The TranzAlpine Train is New Zealand’s most spectacular train journey. It winds its way through the dramatic gorges and alpine forests of the Southern Alps, over staggering viaducts and dizzying mountain passes. From Christchurch on the East Coast to Greymouth on the West Coast, this almost 5-hour trip serves up endless photo opportunities as it runs through the heart of the South Island.
It’s possible to complete the entire route from Christchurch to Greymouth on a full-day tour, while adventurous travelers can travel by train to Arthur's Pass National Park and then explore off-road on a 4WD safari or take a jet boat cruise along the Waimakariri River. For the best value, opt for a multi-day tour from Christchurch or Queenstown. This lets you combine a ride on the TranzAlpine with top New Zealand attractions such as Mount Cook, Milford Sound, the Fox Glacier, or the Franz Josef Glacier.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Large bags and suitcases must be checked into the baggage carriage, so pack a small day bag to take on board with you.
- Onboard facilities include restrooms, a café carriage, and an open-air viewing deck, as well as charging stations for laptops and phones.
- There’s time to get off and take in the views at some stations, so dress according to the weather and bring warm clothing as it can get chilly in the mountains.
- Wheelchair access is available at all stations.
How to Get There
You can ride the TranzAlpine Train in either direction, starting your journey at Christchurch or at Greymouth. Christchurch Railway Station is located in Addington, just west of downtown Christchurch or about six 6 miles (nine kilometers) southeast of Christchurch Airport.
When to Get There
The TranzAlpine runs daily with morning departures from Christchurch and afternoon departures from Greymouth. Trains run year-round, but it’s best to book ahead for the summer season as tickets can sell out.
Coast to Coast on the TranzAlpine Railway
Setting out from Christchurch, the TranzAlpine Train rolls through the Canterbury Plains and crosses the Waimakariri River Gorge toward Rolleston. After climbing into the Southern Alps, the railway crosses the famous “Staircase” viaduct, soars over Arthur’s Pass, and traverses the 5.3-mile (8.6-kilometer) Otira Tunnel. Finally, it chugs along the shores of Lake Brunner and through Moana to the final station in Greymouth.