Every year, my New Zealand Bucketlist seems to grow – more adventures to experience, more places to see and more things to do. My 10 years working and living in this beautiful country continuously make me want to learn and know more about its land, people, culture and history. For a small and young country, it’s wildness, remoteness and rawness encourage a certain yearning to drive through almost empty towns, hike some difficult terrains and even experience 4 seasons in a day. If you want to check out my my ever growing bucketlist and see how I’m doing, my post My Ultimate New Zealand Bucketlist of Adventures is a good read!
There are 3 Great Train Journeys of New Zealand:
- Northern Explorer – a long distance scenic train service from Wellington to Auckland
- Coastal Pacific – a continuous scenic train service from Picton to Christchurch, passing by the beautiful coast along Kaikoura (temporarily unavailable due to the November 2016 Earthquake, preliminary estimate is that it will return mid-2018)
- TranzAlpine – an adventure from east to west coast of the South Island, from Christchurch to Greymouth with a 10-15mins break at Arthur’s Pass Township
I’ve done the Coastal Pacific a few years back and really enjoyed passing by the perfect rows of vineyards and enjoying the coastal views with fun seals and waves. Since we’re based in the South Island, we thought that we’d do the TranzAlpine this winter so to enjoy the views of snow-capped mountains and see the Arthur’s Pass National Park from a slightly different point of view. We’re planning to do the Northern Explorer sometime soon, time permitting. So here’s our thoughts on the TranzAlpine Train Journey.
Disclaimer: We booked and did this trip independently, without any sponsorship from any company. All photos ad opinions posted and expressed are our own.
Though the TranzAlpine can be done anytime of the year, Pep and I decided to experience it in winter. It was summer when we drove to Arthur’s Pass National Park and enjoyed the landscape in it’s ‘summer form’. We would like to then see it in its ‘winter form’ with snow-capped mountains and even snow fall if we’re lucky!
And yes, we were very lucky. The weekend we booked can’t be more perfect! The Wednesday before our scheduled train trip on Saturday (15 July), it snowed heavily just outside of Christchurch! (It didn’t snow in Christchurch, just rained).
Snow as we passed by Darfield (and beyond)!
I read somewhere to make sure to request the seats on the right hand side of the train for the journey to Greymouth and the left hand side on the way back to Christchurch as it will give you the best views. It’s quite right, but o some areas, views on the other side is more beautiful. I guess it’s just beautiful on both sides and getting a seat on either side is enjoyable.
Once the train’s passed the last tunnel (around 8km, for 30mins) it’s like another world and season. The other side of the mountain range doesn’t have a drop of snow, it’s so green like it’s summer.
- Comfort: 9/10
- The train is very clean, seats very comfortable and the train almost looks brand new! I love trains in general and whether it’s brand new or vintage, as long as it’s clean and comfortable, I’m happy!
- Facilities: 8/10
- The viewing deck could have been made a bit longer as it gets quite cramped and too busy when almost everyone decided to go there and take photos.
- Food: 5/10
- I can only say this for Pep and I’s food preference. For the price that we paid, we’re not expecting some fancy food selections but the quality of the food was not really up to scratch! The sandwiches were all keep in a fridge cooler which seems to be too cold that when we opened the sandwiches we bought, it’s soggy and the bread is wet. The “hot food” are actually frozen meals that were heated in the microwave if you decide to order them. Also, because the train passes by some remote areas, the eftpos (atm) machine that takes payments by card doesn’t work all the time and once your card has been rejected due to lack of signal, you can’t use it again. We’d recommended bringing some cash or bringing your own food. We actually brought our own sandwiches on our way to Greymouth but didn’t bring any snack on board on our way back to Christchurch.
- Experience: 8/10
- I think it’s a great way to see Arthur’s Pass National Park and the countryside. Though some things need improvement (esp the food) we’d consider it to be a great journey of New Zealand. One recommendation that we’d like to make is to take the train from Christchurch to Greymouth and then stay a night in Greymouth or Hokitika. Taking the return train trip back to Christchurch would be a bit tiring as the train only stops for 1 hour once it arrives in Greymouth. If we had the time (we did it on a weekend), we would have hired a car and drove to Hokitika, check out the Hokitika Gorge and the Treetop Adventure. That can be the plan another time!
If you are planning on taking this journey and would like to have a chat with us regarding our experience on this trip, please feel free to message us or check out some more of our photos on our facebook page and instagram. Happy travels and have a wonderful time in New Zealand! Take care and Big Hugs!!
Tin and Pep