TranzAlpine, Christchurch to Greymouth

The TranzAlpine is a scenic tourist train that travels from Christchurch to Greymouth.

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The journey is 223 kilometres (139 miles) one way and travels across the Canterbury plains, alongside the Waimakariri River and through the Southern Alps. It is regarded as one of the top scenic train rides in the world.

There are 3 passenger cars A, B, D. The C car is a café car serving meals, snacks and beverages. KiwiRail Scenic Journeys currently serves prepackaged meals from catering company Wishbone. Staff can heat up meals. The meals are reasonably priced but many passengers seem to bring their own snacks as it is only a four-and-half-hour trip one way.

An open viewing car was located at the front of the train, offering the best opportunity for photos and a breath of fresh air.

The train departs Christchurch at 8:15 am and travels across the Canterbury plains with stops at Rolleston, Darfield, Springfield and Cass.

TranzAlpine, Christchurch Railway Station

TranzAlpine, Christchurch Railway Station

TranzAlpine crosses Canterbury plain

TranzAlpine crosses Canterbury plain

Springfield

Springfield

The train stops at Arthur’s Pass for approximately 20 minutes, which is a good opportunity to get off have some fresh air, take some photos, throw a snowball or two.

After Arthur’s Pass train stops at Otira, Jacksons, Moana (Lake Brunner), Kokiri before a scheduled arrival in Greymouth at 12:45 pm.

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Arthur's Pass

Arthur’s Pass

Greymouth Railway Station

Greymouth Railway Station

The train returns from Greymouth at 1:45 pm arriving in Christchurch at 6:05 pm. It is possible to do the TranzAlpine as a day trip or have an overnight stay in Greymouth.

 

Little River Craft Station

Little River Craft Station is a former railway station that has been converted into a local craft market and tourist information centre with historic displays.

Little River Craft Station

Little River Craft Station

Little River Station, which is located on Christchurch Akaroa Road (SH 75), was built in 1886 and was the terminus station on the Little River Branch line until 1962.

The station buildings are managed by the Little River Railway Station Trust, a volunteer community group that has leased the historic railway building from the Christchurch City Council and have restored and maintain it.

The Station is open 7 day a week, except Christmas Day and ANZAC morning. Summer hours are 9 am – 5pm and winter hours are 9:30 am – 4:30 pm.

The Craft Station sells a variety products including art, jewellery, baby and women’s clothing, knitwear, patchwork, leather work, wood work, pottery, soft toys, local souvenirs, soap, preserves, vegetable seedlings and plants, cut flowers and fresh produce.

They also have displays on local history and railway memorabilia. These displays are regularly updated by the Trust.

Fresh produce and plants for sale

Fresh produce and plants for sale

Railway memorabilia

Railway memorabilia

They also provide tourist information on Little River and the Banks Peninsula region to Akaroa.

A small section of tracks have been installed behind the station so that a number of preserved heritage freight wagons can be displayed.

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Preserved heritage freight wagons

Preserved heritage freight wagons

Little River Railway Station Platform

Little River Railway Station Platform

 

International Antarctic Centre

The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch is the base for New Zealand, the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes. It is also home to a visitor’s centre.

International Antarctic Centre

International Antarctic Centre

The visitor centre is located on Orchard Road (between Memorial Ave and Wairakei Rd) across the road from Christchurch International Airport. It is open every day from 9 am to 5.30 pm.

There is a free Penguin Express Shuttle van that departs Canterbury Museum (Rolleston Ave) on the hour from 9 am (October to March) and 10 am (April – September). The last shuttle departs the museum at 4 pm. The shuttle returns to the city on the half hour with the last shuttle departing at 4.30 pm.

Penguin Express

Penguin Express

There are numerous displays on the Antarctic including information on the landscape, wild life, conservation efforts, and what life is like for scientists and visitors at Scott Base.

The International Antarctic Centre is also highly interactive. There is an indoor polar room that is kept a minus 5 degrees Celsius. Visitors can take the ‘Polar Plunge’ ice water challenge, stand by the Wind Chill Machine, slide down an icy slope or crawl inside a snow cave. Every hour an Antarctic Storm blows through with a temperature of minus 18 degrees. Warm jackets and overshoes are provided.

My favourite is the Little Blue Penguin enclosure with its two viewing levels. All the penguins are rescue birds that would have survived in the wild. The penguins are feed daily at 10.30 am and 3.30 pm.

Little Blue Penguin Enclosure

Little Blue Penguin Enclosure

There is also the 4D Theatre – a 3D film with added dimension of physical effects. There are currently two films playing Happy Feet 4D and Ice Voyage.

They also play the 17 minute short film Beyond the Sunset from Emmy Award winning filmmaker Mike Single. The film shows the seasonal arc from sunrise to sunset in the Antarctic. The film plays continuously on a large HD theatre screen.

The Hagglund is an all terrain amphibious Antarctic vehicle. The centre offers 10 minute rides around a dirt track that has hills, mounds and crosses water.

Hagglund

Hagglund

For visitors that are not interested in the Hagglund ride or the 4D theatre they can purchase Xpress Admission, which does not include these two attractions. For savings book tickets online. The International Antarctic Centre offers adult, child, student / senior and family passes.

Avon River

The Avon River flows through the centre of Christchurch city.
Avon River

Avon River

The river travels from a spring in the suburb of Avonhead through the western suburbs towards the Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park and the Central Business District. From the city it travels east eventually flowing into the Pacific Ocean via the Avon Heathcote Estuart near Sumner.

The river gets its name from the Avon River in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was named in 1842 by early Scottish settlers William and John Deans.

Due to contamination linked to the earthquakes it is not advisable to swim in the Avon River.

One way to experience the Avon River is on a guided punting tour. There are two departure points. In the Botanic Gardens the departure point is the Antiqua Boat Sheds and the the city departure point is by the Worchester Bridge. A return trip from either point is approximately 30 minutes.

Punting on the Avon River

Punting on the Avon River

In my opinion the best way to see the Avon River is to walk along one of the many paths that line its banks. There are walks through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park. Another popular walk is following the Avon River through the CBD.

Te Papa Ōtākaro / Avon River Precinct is a restoration and development project of a 3.2 km area surrounding the river following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Watermark was the first section to open in August 2013 between the Antigua Boatsheds and Montreal Street with boardwalks, walkways and street furniture. The Antigua Boatsheds were built in 1882 and are the last of the commercial boat sheds that once lined the river. A variety of row boats can be hired from here.

I started my walk at Victoria Square, originally known as Market Square or Market Place. It was developed and renamed Victoria Square in 1896 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. A statue of Queen Victoria was erected in 1903. Other key features include the Captain James Cook statue and the H.L. Bowker Fountain. A $7 million revamp of Victoria Square is in the planning stages at the moment.

The cast iron and stone Hamish Hay Bridge (also known as Victoria Bridge) was built 1863-4 to replace the wooden Papanui Bridge. The bridge originally had a width of 27 ft 6in. Further work was completed in 1875 and 1885 bringing the width to 66 ft. It is the country’s oldest cast iron and stone bridge and survived the Christchurch earthquakes undamaged.

Cook Statue, Victoria Square

Cook Statue, Victoria Square

Hamish Hay Bridge / Victoria Bridge

Hamish Hay Bridge / Victoria Bridge

Several other heritage bridges cross the Avon River including the Italianate-style arch Worchester Bridge constructed in 1885 and the Hereford Street Bridge constructed in 1938.

Over the coming years there is going to be a lot of work done revamping the Avon River Precinct. Downsteam, next to the Bridge of Remembrance, is going to be The Terraces, which is going to be a key attraction in the precinct. Another attraction being built is the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. The playground is expected to open around Christmas 2015.

The Bridge of Remembrance was built to commemorate those that served in World War I and was unveiled in November 1924. The archway was built over the Cashel Street bridge. It is currently being repaired following earthquake damage.

Bridge of Remembrance

Bridge of Remembrance

Park of Remembrance

Park of Remembrance

Quake City

Quake City is a exhibition on the Christchurch earthquakes.

Quake City

Quake City

The purpose built exhibition opened in February 2013 after the Canterbury Museum hosted a temporary exhibition in 2012.

The museum will be located on Cashel Street, opposite the Re:START Container Mall until May 2017. It is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. Adults are $20, concession $16, accompanied children under 15 are free.

The February 2011 earthquake caused wide spread damage to Christchurch city. There are some objects on display including a sign from the Pyne Gould Corporation building; from the Cathedral Blessed Sacrament there are pieces from the dome, the Belfry door from the North Bell tower, and one of the four bells; from the Provincial Chambers there is the Speaker’s Chair, decorative ceiling pieces, and a clock and carved head from the Stone Chamber; and from the Christ Church Cathedral there is the fallen spire.

Elements from the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament

Elements from the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament

Christchurch Cathedral Spire

Christ Church Cathedral Spire

There are also displays from those who helped in the aftermath of the earthquake including Mayor Bob Parker’s orange jacket, items from Student Volunteer Army and Search and Rescue workers.

There are interactive activities for visitors including jumping on the spot to see seismograph in action, pedaling on a bike to play a cycle-powered short film, and a Lego table for the young and young at heart.

Also there is interview footage with locals telling their stories from that day.

Be sure to check out the restroom facilities!

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum is a natural and human history museum located in Christchurch.

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum is located on Rolleston Ave, next to the Botanic Gardens and Christ’s College. The museum is open every day, except Christmas Day. During the summer (October to March) the museum is open from 9 am to 5.30 pm. During the winter months (April to September) the museum closes at 5 pm. Entry to the museum is free but donations are appreciated. The Discovery Centre is $2 per person, no charge for children under three.

The museum was established in 1867 by German geologist Sir Julius von Haast and was originally housed in the Provincial Council Buildings.

Its current site is the impressive Gothic Revival stone building, which was designed by Benjamin Mountfort and opened in 1870. Over the years there have been several extensions to the building. Today the museum building is four levels. Exhibits are located on levels 1 and 3. There is a café with views of the botanic gardens located on level 4. Level 2 is the administration level and is closed to the general public.

The museum has over 2.1 million items in its collection.

Level 1 has excellent exhibits on early Canterbury settlement, Maori history and New Zealand natural history.

The Mountfort Gallery occupies the part of the original Canterbury Museum building and is named after Benjamin Mountfort. It currently houses the museum’s European Decorative Art and Costume collection.

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Mountfort Gallery

Mountfort Gallery

There is a slice kiwiana with Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House. For over 40 years Fred and Myrtle would show tourists around their paua shell decorated home in the Bluff. Following the couple’s passing their grandson donated the paua shell collection to Canterbury Museum. A replica of the lounge was created using photographs taken in late 2006.

There is also a replica of early Canterbury street on level 1 with early 19th century shops.

Fred and Myrtle's Paua Shell House

Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House

The third level has much of the natural history section including the bird hall, dinosaur and geology exhibits. The third floor also has international exhibits including an Asian Arts collection, Egyptian exhibit with its own mummy Tash pen Khonsu and an Antarctic exhibit.

Antarctic exhibition

Antarctic exhibit

Egyptian exhibition

Egyptian exhibit

 

Christchurch Tram

Christchurch Tram is a heritage tram route catering to tourists that loops around some of the key attractions in Christchurch central city.

Christchurch Tram

Christchurch Tram

The heritage tramway route opened in February 1995 to cater to the tourist market. The 2011 Christchurch earthquake damaged the tram circuit and the tramway reopened in November 2013 on a limited route. A new extended route opened in February this year that includes Oxford Terrace, Cashel Street, and High Street to Cathedral Square.

The tram starts at Cathedral Junction and travels through Cathedral Square, High Street and past the Re:START Mall. The tram then rejoins the loop and passes Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Canterbury Museum, Hagley Park and Victoria Square. The tram travels through New Regent Street and back to Cathedral Junction. There are currently 17 stops.

Christchurch Tram Route Map

Christchurch Tram Route Map

Trams run approximately every 15 – 20 minutes. From September to March tram hours are 9am to 6pm and 10am to 5pm, April to August. Adults can purchase a pass for $20 that allows unlimited travel for that date. Children (under 15) travel for free.

The tram drivers provide informative onboard commentary. I had three drivers on the day I traveled and they each had their own style and perspective on the city.

Riding Christchurch Tram

Riding Christchurch Tram

Christchurch Tram is run by Welcome Aboard and they offer combo tickets and passes for that include other attractions, such as Christchurch Gondola, punting on the Avon River, tours of Christchurch Botanic Gardens. See their website for more details.

There is also the Tramway Restaurant, an evening four course dinner sightseeing tour of Christchurch. The tram departs Cathedral Junction at 7 pm. Reservations are essential. I haven’t experienced the Tramway Restaurant so if you have let me know what you thought in the comments below.