Connecting Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the west, the TranzAlpine Railway journey is renowned for its wonderful amalgamation of country, alpine and forested landscapes. Take a look at seven of its incredibly beautiful natural sights and discover why this train trip is rightfully regarded to be New Zealand’s most scenic.
The Southern Alps
The Southern Alps is the exquisite mountain range that stretches almost the entire length of the South Island. Running approximately 500 kilometres (310.7 miles) northeast to southwest, this is also where you’ll find The Great Divide, which forms the boundary between the West Coast and Canterbury regions. On the TranzAlpine, it’s the town of Springfield that provides the best views of the Southern Alps: as the train arrives onto its station, the mountains rise to form what appears to be an impassable barrier.
Arthur’s Pass village and its national park are arguably the most popular tourist attraction on the TranzAlpine route. Many people get off the train at this station, which lies right at the heart of the Southern Alps, to explore the park’s expansive walking trails and admire the natural highlights on show. Braided rivers, steep alpine ranges and the breathtaking Devil’s Punch Waterfall are some of the wonders the area’s visitors are lucky enough to view for themselves.
Waimakariri River is one of the first natural attractions that passengers will see upon departing Christchurch. The ice-fed river rises on the Southern Alps’ eastern flanks just southwest of Arthur’s Pass, passing through a belt of mountains and the narrow Waimakariri Gorge as it braids its way across the Canterbury Plains. Its brilliant blue waters appear and disappear from view several times as the train ascends the pasture-lined cliffs before reaching Craigieburn and Arthur’s Pass.
The Craigieburn Range is set within the southern banks of the Waimakariri River and also forms part of the Southern Alps. Amid its stunning mountainous plains you’ll find the Craigieburn locality and Craigieburn Forest Park, a protected area that’s also home to two ski fields. A trove of soaring mountain peaks, some reaching heights of more than 2,000 metres (6,562 feet), also abound: Mount Cheeseman, Mount Olympus, Baldy Hill, Hamilton Peak, Mount Izard and Mount Enys are just a few of the summits tucked within the range.
Lake Brunner lies 37 kilometres (23 miles) southeast of Greymouth and is the largest lake in the northwestern South Island. It was carved out of a branch of the Taramakau Glacier and flows out to the Arnold River. Those on the TranzAlpine train will need to hop off at the town of Moana to immerse themselves in the area’s exquisite wetlands and vibrant waters. The lake is quite popular for boating and fishing, and there’s a handful of walking tracks around it.
The Otira River
The Otira River sits right in the centre of the South Island, rising on the slopes of Mount Rolleston in the Southern Alps before flowing north into the town Otira and joining the Taramakau River some 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) south of Greymouth. The river and its awe-inspiring viaduct can be seen as the TranzAlpine departs Arthur’s Pass and ventures into the Otira Tunnel – the longest of the 16 tunnels on the trip and the main passageway that connects the Canterbury region to the West Coast.
Rising from the Southern Alps and draining into the Tasman Sea, the Grey River is one of the final attractions passengers get to marvel at during the TranzAlpine journey. The river, also known by the Māori name Māwheranui, runs across 120 kilometres (75 miles) and is composed of numerous tributaries, small rivers and drain lakes. The Grey River itself is a popular spot for camping and fishing, and offers a good base for those wanting to climb the summit of Mount Grey/Maukatere and revel in its spectacular forested vistas.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.