The view from New Zealand South island's TranzAlpine train

The view from the TranzAlpine train

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Christchurch to Greymouth on the scenic TranzAlpine train

It's perhaps the most scenic train ride in New Zealand, and one of the most scenic train trips anywhere in the world.  The TranzAlpine, run by New Zealand train operator KiwiRail as part of their Great Journeys of New Zealand division, runs once daily between Christchurch, Arthur's Pass and Greymouth on the South Island's west coast, through the amazing misty mountain scenery of the Southern Alps.  The journey takes 4 hours, and if you like you can go there and back in a day with an hour in Greymouth.  Or take the TranzAlpine one-way, and connect with buses down the west coast to Franz Josef Glacier.  Although I rate the North Island's Northern Explorer from Auckland to Wellington as a far more historic and epic route, and in many ways almost equally scenic, you certainly won't regret buying a ticket for the TranzAlpine!  This page explains the TranzAlpine's timetable, fares, how to buy the cheapest tickets, and what there is to see on the journey.

On this page

small bullet point  TranzAlpine timetable

small bullet point  TranzAlpine fares

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  What's it like on board?

small bullet point  What to see on the way 

small bullet point  Watch the video


On other pages

small bullet point  Auckland to Wellington on the Northern Explorer

small bullet point  Wellington to Picton by Interislander ferry

small bullet point  Wellington to Christchurch by ferry & Coastal Pacific

small bullet point  Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill by bus

small bullet point  Christchurch-Queenstown bus service

small bullet point  Dunedin-Queenstown train+bus service

Tranz-Alpine train times & fares

The TranzAlpine is the most successful of all of Kiwi Rail's passenger trains, popular with tour groups because of the spectacular scenery through the Southern Alps between Christchurch and the South Island's west coast at Greymouth. 

The Man in Seat 61 says:  "It's a fantastic trip that easily lives up to its reputation, but in many ways the TranzAlpine is not as epic or historic as the Auckland-Wellington Northern Explorer, which remains my personal favourite NZ train ride."

 Christchurch Greymouth   


 Greymouth Christchurch   

The Tranz-Alpine train


The Tranz-Alpine train


Depart Christchurch 


Depart Greymouth


Arthur's Pass arrive/depart


Arthur's Pass arrive/depart


Arrive Greymouth


Arrive Christchurch


Days of operation:  The TranzAlpine has historically run daily all year.  In 2024 it's running on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays in each direction until late September, then every day.

Composition:  Scenic class seating, Scenic Plus class seating (with at-seat meal included), cafe-bar & open air viewing platform, .  The journey is 223.8km.

 How much does it cost?

 Christchurch to Greymouth

 by TranzAlpine train

Scenic class

Summer fare NZ$ 239 

Winter fare NZ$ 189

Scenic Plus class  

Summer fare NZ$ 449 

Winter fare NZ$ 379

Children aged 2-14 travel at reduced fare.  Infants under 2 travel free.

1 = 1.9 NZ Dollars.   US$1 = 1.55 NZ$

How to buy tickets

What's it like on the TranzAlpine?

The TranzAlpine was relaunched with new 'AK' panoramic sightseeing coaches built in Kiwi Rail's Dunedin workshops in 2011-2012.  These have replaced the old rebuilt 1950s carriages used until late 2012. Photos courtesy of James Chuang

AK carriage, as used on the Christchurch to Greymouth TranzAlpine train   Seats in the new 'AK' carriages on the Auckland-Wellington 'Northern Explorer'

Scenic class seats, most facing direction of travel, all lining up with huge panoramic windows - note the roof skylights too!.  There's loads of legroom even if you're over six feet tall.  Seats are not allocated at booking, but by the train manager before departure.  However, if you book by phone (or book online then call Kiwi Rail's freephone number when you get to NZ quoting your booking reference) you can make a seating request.  Seats on the right-hand side of the train going to Greymouth probably get the best views, or the left-hand side returning to Christchurch.  Four friends or family travelling together could request one of the few bays of 4 seats facing each other around a table, keen photographers might want to request a seat close to the open-air viewing car.  Requests can't be guaranteed, but it doesn't hurt to ask!  All your heavy baggage is checked in to the baggage van, only hand luggage may be taken into the seating coaches.  All seats in the new 'AK' cars have power sockets for mobiles, laptops or cameras (New Zealand voltage and plug, of course).  Larger photo.

Scenic Plus class seats:  A new Scenic Plus class has been added to the TranzAlpine as from April 2023, in a dedicated carriage with extra-legroom reclining seats.  A freshly-cooked meal & wine is included, prepared by a chef in the adjacent kitchen car and served at your seat.  If you get any photos of this car and/or of the food provided, please get in touch!

Cafe car on the Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington   New carriages as used on the TranzAlpine train

Cafe-bar:  In the centre of the train is a counter selling tea, coffee, wine, beer, spirits, snacks & light microwaveable meals at reasonable prices.  I can recommend a cream tea in the afternoon, and a glass of Montana Sauvignon Blanc!  You take your food & drink back to your seat. Bring cash if possible as cards are sometimes not accepted if the credit card machine is out of cellphone range.  Larger photo.

Viewing car, as used on the TranzAlpine train   Inside the viewing car as used on the TranzAlpine train

Open-air viewing platform:  At one end of the train is a large open-air viewing platform, ideal for seeing and photographing the scenery, with no glass in between you and it.  Children must be accompanied.  The viewing car now has additional rails to prevent people leaning out.  A second open-air car is now provided on the TranzAlpine exclusively for Scenic Plus class guests.

Travel tips

A journey on the Tranz-Alpine

These photos show the old TranzAlpine train which used rebuilt 1950 coaches until 2012.  You'll now see the same wonderful scenery, from a far nicer more modern train, see the new train photos above!

The Tranz-Alpine waits to leave Springfield...   Waimakiriri Gorge, seen from the TranzAlpine train

After leaving Christchurch the train stops briefly at Springfield in the Canterbury Plain.  The Southern Alps lie dead ahead.


The Waimakiriri Gorge, seen from the TranzAlpine as it starts its steep climb into the Southern Alps.

The Tranz-Alpine crossing a major viaduct on the Christchurch-Greymouth line...   The river gorge from the TranzAlpine train as it climbs into the Southern Alps

The Tranz-Alpine train ascends into the Southern Alps over a series of girder bridges and tunnels.


The river is now in a gorge way below the railway.

The Tranz Alpine on one of its many river crossings...   Enjoying a Devonshire cream tea on the Tranz-Alpine train...

The train reaches a plateau, crossing and re-crossing a board shallow river.


Enjoying a Devonshire cream tea from the cafe-bar.

More scenery from the TranzAlpine train

Fabulous scenery in New Zealand's Southern Alps.

Typical scenery seen from the Tranz Alpine train, arguably New Zealand's most scenic train ride...

More fabulous views in the Southern Alps.

Typical scenery seen from the Tranz Alpine train, arguably New Zealand's most scenic train ride...

And more.

Scenery from the Tranzalpine   The Tranz Alpine at Arthurs Pass in the heart of the Southern Alps...

Yet more beautiful scenery.


Arthur's Pass, just before the Otira Tunnel

Taking photos from the open-air viewing platform on the Tranz-Alpine train   New Zealand's most scenic train ride...

After Otira, the TranzAlpine train snakes its way through the Misty Mountains, which live up to their name.  The open-air viewing car allows you to get up close and personal with the outdoors, great for photography.

River approaching Greymouth   The Brunner Mine site, seen from the train...

The train is still alongside a river, now with thick green bush on either bank.  Near Greymouth the TranzAlpine passes the Brunner Mine, site of New Zealand's worst mining disaster in 1896 (above right).

The TranzAlpine train arrives at Greymouth...   Town clock next to the Grey River, Greymouth, New Zealand

Journey's end:  The TranzAlpine arrived at Greymouth station on the rainy west coast of NZ's south island.


The town clock at Greymouth.  The sign on the right warns you not to eat fish caught next to the sewer outlet!

Video:  A ride on the Tranzalpine

This video gives an excellent idea of just how good the TranzAlpine train ride can be!  Video by Robanca

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Tours of New Zealand by train

Railbookers specialise in train-based tours and offer several tours of New Zealand with rail travel, including Essential New Zealand (8 days), Best of New Zealand (16 days), Scenic New Zealand (14 days) and Ultimate Tour of New Zealand (19 days), all of which can all be customised to your own requirements.

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