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 view some of the world’s mightiest trees, the native kauri, before cruising up to Paihia for a relaxing afternoon in the stunning Bay. Your accommodation for the night is a hostel along from the beach and you can add optional paid activities including a ferry to historic Russell (NZ’s former capital), skydiving, kayaking and BBQ dinner at the accommodation.
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 snacks to keep you going. Travelling on a custom-built coach you'll drive up 90 Mile Beach to Te Paki Stream to 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. The trip home includes a stopover at Mangonui for classic Kiwi fish 'n' chips (pay on the day), before returning to Paihia in the evening. PLease note, this day trip is operated by a local partner so you need to book either with your Driver or in Stray Mate before 11:00 am the day before to secure your seat. Our accommodation is a hostel along from the beach and optional paid activities include traditional Kiwi fish and chips for dinner.
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 cruise around the Bay in the morning or take this opportunity to squeeze in another optional activity before we jump back on board the Stray bus mid-afternoon. Destined for the bright lights of Auckland, there are plenty of exciting things to see and do if you have a free day or two. Our accommodation for the night is Central Auckland hostel and optional paid activities include Hole in the Rock cruise, skydiving, bungy off the bridge, walk around or jump off the top of the Sky Tower or whale and dolphin safari.
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 has plenty to offer the active traveller or those looking to just kick back and relax. When the tides are right, we'll head over to Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own natural spa pool! Tonight, you have the option to join a group dinner for a classic Kiwi BBQ. Stay the night in our exclusive Stray accommodation by the waterfront and partake in the free activities on offer including a visit to Hot Water Beach for a natural beach spa (tide & weather dependent), walk to Cathedral Cove or explore the old cultural sites in the area.
Day 5: Hahei
Today you have a full free day to embrace the laid-back lifestyle that makes this such a popular NZ holiday destination. Make the most of this special place by taking a scenic walk or kayak trip to a hidden paradise at nearby Cathedral Cove or opt to relax on the white sands of Hahei Beach. The coast off Hahei is also part of the protected Te-Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, which makes it a prime place for a guided coastal boat tour. We stay again at our exclusive Stray accommodation by the waterfront. Add some extra activities to your stay by going kayaking or jumping on a guided boat tour.
Day 6: Hahei to Rotorua
We leave Hahei early, travelling through to Paeroa, home of New Zealand’s oldest and largest soft drink company L&P, where we’ll stop for a fun photo op at a local landmark. Carrying on, we’ll arrive in Rotorua, known for its lively geothermal activity, rich Maori history and adventure tourism. Get the adrenalin pumping this afternoon and sign up for a white water rafting adventure, head to the adventure park, or take a walk around town. Stay the night in a comfortable central city hostel and add some extra activities to your stay with options to go white water rafting, zorbing, or visit the adrenaline-fuelled adventure park (big swings, bungees and more). Alternatively, you can do the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest walk or see the bubbling mud pools at Kuirau Park for free!
Day 7: Rotorua
Often labelled the adventure capital of the North Island, you have a full free day in Rotorua to discover a wealth of adventure activities and geothermal wonders. Go ziplining through native bush, zorbing or take a truly unique guided jet boat adventure to bathe in a hot waterfall. Looking to relax instead? Visit the hots pools and bubbling mud baths at one of Rotorua's geothermal parks or take in a Maori cultural performance. Film buffs may want to sign up for a guided tour through the world-famous Hobbiton Movie Set. The choice is yours! Settle in for another night at our central city hostel.
Day 8: Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua
There’s time to squeeze in one last Rotorua activity this morning - a visit to Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. From here our journey ventures right off the beaten track into the remote area of Lake Aniwhenua for an immersive cultural experience like no other. Your Maori host family will share with you their story and traditions, as well as their vision for making a difference in their remote community. You'll see sacred Maori rock art, play traditional stick games for hand-eye coordination and watch the preparation of a ground cooked 'hangi', before tasting it for yourself! Exclusive ‘Strademark’ experience for an additional $89 includes one night’s accommodation at the serene lakeside Kohutapu Lodge, full hangi buffet dinner & dessert and a continental breakfast, guided tour to sacred Maori rock carvings, introduction to the Murupara area, its people, history and challenges and participation in a local school program designed to inspire the next generation (participation available on school days only). Please note, a minimum of nine people is required to stay at Lake Aniwhenua. This ‘Strademark’ overnight experience is optional, but in our opinion, it’s an absolute must do! To skip this experience, you need to catch a public bus from Rotorua to Taupo and then hop back on the Stray bus the next day in Taupo. Please confirm your pickup with our reservations team.
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 to kids that often go without (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 to skydive over Australasia’s largest lake! Our next destination is about as far off the beaten track as you can get in 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 before settling into our country station lodge.
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 for a guided horse trek or kayak on the river through bush clad valleys and lush green hills. It doesn’t matter which option you choose, just get outdoors and enjoy all that Blue Duck has to offer! You can add extra activities to your day including 4WD farm tour, half-day horse trek, clay bird shooting, pest control and kayaking/jet boating in the summer. For something cost-free, walk around the amazing property to take in the lush scenery, walk to Kaiwhakauka waterfall, enjoy your hosts’ fantastic hospitality and stories of the local wildlife and history.
Day 11: Blue Duck Station (via Tongariro) 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 world’s top one-day walks, this 19km hike takes you across a rocky plateau with dramatic volcanic peaks, 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 bring a day pack with plenty of supplies and clothing for all conditions. If the weather prevents you from doing the Crossing, there are alternative shorter walks in the area. Tonight, unwind after a big day in a cosy historic lodge in Raetihi, with friendly farm animals, a pamper room and spa bath with mountain views. You can opt to add the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and hop off to go skiing/snowboarding (winter only) while you're here, or take advantage of the free activities including Taranaki Falls walk, the Volcanic Centre, Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s pool) and volunteer tree planting.
Day 12: Raetihi to Wellington
This morning we travel to 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 before settling into our central city hostel for the night.
Day 13: Wellington to Marahau (Abel Tasman)
We catch an early Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait and through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds to the South Island where you meet the Stray group in Picton. Once on the bus, we’ll cruise through the world-famous Marlborough vineyard area. Depending on the group’s interest, we may stop for a wine tasting to sample the region’s specialty Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We will stock up on supplies for the next couple days in Motueka and then make our way to our amazing overnight destination Marahau, right on the edge of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park for a night of stargazing and mussel tasting around the fire. Please note, the Bluebridge Ferry price is not included in your Stray pass. Please book in your Stray Mate app.
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 We stay again at our unique Stray accommodation on the edge of the national park and you can add on activities including a full day sailing trip, kayaking, skydiving, water taxi ride or canyoning.
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. Today takes us through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was labelled one of the top drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We’ll stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes to walk around these unique geological wonders before moving onto 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 ‘Pounamu’, a native greenstone) before continuing on to the quaint township of Franz Josef, home of the famous Franz Josef Glacier and our base for the next two nights, staying in a lodge in the middle of the rainforest.
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 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 local hot pools afterwards. Other options include kayaking, visiting the glacial terminal face for spectacular photos or doing one of the many excellent bush hikes in the region.
Day 17: Franz Josef (via Fox Glacier) 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 another superbly scenic drive 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 before settling into our central Wanaka hostel for the night. There are plenty of free walks to enjoy today, including Lake Matheson, Ship Creek, Blue Pools and Thunder Creek Falls walk.
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 heaps of restaurants, pubs and live music to check out. We spend the night in a central hostel close to the action and choose from a range of extra activities if you so please, including Puzzling World, skydiving, mountain biking, pilot your own stunt plane and bungy jumping.
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. Options include bungy or swing, zipline tours, canyoning, jet boating, skiing (in winter), skydiving, local bush walks, or just spend a day relaxing and enjoying the stunning scenery.
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 called 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 fjords. There is time to do an afternoon boat cruise around Milford Sound to soak up this untouched world (ask the driver about the special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo), where 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.
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: Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Westland and Fiordland) and you’ll understand why as you marvel at the other worldly 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, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill, staying at either Stewart Island Backpackers or a central hostel 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. Optional paid activities today include Stewart Island for fishing, Village & Bays tour, a visit to Ulva Island, or Invercargill for go-karting or a visit to Demolition World.
Day 23: Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie region 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 it’s a clear night, make sure you head outside to experience one of the best stargazing spots in the country. There are some incredible longer walks to do if you want to hop off the bus for a few days (we’d recommend you leave climbing Mt Cook to the experienced mountaineers though). Spend the night in our stunning alpine lodge.
Day 24: Mt Cook (via Tekapo) 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 a cosy lodge at one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations.
Day 25: Rangitata to Christchurch
This morning, you can sign up for top-notch grade 5 white water rafting on the Rangitata River at the foot of the Southern Alps or choose to explore the stunning Peel Forest scenery on horseback. Tonight, we’ll stay in Christchurch, a city where old meets new, as the rebuild continues following the devastating 2011 earthquake. You will find New Zealand’s most modern architecture nestled next to some of the country’s oldest buildings. Spend your afternoon wandering the city streets and laneways to discover creative street art intended to bring cheer and colour to a city once buried in rubble and spend the night in a comfortable, modern backpackers near the city centre.
Day 26: Christchurch to Kaikoura
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 discover the incredible marine world just off shore. 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. Our accommodation for the night is a warm modern hostel.
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 bicycles at the Picton accommodation. Those heading to Wellington will catch the afternoon Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait. 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. Please note, the Bluebridge Ferry price is not included in your Stray pass. Please book in your Stray Mate app.
Day 28: Wellington (via National Park) to Auckland
We depart in the early morning. This is an express day 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 at the 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!