New Zealand Trains

The TranzAlpine: 13 Things you Need to Know Before Riding This New Zealand Train

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New Zealand is a spectacularly scenic country with so many sights to see. You can choose to tour the country by car, bus or boat. However, taking a train through some of the most remote and gorgeous terrain in the world is the stuff vacations dreams are made of.

Hop on the TranzAlpine train and you will feel like you have entered a fairy tale. Views that look like CGI and not the result of millions of years of seismic activity will be on the docket.

This excursion is on most Kiwi’s lists, so you know it must be good. Book a trip and take a day or a week to see the two cities and the sights that are in between. Just make sure you bring your good camera.

Tranzalpine train in New Zealand

What is the name of the most scenic train ride in New Zealand?

The TranzAlpine train is the most scenic train ride in New Zealand. The train meanders from the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island though gorgeous green pastures, spellbinding snow-capped mountains and a beautiful waterfall laden landscape that is second to none in New Zealand.

Is the TranzAlpine train still running?

The TranzAlpine train is still running and has been for 30 years. It is one of the most scenic and breathtaking train rides available, anywhere.

Can you take food on the TranzAlpine train?

You can take food on the TranzAlpine train. However, you may want to try the Scenic Café where you can get hot and cold meals along with beverages and beer and wine, while gazing at the ever-changing scenery.

What is the route of the TranzAlpine train?

The route of the TranzAlpine train begins in ChristChurch, New Zealand and ends in Greymouth. There are additional stops throughout the journey including Arthurs Pass, Otira and Moana. If there is a request ahead of time, stops can also be made in Rolleston, Darfield and Springfield.

How often does the TranzAlpine train run?

The TranzAlpine train runs once daily. Once from Christchurch to Greymouth and once from Greymouth to Christchurch. The TranzAlpine train operates daily from 8:15am – 6:05pm. It also runs all year long. Therefore, if you wish to see the mountains with a fresh batch of fallen snow, then you are in luck!

How long is the TranzAlpine train trip?

The TranzAlpine train trip is 139 miles one way and takes around 5 hours to complete. You can choose to head back the way you came the same day, or you can stay in your destination city and catch the train back at a later date.

What is the best way to ride the TranzAlpine train?

The best way to ride the TranzApine train is to ensure you have the right seat for getting the best view. When you are traveling from Christchurch to Greymouth the seats on the right-hand side are the best for a fantastic unobstructed view. When you are traveling from Greymouth to Christchurch, try to get a seat on the left-hand side for the best viewing.

It is best to buy your tickets for the TranzAlpine train by phone, this way you can request a preference of where you would like to sit. Your request is not a guarantee, but will be noted on your ticket. Seats are assigned right before departure and your request has a good chance of being granted if there aren’t others wanting the same seats.

What time of year is the TranzAlpine train best?

Winter is the best time of year to make the excursion on the TranzAlpine train. It is beautiful any time of year, but the scenery is simply unmatched in winter.

Do you need to book in advance to visit the TranzAlpine train?

You need to book advance tickets for the TranzAlpine train. After you book online, you can call KiwiRail and request a certain seat on the train. This request is not guaranteed, but the rail manager will try to accommodate your request at boarding. Additionally, if an unforseen event presents itself, you can cancel at least 24 hours before the start date of your tour for a full refund.

What scenery will I see on the TranzAlpine train?

From Christchurch to Greymouth is a route that traverses the South Island of New Zealand that is called the Southern Alps. Reminiscent of the other Alps you may be familiar with in Europe, this mountain range has the same wow factor and just as much fantastic land to gaze at and fawn over.

After leaving Christchurch, you will cross open fields and plains that will then abruptly show your first glimpses of the snow-capped Southern Alps. Just passed the farmland and the town of Springfield, you will start to climb into the mountains. Gorges and ice blue rivers will greet you as you glide over a series of bridges and the view gets better and better. The famous “Staircase” reveals a transcending view that is unlike any other.

You will then be at the summit having climbed to 2,400 feet above sea level as the train stops at Arthur’s Station. This is the place to walk around and savor your surroundings. You are in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks and you will want your camera for this experience.

Hop back on the train and enter the Otira Tunnel, which has made traversing the country possible. With its 5.3 mile long passageway tunneling through the mountains, it will then give way to another grand view of the mountains. After crossing over the river several times and finding waterfalls and cascades, you will see a series of coal mining towns that have interesting history that you will hear about on your earphones or from a knowledgeable staff member.

Five hours after you leave Christchurch on the West Coast you will enter the beautiful town of Greymouth on on the East Coast and the Tasman Sea. Take a week and explore this wonderful town, or after a spell, get back on the train and enjoy your ride back to Christchurch. The choice is yours.

Is there a First Class on the TranzAlpine train?

In 2020, a new premium class was added to the TrazAlpine train that acts as a First Class experience for those that choose it. The Scenic Plus experience will feature carriages with extra legroom, extra wide seats and a two seats on one side and one on the other side configuration. Knowledgeable hosts are there to serve your every whim as well as answer questions about the history, geology and topography of the route.

The perks don’t stop there as the menu is top-notch and provided by LSG SkyChefs NZ. With regionally inspired gourmet food such as grass-fed roasts of lamb, cheese platters, locally sourced wine and farewell canapés, you won’t go hungry. All of this is served at your seat. You can also choose to visit the Café Car and get a sweet treat if the need arises.

How much does the TranzAlpine train cost?

The fare for the TranzAlpine train varies with the class that you select and the time of year you would like to go. The Scenic Class starts at $189 depending on the time of year and the Scenic Plus starts at $339 depending on the time of year. The fares go up from here and can go up by as much as $100 for peak times such as fall and spring.

Is the TranzAlpine train worth it?

The TranzAlpine train will be one of those things you do in your lifetime that you will always remember and is totally worth it. Whether it’s the scenery, the people you are with or the memories you make, you will never regret booking this train trip.

Wendy Edwards
Wendy is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. But for the past seven years she has traveled by RV to many National Parks, monuments and everywhere in between. She and her family of five, a furry canine friend and a bearded dragon have crossed the United States thirty one times. She never tires of hiking, biking, camping and photographing this beautiful country.