The TranzAlpine train journey is considered to be one of the world’s greatest railway routes, travelling from Christchurch to Greymouth with several stops in between.
You’ll pass through gorges with impossibly-bright turquoise rivers, across 3,000-feet tall mountains, and over plains of blooming exotic flora, and be hypnotised by the window view.
To make sure you don’t miss out on some of the best bits of New Zealand, here are the top recommendations along the way from global travellers. *
Christchurch is known as the 'Garden City'
Botanical Gardens, Christchurch
With a reputation as the ‘Garden City’, it’d be a shame not to visit Christchurch’s splendid Botanic Gardens, with wise old trees and sculpted flowerbeds curling around the Avon River. Explore the Gardens’ 50 acres of horticultural displays, garden art, greenhouses, duck ponds, and greenery.
A wood-panelled, pastel-coloured beach house, Eco Villa has a pretty herb garden, a shaded wooden porch, and a magical outdoor bathroom lit by candles, with mosaic floors and a tree growing out of the brickwork.
The small town of Springfield sits at the foot of the Southern Alps
From plains blooming in native flora, the train moves on to Springfield, a small town at the foot of the Southern Alps. Towering snowy mountains form the backdrop to the town and it’s only a short distance to the Canterbury Ski Fields, where alpine trails meander around icy rivers and evergreen forests.
Spend the night at Springfield Motel and Lodge and enjoy the toasty fire and hot jacuzzi after a day outdoors.
The approach to Arthur's Pass is a major highlight of the journey
Hiking, Arthur’s Pass
The approach to Arthur’s Pass, as the track snakes up the mountainside, is possibly the most extraordinary part of the TranzAlpine journey. Once you’re there, the best way to explore Arthur’s Pass and the surrounding National Park is on foot. Hiking through deep gorges to the top of the bushline, where scree slopes fall down for hundreds of feet, is tough work but well worth it. One of the most popular hiking trails is Avalanche Peak, where you’ll get unbeatable 360-degree views of Lord of the Rings landscapes.
Arthur's Pass Alpine Motel is only 300 metres from the train station and provides easy access to hiking trails within the Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Admire mountain and lake views from the tiny settlement of Moana
On the shores of Lake Brunner, the tiny settlement of Moana is surrounded by magnificent scenery. Though it has a reputation for fishing, it’s tempting to just sit and admire the view. With kilometres of royal blue, ice-fed lake, beech forest, and steep mountain slopes, and the only background noise being birdsong and lapping of water, you may well want to spend a few peaceful nights here before hopping back on the train.
With rooms overlooking the lake, a sun deck, and hot tub, Aldamere Lodge is the place to stay in Moana.
Get to know the friendly locals in Greymouth
Friendly people, Greymouth
This old gold rush town is generally a gateway to New Zealand’s West Coast and there are lots of friendly cafes dotted around the town where you can chat to locals. There’s also the Monteith’s Brewery, home to one of New Zealand’s most-loved beers and offering regular tours to visitors.
A yellow wooden house with a boldly-painted red and blue verandah, Noah’s Ark Backpackers has a homely feel, a hot tub, and a large garden with a BBQ, hammocks, and picnic tables.
**Destinations featured were chosen as a selection of all the major destinations along the Tranzalpine railway route. Then the most popular feature of each city was calculated using internal endorsement data.