TranzAlpine Rail — One of the World’s Great Train Journeys
By Justine Tyerman

New Zealand is such a tall, slim-waisted country that you can travel across it in leisurely style and comfort by train in just five hours. The TranzAlpine Rail travels daily from the garden city of Christchurch and the golden sands of the Pacific Ocean on the East Coast, to the old gold mining town of Greymouth and the black sands of the Tasman Sea on the wild West Coast.

The breathtaking and infinitely-varied TranzAlpine, justifiably known as one of the world’s great train journeys, takes passengers across the fertile, lush, green Canterbury Plains, into the spectacular Waimakariri River gorge, crossing the aqua-turquoise river on vertiginously-high viaducts, and over the magnificent, snowy Southern Alps by way of Arthurs Pass (739m).

The train then descends through the 8.5km Otira Tunnel to the West Coast where the landscape again changes dramatically, skirting beautiful Lake Brunner and meandering along a series of river valleys amid rain forest before emerging at Greymouth on the banks of the mighty Grey River.

Hiking and Climbing Adventures

Many travellers disembark at Arthurs Pass to explore the multitudinous hiking and climbing trails in the region, rejoining the train to Greymouth, the gateway to the magnificent glaciers and beaches of the West Coast, when they are ready.

A veteran of many train trips overseas, this was my first such journey in New Zealand, and as one of the few Kiwis onboard, I felt inordinately proud of my own land. My Kiwi heart soared when I heard a group of Australians saying they had never experienced such a ‘bonzer’ train trip.

If you are short of time, you can travel from Christchurch to Greymouth and back in a day, departing at 8.15am and arriving back at 6.30pm.

You can book your trip on New Zealand‘s TranzAlpine through international rail specialists, Rail Plus.


Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.