If you think the TranzAlpine scenic train is just another train ride you are wrong. Here’s why!

National Geographic listed the TranzAlpine Train Journey from Christchurch to Greymouth as one of the most scenic in the world. Jerry Cortez set out to find out what makes this trip one of NZ’s top experiences, and so much more than just a means of transport…

Meet Jerry… Everyone at Stray loves to travel, so we make sure that our office staff get the chance to get off the beaten track and check out some of our top Stray destinations. Jerry was stoked to have the opportunity to see the South Island.

After jumping on the TranzAlpine scenic train, here’s what he had to say. He will tell you if this scenic train ride is just as amazing as National Geographic said it would be (spoiler alert: yes it is)

Jerry is about to find out how amazing the TranzAlpine scenic train ride is
Jerry is about to find out how amazing the TranzAlpine scenic train ride is

Having lived in New Zealand for 10 years, I figured it was time for a break from the office to tick some places off my to-do list on the South Island. The TranzAlpine scenic train journey from Christchurch to Greymouth was at the top of my bucket list!

Experience amazing views on this scenic train ride
Experience amazing views on this scenic train ride

What’s the TranzAlpine train, you ask? Well if you like trains and beautiful scenery, then boy do I have news for you. The 223km trip is arguably the best in NZ, in fact, it was listed by National Geographic as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. One of the absolute best ways to traverse the Southern Alps!

The scenic journey on the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth takes about 5 hours. That’s 5 amazing hours of looking at the scenery and South Island landscape. Sit back, relax and enjoy.

The Journey

Me and my colleague, Jess, were lucky to be travelling on a beautiful sunny day, perfect for viewing the iconic scenery of the Southern Alps. On that note, here are my must-have items for the trip:

  • Camera – as if you’d go anywhere in New Zealand without it
  • Warm clothing – there is an outdoor viewing platform where you can get those killer panorama shots, but it can be very fresh out there
  • Snacks – the trip is about 5 hours, and while there is a café on board, but as a budget-conscious traveller, it would be wise to bring your own treats
  • Sunglasses – unless you want to be squinting in all your selfies.

On the train

The cabins were warm and cosy, even though it was -1°C outside. One of the best features is the free history lesson included in the trip – each seat comes with free headphones for you to plug into the audio commentary, where you can learn about the history, myths and fun facts about the places you’re passing.

However, The MVP was definitely the viewing deck. I could literally spend the whole journey standing there just taking photos and staring at the remarkable, everchanging landscape because the views are endless.

Sit back, relax and enjoy amazing views on the train ride
Sit back, relax and enjoy amazing views on the train ride

What will you see?

Starting off, the Canterbury plains dominate the landscape like a massive patchwork quilt. The train follows the braided Waimakariri river up toward the Southern Alps, where you’ll find dramatic views that the South Island landscape is famous for.

Arthur’s Pass

Sometimes the train stops here to pick up passengers. This is an ideal opportunity to stretch your legs, snap some more photos, and maybe get the chance to meet NZ’s smartest and cheekiest bird, the Kea. Some say they’re as clever as a 4-year-old human, so watch your stuff, they’re very curious!

Hello feathered friend.... Meet the Kea, an extremely intelligent and curious bird
Hello feathered friend…. Meet the Kea, an extremely intelligent and curious bird

Otira Tunnel

Get ready to disappear into the abyss, because you are about to enter one of the longest tunnels in New Zealand. This rail tunnel runs over 8.5 kilometres underneath the Southern Alps. Make sure you listen to the audio commentary (there’s not much else to do while you’re sitting in the dark for 20 minutes), to learn some fun facts.

Arriving in Greymouth

Having seen snowy mountains, rivers and plains in the first two hours of our journey, we were surprised to pop out the other side of the tunnel into a completely different world. Misty rainforest dominated the scenery (which felt like something out of a Twilight movie) and of course, the rain that the West Coast is infamous for.

This region is actually the wettest in New Zealand, but don’t let this put you off. There’s no rainforest (or rainbows) without a bit of rain! Supporting characters in this landscape include misty mountains (cue Ed Sheeran’s song in your head) and Lake Brunner.

Welcome to the wild West Coast of New Zealand
Welcome to the wild West Coast of New Zealand

Where to Stray next

Once we arrived in Greymouth, I looked outside my window and saw my Stray bus driver waiting on the platform smiling at me!

Overall, it was an awesome experience, way more than just a mode of transport. After 5 hours I didn’t want the trip to end. I’d recommend the TranzAlpine to everyone, including Kiwis, as one of the coolest ways to get from coast to coast. After all, Nat Geo usually knows what they’re talking about, right?

The TranzAlpine scenic train ride is a New Zealand must-do
The TranzAlpine scenic train ride is a New Zealand must-do

Amazing South Island trip with scenic train ride included

Stray’s Weka Tour is all about enjoying the amazing scenery of the South Island. You’ll travel from Christchurch to Greymouth by TranzAlpine scenic train. Then you’ll continue by comfy bus to see South Island highlights like Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, Wanaka, Tekapo and back to Christchurch.

You’ll experience the scenery along the way and will do amazing activities in between. It is the most fun way to explore that part of the South Island together with like-minded adventurous travellers. Check out all details of the Stray Weka Tour.

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Travel Mate (guest blogger)

Have you travelled on a Stray tour in New Zealand, Australia or Asia? How about creating a blog post about your experience? Or are you a frequent traveller and want to add your travel knowledge to our travel blog? Get in touch. We welcome relevant guest posts.

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New Zealand is a tiny country that packs a scenic punch! Explore New Zealand the 'Stray' way - getting further off the beaten track, seeking out one-of-a-kind experiences and meeting a bunch of epic fellow adventurers.
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