One of the toughest decisions most people face when they’re planning a trip down the South Island of New Zealand is which coast line to follow.
Arguably, the highlight of the west coast is the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, while on the east coast it’s possible to swim with dolphins and whale watch in Kaikora or to stop by in Mt Cook village for views of the country’s highest peak.
I’d almost resigned myself to sticking to the east coast the whole way down when I heard about KiwRail’s Scenic Journey between Christchurch and Greymouth.
For the past 25 years, this historic passenger train has been marketed as a ‘scenic journey’, bringing some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery to local tourists and visitors.
KiwiRail has gone to a lot of trouble to make the journey as comfortable and memorable as possible. The seating areas are spacious and the windows are large and clean so that you can make the most of the spectacular views.
Regardless of the time of year, the scenery is mesmerising. It changes as you pass along the route from Christchurch’s suburban bungalows into the Canterbury plains and on over gushing rivers, snowy mountain passes and through subtropical rainforest.
Along the route are various stops where you can get off and stretch your legs for a few minutes, and none is more fun than Arthur’s Pass. In winter, it’s usually buried under a few feet of snow, providing a chance for kids big and small to get involved in a massive snow fight.
RELAXATION AND COMMENTARY
For the duration of the journey, a commentary system is activated by GPS to bring you information about the history, geography and ecology of the region. KiwiRail provides earphones and an alarm will alert you when commentary is in progress.
For those who like to feel the wind rush by, there’s a good sized viewing deck from which you can capture clearer photos and some crisp, fresh air. Wrap up warm though. It gets very chilly up in the mountain passes, especially when the train has picked up speed.
IS THE SCENIC JOURNEY WITH KIWIRAIL WORTH IT?
If you want to make the most of the South Island, you should definitely consider this TranzAlpine train journey with KiwiRail. Not only will it give you the flexibility to see more of the country, it’s a little adventure in itself, plus you will learn loads of information about the local area.
I was a guest of KiwiRail. They did not request that I write a favourable review and any opinions expressed here are my own.