The Great Alpine Highway

A Must-do Touring Route in Selwyn

The journey between Christchurch and the West Coast of New Zealand is one of the most spectacular in the world. Starting with the patchwork fields of Canterbury plains you will gently meander through to foothills covered in tussock, before climbing into the majestic Southern Alps.

Whether traveling by the Tranz Alpine train, car or bus, you will be greeted with stunning uninterrupted views.

By car or camper van

State Highway 73 passes through many small townships that have supported farming communities for over a hundred years. Now many boutique shops and galleries welcome visitors along with big farm shops that are integral to the local industry. Fuel yourself up along the way, stop off at the Famous Sheffield Pie Shop and grab one of their delicious pies, one the way back, try the handmade pies from the Darfield Bakery. Great cafes along the way will ensure your coffee and tea fix is well met.

Sheffield Sign Board with a picnic bench on the grass

Sheffield Pie Shop

If you are travelling early in the morning, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a hot air balloon from Ballooning Canterbury drifting across the sky. Plan ahead to experience this incredible balloon flight, they book out fast!

Further up the road in Springfield, stop off for an exhilarating jet boat ride with the team at Alpine Jet Thrills. This is not your regular jet boat, sure they do the spins, but the journey is through the stunning Waimakariri Gorge.

The highway continues to Porters Pass. In winter, the road can be closed due to snow, so check ahead just in case. It’s well worth the trip to see the limestone rock formations at Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill. Scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were filmed in this area and the free, easy walking track to the rocks.

Rocky hills and Mountain view from the grassland

Six amazing boutique ski areas veer off the highway, providing unique family orientated winter adventures. Further along, the Craigieburn Forest Park is a fantastic spot for a picnic and camping.  It boasts an array of different levels of fitness for walking and biking and some tracks you can enjoy with your 4 legged friend.

The final part of the journey winds its way into Arthur’s Pass National Park. The Arthur's Pass township is a real gem with the grand Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall and short walks.  The cheeky kea, the world’s only alpine parrot are great to photograph, but watch out for your gear – they are master thieves!  If you can read their leg tags you can find out which kea you have seen by visiting the kea conservation database. Stay the night at the backpackers or motel so you can take your time exploring this wonderful area.

Two girls looking at the waterfall from the bridge, trees around them

Devil's Punchbowl

KiwiRail Tranz Alpine Experience

Experience the South Island’s striking natural landscape by taking the Tranz Alpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth. You will see epic panoramic views, travel the banks of the snow fed Waimakariri River, traverse the Southern Alps, and see miles of native beech forest.

The TranzAlpine is one of the world's great train journeys covering 223 kilometres (139 miles) one-way, taking just under 5 hours. You can board in Christchurch, Rolleston, Darfield or Springfield.

Kiwi Rail train on track on a sunny day, mountains in the background

Ready to explore?

It's time to start making plans to get out on the Great Alpine Highway. Will it be a road trip? A mountain biking adventure? An incredible train journey? What about a combination of all three? 

While you're out and about on your Great Alpine Highway Adventure, make sure you tag us in your photos on Facebook and Instagram