Traveling by train has always that special flavor … Planning our itinerary around the New Zealand South Island , we decided to travel from the east to the west coast, crossing the New Zealand Alps to then go down south to Queenstown. The best option was the Kiwirail Tranzalpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth. It has the particularity of being panoramic train, with closed (air-conditioned) wagons with windows up to the ceiling and also wagons without windows in which the landscape can be seen standing still (it is essential to wear a good coat!).
The itinerary of the Kiwirail Tranzalpine on the South Island of New Zealand (Google Map)
By train from Christchurch to Greymouth
The train tour starts at 8:15 on time from Christchurch station and from there, it begins to traverse the Canterbury Plains. While crossing the dense green fields of sheep, in the distance you begin to see the first mountains of the alps. As the landscape becomes more and more undulating, the trail becomes more and more winding, following the course of the Waimakiri River.
After about two hours you reach Arthur’s Pass, the highest point of the route in the New Zealand Alps (740 masl). There, most tourists go down to return to Christchurch by bus. The train then enters the 8km Otira tunnel to start descending towards the west coast and arriving in Greymouth around noon. The train was delayed a little which worried us since we had to connect with an Intercity bus to go to Fox Glacier (we bought both tickets separately). Luckily, when consulting the guard, he told us that several passengers were doing the same, so the buses always wait for the train to leave.
Here I share a video of what was the trip in the Kiwirail Tranzalpine