Photo: Great Journeys New Zealand

This Is the Most Scenic Train Journey in New Zealand

New Zealand Train Travel
by Morgane Croissant Sep 1, 2023

Once you’ve made it all the way to New Zealand, you may want to ease up a little on the flying and find a more sustainable way to travel around the country. Riding New Zealand’s scenic trains is the best option in this case since it’s less harmful for the environment (train travel emits much less CO2 per passenger than flying), it’s reliable and efficient, and it will give you a front-row seat to the country’s amazing scenery. The best of Kiwi Rail’s route is the TranzAlpine train, a journey that takes you right across the South Island, from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea, through the picture-perfect Southern Alps.

What is the route of New Zealand’s TranzAlpine train?

The TranzAlpine train travels across New Zealand’s South Island, between Christchurch and Greymouth, in both directions. The train makes several stops along the way in: Rolleston, Darfield, Springfield, Arthur’s Pass, and Moana. Passengers can book multiple stopovers if they wish to visit the towns along the way.

How much does the TranzAlpine train cost?

The cost of riding the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth varies according to the class of service you opt for and the time of the year.

There are two classes of service on board the TranzAlpine: Scenic (the cheapest) and Scenic Plus (the more expensive option). Scenic Plus passengers are seated in a separate car and enjoy a gourmet meal and complimentary beverages served at their seat. The Scenic Plus class of service also offers more flexibility when it comes to changes or cancellations.

  • From May 1 to September 30, during New Zealand’s fall and winter, one-way tickets for the TranzAlpine are cheaper. A Scenic ticket during that period is $118 (199 NZD) for adults and $82.50 (139 NZD) for children. A Scenic Plus ticket during that period is $225.60 (379 NZD) for both adults and children.
  • From October 1 to April 31, during New Zealand’s spring and summer, one-way tickets for the TranzAlpine are more expensive. A Scenic ticket during that period is $141.80 (239 NZD) for adults and $99.70 (168 NZD) for children. A Scenic Plus ticket during that period is $267.30 (449 NZD) for both adults and children.

New Zealand Rail also offers passengers the option to ride the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth and back to Christchurch on the same day, with one hour spent in Greymouth, at a reduced price. It costs $276 (464 NZD) for adults and $193.50 (325 NZD) for children between October 1 and April 31, and $193.50 (325 NZD) for adults and $134 (225 NZD) for children from May 1 to September 30.

To purchase your ticket, visit Great Journeys New Zealand.

How long is the TranzAlpine train ride?

Whether you ride from Christchurch to Greymouth (east to west) or from Greymouth to Christchurch (west to east), the length of the journey is the same: five hours. There is only one train per day in each direction.

Passengers on the TranzAlpine can choose to make stopovers in the towns where the train stops to lengthen the experience over several days.

Does the TranzAlpine train run all year?

The TranzAlpine train runs all year long:

  • Monday to Friday from January 14 to September 18
  • Monday to Sunday from September 22 to May 6
  • Friday to Monday from May 10 to June 30

Can you take your own food on the TranzAlpine?

While there is an onboard café serving snacks, light meals, and beverages (adult and otherwise), passengers are welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Scenic Plus passengers are served a complimentary meal and drinks (including wine and beer) while on board.

What time of year is it best to ride the TranzAlpine train?

The landscapes through which the TranzAlpine train travels are some of the most impressive in all of New Zealand, and no matter the season, you’ll get an eyeful of this stunning country. However, riding the train through the Southern Alps when the peaks are covered in snow is especially spectacular. To ensure that the scenery out the window resembles a winter wonderland, go in August or early September. (Remember that winter in the Southern Hemisphere is from late June to late September.)

What is the most scenic train in New Zealand?

Out of the three scenic passenger train trips you can take around New Zealand (the TranzAlpine, the Coastal Pacific, and the Northern Explorer), the TranzAlpine is said to be the most beautiful. The landscape, which you can admire from your seat through “un-tinted, non-reflective, panoramic side and roof windows” or the open-air viewing car, is varied and more impressive at every turn: river gorges, plateaus, hills, mountain peaks, alpine forests, waterfalls, and more.

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