Is TranzAlpine train worth it?

Old Mar 7th, 2024, 09:14 AM
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Is TranzAlpine train worth it?

My wife and I are flying to Auckland in late September for 2 weeks from the U.S.. I've reached the point with itinerary planning that I know we can't see both the North and South Islands. But if we have a couple of days or so toward the end, is it worth going to Christchurch and taking the TranzAlpine train so we at least get a taste of the Southern Alps?

Right now I'd be interested in resting in Auckland, then proceeding to places like Waitomo, Rotorua, Tongariro Crossing, Napier and Wellington (inc Kapiti Island and the West Coast). I'm a hiker and my wife is not, so I'm trying to split the difference between hiking and more casual sight seeing.

I know this is subjective but are the Southern Alps worth the trip to Christchurch to take this train? I know we should dedicate a separate trip to the South (or at least I should) but it's unlikely we would return to NZ.

And this is really subjective but we just traveled to Banff in Canada and those mountains were beyond spectacular. Not sure if the Southern Alps would be more of the same.

Just trying to wrap my head around all this. Thanks for any help!

Last edited by craigdominey7102; Mar 7th, 2024 at 09:16 AM.
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Old Mar 8th, 2024, 10:30 AM
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I don't think that Arthur's Pass necessarily gives you the classic taste of the Southern Alps. Queenstown/Wanaka/Arrowtown would be a more classic view.

If you are a train enthusiast, one thing you could do instead would be to take the Coastal Paciific Train with a stopover in Kaikoura. One issue is timing, note that it starts back up 9/19.
There should be a lot of snow on the Kaikoura range, I think the view is impressive from town.

You could combine the train with one of the ferry crossings from Wellington to Picton and a one-way flight in or out of Christchurch. I know there are a few international flights out of Christchurch also.

See my (relatively recent) trip report for a few lodging and restaurant ideas. There are some others such as magsrose who spent more time on the North Island than most.

Semi live from New Zealand

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 8th, 2024 at 10:32 AM.
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Old Mar 8th, 2024, 11:55 AM
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Thanks for your response - I'm not really a train enthusiast, just seemed like a quick way to see the Southern Alps with our limited time. I'm even considering flying from Wellington to Queenstown and spending time at Milford Sound and other areas for a few days just to get a taste. Then fly back to Auckland, then back to the States.
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Old Mar 8th, 2024, 12:06 PM
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I'd drive over Arthur's Pass instead, as the train takes you through some 15 tunnels, and having done both, I find the drive much more interesting.

Having said that, I'd not go to the SI just for the train or that particular drive. Sounds like you're just going to stay for a day or two? How much time are we talking about?
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Old Mar 8th, 2024, 02:05 PM
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Probably 3-5 days on SI.
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Old Mar 9th, 2024, 12:35 PM
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We've travelled in the Canadian Rockies and the south island of New Zealand and I have to admit that the Banff/Jasper is more spectacular than the NZ alps (much as I love New Zealand). If you will only have time for the train trip, I'd say use your spare day or so in the north island. However, if you can stretch your travels by a few more days, the NZ south island is really beautiful.
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Old Mar 11th, 2024, 05:00 AM
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Thanks marg, that's exactly what I was looking for! It seems like there's a lot in the North that I don't get to see everyday (volcanoes, islands, etc).
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Old Mar 11th, 2024, 07:37 AM
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I think that Melnq8 and I had this discussion once before, about people who live near Alpine scenery might be underwhelmed with the Southern Alps (South Island). When I was sharing a cabin in Arthur's Pass a while back, there were a few Canadians there who expressed that opinion, and they said they were more interested in some cultural highlights (such as the Rotorua area on the North Island).

If you had another two weeks, then places on the South Island like the Otago Peninsula,Catlins, Kaikoura, West Coast, Abel Tasman would be in play.

If you don't get seasick and since you'll be in Wellington anyways, and the weather is good (often not) consider a ferry crossing over to Picton.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 11th, 2024 at 07:39 AM.
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb
I think that Melnq8 and I had this discussion once before, about people who live near Alpine scenery might be underwhelmed with the Southern Alps (South Island). When I was sharing a cabin in Arthur's Pass a while back, there were a few Canadians there who expressed that opinion, and they said they were more interested in some cultural highlights (such as the Rotorua area on the North Island).

If you had another two weeks, then places on the South Island like the Otago Peninsula,Catlins, Kaikoura, West Coast, Abel Tasman would be in play.

If you don't get seasick and since you'll be in Wellington anyways, and the weather is good (often not) consider a ferry crossing over to Picton.
I wish I had another 2 weeks! It seems travelers spend weeks or months there. I may reconsider and concentrate on the NI which seems like it has more than enough to see. I donít want to be exhausted. Thanks for all the help!
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Old May 1st, 2024, 08:42 PM
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Driving from Christchurch - Tekapo - Twizel is a real gem. You can divert and go up to Mt Cook village, but don't bother if it is overcast as you won't see the mountains.
One of my most favourite parts of New Zealand on a fine day.
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Old May 3rd, 2024, 02:52 AM
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The TranzAlpine train is a scenic journey that travels through the Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand. It is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world, and for good reason. The views are truly stunning, and the train travels through a variety of landscapes, including mountains, rivers, and forests.

Whether or not the TranzAlpine train is worth it for you depends on a few factors. Here are some things to consider:
If you and your wife are interested in seeing beautiful scenery, then the TranzAlpine train is worth it. The views are truly amazing, and you'll get to see a lot of the South Island in a short amount of time.
The TranzAlpine train is not a cheap trip. However, if you factor in the cost of flying to and from the South Island, as well as the cost of accommodation and activities, it may be a more affordable option than you think.
The train ride itself takes about five hours, but you'll need to factor in travel time to and from Christchurch. If you only have a few days at the end of your trip, you may not want to spend a whole day on the train.
The Southern Alps are beautiful year-round, but they are especially stunning in the spring and summer when the wildflowers are in bloom.

There are a few short hikes that you can do from the TranzAlpine train stations. If your wife is not a hiker, she may still enjoy the scenery from the train

Comparison to Banff:
The Southern Alps are different from the Canadian Rockies, but they are equally beautiful. The Southern Alps are more rugged and have a wider variety of vegetation.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to take the TranzAlpine train is up to you. If you are looking for a unique and scenic way to see the South Island, then it is definitely worth considering.
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Old May 3rd, 2024, 03:45 PM
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I really liked the transAlpine trip but I had limited time as I was at a conference in Christchurch -I did there and back in a day .
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Old Jun 3rd, 2024, 07:04 PM
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#2 makes a good point in that the best of the Southern Alps are much further south. Head to Queenstown/Milford Sound/Doubtful Sound for some spectacular views. They are actually fjords not sounds and only Milford Sound has road access.
If you have cash to splash then do a helicopter trip from Queenstown with Heliworks Queenstown. A trip to Earnslaw Burn is on my bucket list but not yet achieved because of the cost.
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