Out of all the places I visited around New Zealand last year, there is one experience that truly sums up the 'do something new' message that's become the slogan for domestic travel around Aotearoa.
The TranzAlpine, operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand from Christchurch to Greymouth, is a five-hour long smorgasbord of amazing scenery.
After we departed Christchurch and the train wormed its way inland, hugging the Waimakariri River, we were treated to the stunning and varied views the South Island is known for.
At times the river appeared just metres away at our side, at others it was flowing tens of metres beneath us as the train made several crossings on the viaducts which tower over it.
Onboard the Scenic Plus carriage, we were served local fresh meat and produce along with a selection of wines.
The crew, a mixture of former Air New Zealand and Qantas staff, were at their customer service best. As they had previously done in the air, they were bringing more than just refreshments to the table like jokes, fun facts about the areas we were passing through and plenty of great stories.
The new Scenic Plus service launched just before summer and operates on both the TranzAlpine or Coastal Pacific scenic train services, both of which are part of 'The Great Journeys of New Zealand' owned and operated by KiwiRail.
Ahleen Rayner, Executive General Manager Tourism & Marketing for KiwiRail Group, says the new offer is perfect for those Kiwis missing out on their international travel and looking to explore the country this summer.
"Our Scenic Plus experience offers guests the taste of the South Island, a captivating hosted experience and spectacular views, so they can be fully immersed in one of New Zealand's most beautiful journeys," Rayner said.
It's not just the crew onboard who have shifted from planes to trains. LSG SkyChefs NZ, the company which prepares food and beverages for international flights out of New Zealand, has jumped onboard with KiwiRail to cater for these scenic rail journeys.
What to look out for:
This very, very small town was made famous by Rita Angus whose painting of its tiny red railway station became one of Aotearoa's most well-known works of art.
You'll have to keep your eyes peeled to catch a glimpse of the little red shed as it flashes past the train as it goes through the town.
There's plenty of stories to be told by the crew onboard as the train passes through the town of Otira. The settlement, almost entirely owned by Lester Rowntree - who in a documentary described himself as a hoarder - slowly builds his collection of things around the town.
Stretch your legs:
One of only a handful of stops on the route is at Arthur's Pass, population 29. It's a name that most Kiwis would know, but that's most likely due to weather warnings or and road closures rather than because they've paid the town a visit.
It's a great place to get out, stretch your legs and take a few photos while the train attaches an extra engine to get through the Otira Tunnel.
Otira Tunnel: When this opened in 1923, it was the eighth largest tunnel in the world. It's a piece of engineering brilliance due to its length and remote location.
At more than 8.5km long, it's the equivalent of having a tunnel run from Auckland's Sky Tower to Glenfield or Takapuna to the north, Onehunga to the south, Avondale in the west, or Rangitoto Island to the east. Maybe those who began building the Otira Tunnel in 1912 should have moved to Auckland after its completion.
As you roll into Greymouth, it doesn't feel like you've spent more than five hours on a train and we didn't quite feel ready to leave the journey, its view and the crew behind.
I'd recommend a two-night stay in or near Greymouth. There's plenty to see both north and south.
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk:
Accommodation can be a bit of an issue, so make sure you plan early and do your research.
Heading back to Christchurch, the scenery is just as stunning a second time. If you can, sit on the same side of the train as your previous trip so you can enjoy the opposite view.
As with all trips, it feels faster going home than it does leaving (what is that about?), and before you know it you'll be back in Christchurch.
If you've not visited the city in a while you may be surprised with the really great bars and eateries that have opened up not far from the station.
With the journey coming to an end, there was one last reminder of just how friendly and helpful the staff of the TranzAlpine were. Facing a long wait for a taxi, one of the staff - a former Air NZ cabin crew member - pulled up in his car and offered us a ride back to our hotel on his way home.
It was the ideal way to end what had been a great journey from beginning to end. Giving the TranzAlpine trip the highest level of customer service from beginning to end.
Newshub Travel travelled on the TranzAlpine as a guest of 'The Great Journeys of New Zealand.'