Riding the ‘Iron Road’ is a very romantic and exciting way to travel into West Coast Glacier Country.
New Zealand’s most scenic railway line runs coast to coast from Christchurch to Greymouth, and is one of the world’s great railway journeys. The Tranz Alpine Express penetrates the backbone of the Southern Alps with a daily return service. It travels through a changing landscape of towering forests, alpine tussock, mighty rivers, peaceful lakes and snow-capped mountains, showing the striking contrast between the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains and the rugged rainforest slopes of the West Coast. The railway line crosses six viaducts and passes through 16 tunnels to reach it’s highest altitude at Arthur’s Pass, before descending via the 8.5 km long Otira Tunnel to the West Coast.
Your journey begins at Christchurch Railway Station where you settle back, relax and listen to an interesting commentary on local history and physical features en route. As the foothills of the Alps approach you will be invited to make your way to the open-air observation platform. Have your camera at the ready as the Express snakes its way through the Waimakariri River Gorge and climbs to the Pass. You are following the old Cobb & Co. Stage Coach route over Arthur’s Pass, which continued in service until 1923. In those days, it was a two day journey with the passengers having to walk up the steepest sections to spare the horses.
The Tranz Alpine Express offers a number of attractive choices for full day trips. An Arthur’s Pass stopover allows 5 hours to walk the high slopes of the magnificent national park. Lake Brunner stopover allows 3 hours to relax on the lakeshore at Moana, fish in the lake or take a scenic boat cruise. Greymouth offers a 40 minute Jade and Heritage Tour, which gives a unique insight into the art of fashioning jewellery and carving jade sculptures.
Whatever combination you choose, the Tranz Alpine Express will fill your day with the breathtaking scenery of the Southern Alps.
It’s an unforgettable journey of discovery and delight.