During my first visit to New Zealand’s South Island I took a trip on the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch.
Most people don’t do any research and book the train as a return full day journey from Christchurch to Greymouth and back again.
Don’t waste your money on this! Greymouth is a boring place. The best views are between Christchurch and Arthur’s Pass at the height of the mountains and these tickets are much cheaper.
The full day trip ticket costing often over $NZ200 Adult fare Christchurch to Greymouth return is a colossal rip off, the cost for a family with parents and children is way too much. Families will find much more value doing other truly unique activities on South Island like the Fox Glacier Helihike.
Perhaps I feel this strongly because I’ve seen so much better scenery when travelling by road in the more remote parts of South Island like Mount Cook, because other people on the train were much more excited than me taking photos by the dozen of fairly mundane scenery along the way. I suspect that taking the Tranzalpine train trip when there was still snow on the ground would be more interesting visually rather than during summer.
If you’re short of time during your New Zealand trip so you can’t drive across the mountains, catching the TranzAlpine train to Arthur’s Pass and back again to Christchurch a few hours later is worth considering.
The township of Arthurs Pass is a good base for trampers with various walks starting there. Independent travellers would probably be better off catching a bus or driving to Arthur’s Pass to go tramping and hiking with plenty of time to spare.
I had 5 1/2 hours time to spend in the Arthur’s Pass before the train returned to take me to Christchurch. I took the opportunity to do the Devils Punchbowl Walking Track to see one of New Zealand’s best waterfalls. While not a long walk be aware that it is a bit of a climb gaining altitude so if you can’t climb lots of flights of stairs in a building this walk is probably too much for you.
If you have a car/auto club membership like NRMA or RACV make sure you book your train tickets using the discount codes provided on the Kiwi Rail Tranzalpine website and take your car/auto club member card with you to New Zealand to show you are eligible for the cheaper ticket.