- Scenic Bay of Islands, including a trip to the famous Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach
- Stay at our beautiful beachside purpose-built Resort in Hahei
- Overnight at Rotorua to experience (smell) the geothermal activity and do extreme whitewater rafting
- Discover history and culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism at our exclusive stop at Lake Aniwhenua.
- Stay at award-winning conservation stop Whakahoro for wild, wilderness activities!
- Tongariro National Park (the volcanoes, Mordor and Mt Doom, NZ’s best one day walk the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’)
- Wellington - NZ’s capital city, home to our national museum Te Papa
- Unique overnight and a free day in Abel Tasman National Park (walks, sailing and kayaking options in this stunning area)
- Majestic Franz Josef glacier with a free day to hike and explore it
- Spend a few days in Queenstown - the adventure and party capital of NZ!
- The stunning fiord of Milford Sound and historic Gunn's Camp
- Stewart Island's natural untouched beauty and wildlife or the Catlins wilderness area for sea lions and remote scenery
- High country sheep station in Lord of the Rings scenery at Rangitata
- Visit Kaikoura, for the awe-inspiring whale watching and wildlife spotting
- This pass is a loop - you can start and finish anywhere.
- Pass valid for 12 months
- Start date is fully flexible
- Pay-as-you-go for accommodation & activities
Day 1: Auckland to Paihia
Haere Mai (welcome)! Your Stray adventure kicks off in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. We depart northbound for the relaxed seaside town of Paihia, gateway to the beautiful Bay of Islands. We stop en-route at the Parry Kauri Forest Park to hug some of the world’s mightiest trees, the native kauri, before cruising up to Paihia for a relaxing afternoon in the stunning Bay. NB: For those travelling up to Cape Reinga, remember to book this day trip in Stray Mate by 12pm the day before you intend to travel or speak to your Stray Driver Guide on the way to Paihia. The Cape Reinga day trip is operated by a local partner so pre-booking is essential.
Day 2: Paihia to Cape Reinga to Paihia
Gear up for a big day, departing early to make the trip to the top of the country. Don’t forget to pack lunch, water and some snacks to keep you going today. Travelling on a custom-built coach you'll drive up 90 Mile Beach, an official public highway, to Te Paki Stream, where you'll learn the art of sand surfing on some of the biggest sand dunes in New Zealand. Our destination is Cape Reinga, where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans clash at the northernmost point of the country. Legend says it is also the departure point for Maori souls leaving New Zealand to return to their spiritual homeland of Hawaiki. The trip home includes a walk in a kauri forest and a stopover at Mangonui for a Kiwi classic dinner of fish 'n chips (pay on the day), before returning to Paihia in the evening. NB. This day trip is operated by a local partner. To secure a seat on this day trip ensure you book either with your Driver or in Stray Mate before 12pm the day before to secure a seat.
Day 3: Paihia to Auckland
Enjoy a sleep in and spend the morning at your leisure. There’s time to do the fantastic half-day Hole in the Rock dolphin cruise around the Bay in the morning, or take this opportunity to hike to the Haruru Falls or just hang out on the beach. Mid-afternoon we jump back on board the Stray bus, destined for the bright lights of Auckland, where there are still plenty of exciting activities to do if you have a free day or two.
Day 4: Auckland to Hahei
We depart Auckland and head south, travelling to the Coromandel Peninsula via the old colonial town of Thames. Renowned for its natural beauty and pristine swimming beaches, the Coromandel Peninsula has plenty to offer the active traveller, but is also a great place to kick back and relax in a pretty coastal setting. On arrival into Hahei, a small beachside village, we’ll get settled into our accommodation before heading over to Hot Water Beach (tidal dependent). This is an absolute ‘must do’ experience where you can dig your own natural spa bath in the sand and soak up the Coromandel surrounds. Tonight, you have the option to join a group dinner for a classic Kiwi BBQ.
Day 5: Hahei
Today you have a full free day to embrace the laid-back lifestyle that makes this area such a popular NZ holiday destination. Make the most of this special place by taking a scenic walk or kayak to the nearby Cathedral Cove, a paradise-like beach that you might recognize from one of the Narnia films. If you prefer water sports, the coast off Hahei is part of the protected Te-Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, which is a prime place to take a guided coastal boat tour or fully immerse yourself with a snorkelling excursion.
Day 6: Hahei to Rotorua
We leave Hahei early travelling through to Paeroa, home of New Zealand’s oldest and largest soft drinks company – L&P, where we’ll stop for breakfast. Our drive today will take us through the Waikato region, known for its many dairy farms, rolling hills and the mighty Waikato River (the largest river in New Zealand). You can make this a real 10 out of 10 day by signing up to a guided tour through the world famous Hobbiton Movie Set. Even if you’re not a fan, this is truly unique experience which explores a whimsical garden village, home to Frodo and Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogies is loved by all. If this is not for you, then you can continue on to Rotorua where there are plenty of other activities on offer. The Hobbiton goers will return early evening.
Day 7: Rotorua
Often labelled the adventure capital of the North Island, you have a full free day in Rotorua to discover an area rich in Maori heritage, adventure activities and bubbling geothermal wonders such as Wai-o-tapu and Hells Gate. There are plenty of exciting local activities to get the adrenaline pumping, such as whitewater rafting, ziplining through native bush, zorbing or a truly unique guided jet boat adventure up to bath in a hot waterfall! Alternatively, you have the option to sign up for a day trip to visit the incredible Waitomo Caves, where you can wade, climb, abseil and tube through Waitomo’s magnificent limestone cave network lit up by millions of resident glowworms.
Day 8: Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua
We’ll depart in the morning to explore the iconic crater-lake walk at Rainbow Mountain, followed by a soak at Kerosene Creek, a steaming geothermal stream and waterfall. From here our journey ventures right off the beaten track into the remote area of Lake Aniwhenua - voted one of Stray’s top overnight stops! As we drive into the Kaingaroa Forest we will meet up with a respected Maori guide who will lead the group to a sacred archaeological site to view NZ’s oldest Maori rock carvings. Tonight, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Maori traditions, including the entertaining stick games traditionally used to teach hand-eye coordination, as well as how to prepare a ‘Hangi’, a sumptuous feast cooked underground. Sign up for one of the cultural activities on offer or simply enjoy a sunset drink at the Taniwha Bar overlooking the lake. For those visiting during school term, you will be both touched and inspired as you learn about a local community program in which Stray passengers are actively participating.
Day 9: Lake Aniwhenua (via Taupo) to Blue Duck Station
After breakfast, we’ll make a special visit to the local school to deliver packed lunches for kids that often go without and participate in a beneficial program aimed at driving cross-cultural education in an otherwise isolated part of NZ (dependent on school timetable). Then it’s on to Taupo to visit the mighty Huka Falls. The brave-hearted can opt to plunge from a plane on an adrenaline-fuelled skydive over NZ’s largest lake! Our destination this evening is often rated by passengers as one of Stray’s #1 overnight stops and you’ll soon see why. Located in Whakahoro, one of the most remote parts of the North Island, Blue Duck Station is a sprawling 7,200-acre high country farm that is both a working station and an environmental conservation leader. On arrival, we will settle in to learn a little about daily life at Blue Duck, then relax and chill out around an evening fire.
Day 10: Blue Duck Station
Today is yours to fully explore this truly incredible location. Jump on a 4WD and travel up farm roads, over hilly peaks and through native bush to learn about the station’s interesting settlement history and their current conservation efforts. Don your cowboy hat and explore the farm by horseback or kayak on the river through bush clad valleys and lush green hills. Visit the Kaiwhakauka waterfall or assist with the farm’s pest control efforts and bring back tonight’s dinner. It doesn’t matter which option you choose, just get outdoors and enjoy all that Blue Duck has to offer!
Day 11: Blue Duck Station to Raetihi
We’ll be up at the crack of dawn for an early departure to make our way to the UNESCO Dual World Heritage Site, Tongariro National Park. Today you get the chance to tick off one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand - the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Considered one of the top one-day walks in the world, this 19km walk will take you across a rocky plateau with dramatic volcanic peaks (including the real ‘Mt Doom’), craters and turquoise lakes that you’ll remember for a lifetime. The Crossing is open to walk year-round (alpine gear and guide are required in winter), but subject to the weather conditions. Ensure you pack a daypack with plenty of supplies and clothing for all conditions. If the weather prevents you from doing the Crossing, there are a couple of shorter walks in the area, as well as bike tracks that are well worth doing. Tonight, we will stay in a homely historic Nurses Home in Raetihi, with friendly farm animals, a pamper room and spa bath with mountain views to enjoy at the end of an active day.
Day 12: Raetihi to Wellington
This morning we travel towards the bottom of the North Island via the rural towns of Ohakune, Taihape and Bulls. Today is mostly an express day to get to Wellington, our capital city and home to New Zealand’s parliament and the iconic Beehive government building. Also known as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’, thanks to Lonely Planet, Wellington is a great place to check out the lively arts, craft beer and café culture scenes or do some shopping. The afternoon is yours to explore the sights - we recommend wandering down Oriental Parade or viewing the excellent exhibits on display at Te Papa National Museum.
Day 13: Wellington to Marahau (Abel Tasman)
We catch an early Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island where you meet the Stray bus in Picton. Once on the bus, we’ll cruise through the world-famous Marlborough vineyard area and, depending on the groups interest, we may stop for a wine tasting to sample the region’s speciality Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We make a supermarket stop in Motueka to stock up on supplies for the next couple days and then make our way to our amazing overnight destination Marahau, right on the edge of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park.
Day 14: Marahau (Abel Tasman)
With a full day at your leisure, don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore this stunning, coastal national park on foot, by sea or from the air. Abel Tasman is famous for being one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand and, as home to one of NZ’s Great Walks, is a popular place to hop off for hiking enthusiasts. Even those short on time can still use this free day to hike, kayak, sail or take a water taxi to get a taste of the park’s natural golden sand beaches and brilliant blue waters.
Day 15: Marahau (Abel Tasman) to Franz Josef
Buckle up for an awesome day driving down the incredibly scenic ‘wild’ West Coast, an area known for its untamed beaches and spectacular rainforest. We’ll pass through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was labelled one of the top ten drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We’ll take a walk along the craggy cliffs at Cape Foulwind to view the seal colony before continuing further down the coast to the geographic wonder of Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Here we’ll take a walk around these unique limestone rock formations and stop for a bite of lunch. Our next stop is the historic gold mining town of Greymouth to collect passengers connecting from Christchurch. From here we’ll make one last stop via Hokitika (the best place to buy ‘Pounami’, a native greenstone) before continuing onto the quaint township of Franz Josef, home of the mighty Franz Josef Glacier where we’ll spend the next two nights.
Day 16: Franz Josef
Enjoy a free day to get out and experience the Franz Josef Glacier, an iconic highlight of the West Coast. The best way to navigate the maze of ice and explore the incredible landscape on the Franz Josef Glacier is with a guided tour, which consistently ranks as a favourite activity amongst Stray travellers. The most popular trip features a short heli-hop onto the glacier with a guided educational tour on the ice and includes entry to the hot pools afterwards. Other options include visiting the glacial terminal face for some spectacular photos or doing one of the many excellent bush hikes in the region.
Day 17: Franz Josef to Wanaka
It’s time to leave the West Coast behind. We stop in the morning for pick-ups at Fox Glacier before heading to the amazing mirror-like Lake Matheson to stretch our legs with a short walk. Then, we’ll travel inland through the mountainous Haast Pass and Makarora towards Wanaka. This is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever do and we’ll stop for plenty of photo ops along the way as we drive from rainforests to mountains, through beech forest and past great lakes. We’ll pass by the beautiful Lake Hawea and arrive in Wanaka late-afternoon in time to enjoy this picturesque lakeside town.
Day 18: Wanaka to Queenstown
Kick start your day with a brisk walk up Mt Iron, an early morning skydive or learn to fly a stunt plane over Wanaka. At mid-morning we’ll pack up and make our way to Queenstown, known in New Zealand as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ and the spiritual home of bungy jumping. We stop on our way into town at Kawarau Bridge, the first commercial bungy jumping site in the world, for your chance to take the big leap of faith. Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge!) night out with plenty of excellent restaurants, pubs and live music to check out.
Day 19: Queenstown
You need at least one free day in Queenstown to make the most of the wide range of activities on offer. With a buzzy night life, beautiful mountain scenery and an exciting outdoor lifestyle, it’s easy to understand why Stray passengers often hop off here to spend extra time exploring.
Day 20: Queenstown (via Milford Sound) to Gunn’s Camp
Today you are in for a treat. It’s an early start as we make our way to Milford Sound, one of NZ’s most famous destinations, sometimes referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. You won’t want to nap on this leg of the journey as we drive past Lake Wakatipu and watch the landscape change from farmland to mountains, glacier-carved valleys and fiords. There is time to do an afternoon boat cruise around Milford Sound to soak up this untouched world. Known for its rich marine ecology, it’s likely you’ll spot a few wild dolphins, seals and penguins. Next, we head for our unique Stray overnight stop, Gunn’s Camp, located in the solitude of Hollyford Valley. There’s no better place to enjoy an evening under the stars, spot glow-worms in the bush and listen out for kiwi bird calls in the night.
Day 21: Gunn’s Camp to Invercargill/Stewart Island
We start the morning with a short riverside stroll through beech forest on the Viewing Gantry walk. Fiordland is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Te Wahipounamu (which incorporates four national parks including Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Westland and Fiordland) and you’ll understand why as you marvel at the spectacular surrounding landscape. This afternoon we travel further south via Te Anau to Invercargill and on to Bluff, where you can catch a ferry to Stewart Island. NZ’s third largest island, Stewart Island, has an abundance of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, such as fishing, kayaking, diving, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill.
Day 22: Invercargill/Stewart Island to Queenstown
For those who stayed overnight on Stewart Island, this morning is free for you to explore, meet the locals, go fishing or enjoy some of the walks before catching an afternoon ferry back to the mainland. Those in Invercargill will have the option to visit Demolition World (a world entirely constructed from demolished buildings and recycled items), race your bus mates around a go-karting track or walk up to the Bluff Hill lookout before reuniting with the island-goers for an express journey back to Queenstown.
Day 23: Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie Country and past picturesque Lake Pukaki on the way to our amazing stop at the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook. We arrive in the early afternoon with time to do a 4WD & Argo Tour, check out the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre or do one of the many great short walks in the park. If you want to hop off the bus for a few days there are some incredible longer walks you can do (we’d recommend leaving climbing Mt Cook to the experienced mountaineers though).
Day 24: Mt Cook to Rangitata
Leaving Mt Cook, we make our way through a landscape made famous in the Lord of the Rings films. We’ll stop to admire the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd – a famous photo stop. Relax in the Tekapo hot pools, go snow tubing or ice skating (winter only) or hike up to the Mt John observatory where you’ll witness stunning views of the lake from above. After lunch, we will continue to our overnight stop in Rangitata Peel Forest. Tonight, we’ll stay in one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations.
Day 25: Rangitata to Christchurch
This morning, you will have the opportunity to sign up to a top-notch grade 5 white water rafting experience on Rangitata River under the foot of the Southern Alps or to explore the stunning Peel Forest scenery on horseback. Tonight, we’ll stay in Christchurch - a city where old meets new, as an enormous rebuild continues following the devastating 2011 Earthquake. You will find some of New Zealand’s most modern architecture nestled next to some of our oldest buildings. Wander the city streets and laneways to discover creative street art intended to bring cheer and colour to a city once buried in rubble. Spend your afternoon exploring the city or getting involved in one of the activities on offer.
Day 26: Christchurch to Kaikoura
We stop briefly to do pick-ups and drop-offs at the Christchurch International Airport as we depart early this morning for a beautiful drive up the coast to Kaikoura. Arriving in Kaikoura around midday, you will have the afternoon free for activities to experience the incredible marine world just offshore. Get out on the water and experience one of Kaikoura’s famous dolphin and whale spotting tours, see seals sitting right beside the road at Goose Bay or wander around the peninsula and check out the breathtaking views from the lookout.
Day 27: Kaikoura (via Picton) to Wellington
Leaving Kaikoura in the morning we wind our way up the rugged coastal roads towards the top of the South Island. For those that choose to hop off in the port town of Picton, check out the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk and take advantage of the free fishing gear and pushbikes at the Picton accommodation. Those heading to Wellington will catch the afternoon Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait (from Picton to Wellington). The evening in Wellington is free so why not explore this funky town’s nightlife at any of the bars and restaurants along Cuba Street.
Day 28: Wellington (via Raetihi) to Auckland
We depart in the early morning. This is an express day via Raetihi heading back to the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland. For those who may have missed out on hiking the Tongariro Crossing, you have the option to hop off in National Park and try again. With an early evening arrival, there’s still time to wander the streets of Auckland, visit the Viaduct, do some souvenir shopping or hang out with new friends and share stories about your recent adventures. If you are hanging around Auckland for another day or two, don’t miss your chance to jump off the Harbour Bridge or Sky Tower, skydive, or take a wildlife cruise around the Hauraki Gulf. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
Pickup from Auckland, pickups begin from 7:30am