    I love your beautiful mountain pics! Love them!

  • Reply Financial Samurai November 21, 2014 at 10:13

    Marvelous! Thanks for sharing E.

    Now I kinda feel I don’t have to sit on a 20 hour flight to get there lol 🙂


  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach November 23, 2014 at 04:45

    I went to many of those places when I visited NZ. Just gorgeous!

  • Reply Funny about Money November 28, 2014 at 06:45

    migawd but NZ is gorgeous! Wish it was easier for you folks to find comfortable digs and well-paying jobs there. But still have to say: you live in the most beautiful country on the planet.

  • Reply Em December 17, 2014 at 01:10

    As a big train fan, I would LOVE this trip. When’s the next plane to New Zealand?!

  • Reply Adelina December 18, 2014 at 09:21

    How gorgeous! I love riding trains regardless of where they are. Though definitely some better than others.

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