stray bus mt cook group

Short Max Pass

The "Short Max" is all of Stray's Max Pass except for the Far South. Perfect if you want to do both islands but have slightly less time!

The pass route is a loop, which means you can start and finish anywhere you would like. We recommend at least 3 weeks to get the most out of your trip and to allow some time to hop-off and explore your favourite destinations for longer.

Limited time offer!

Receive a FREE Jack Pass up to the Bay of Islands (worth $105) when you book a Short Max Pass before 26 March 2015.

Franz Josef Glacier

Just Chilling Out, Franz Josef Glacier


Most travellers start this pass in Auckland. See the Timetable tab for all other departure days and times.

Auckland Southbound: Tuesdays, Wednesday (Summer-only), Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays (Spring-only).

I did the Short Max Pass in May and had a fantastic time. The trip gives the opportunity to experience all the main sights and more of beautiful NZ as well meeting new people within a group environment. I really enjoyed the alternative activities such as the Maori night and Blue Duck Lodge.

Destination Highlights

  1. Stay at a wilderness lodge in the bush at Raglan – overlooking New Zealand’s premier surf beach.
  2. See glow-worms and do some amazing caving at Waitomo Caves.
  3. Overnight stay on a Marae (Maori meeting house) in Mourea (accommodation, hangi dinner, breakfast and unique cultural experience all for only $80).
  4. Discover history and culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism at our exclusive stop at Lake Aniwhenua
  5. Stop in at Rotorua to experience (smell) the geothermal activity and do extreme white water rafting.
  6. Tongariro National Park (home to the 'Lord of the Rings' volcanoes and NZ’s best one day walk the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’).
  7. Stay at award-winning conservation stop Whakahoro for wild, wilderness activities!
  8. Wellington – NZ’s capital city, home to our national museum Te Papa.
  9. Unique overnight and a free day in Abel Tasman National Park (walks, sailing and kayaking options in this stunning area).
  10. Experience the remote and rugged West Coast.
  11. Majestic Franz Josef glacier with a free day to hike and explore it.
  12. Spend a few days in Queenstown - the adventure and party capital of NZ!
  13. Stay at base of NZ's highest mountain Aoraki/Mt Cook.
  14. High country sheep station in Lord of the Rings scenery at Rangitata.
  15. Visit Kaikoura, for the awe-inspiring whale watching and wildlife spotting.


The itinerary below is for the current season.

Given the spontaneous nature of our trips and lack of control over New Zealand's weather(!), what we do each day might occasionally vary.

NB. The cost of accommodation is not included in your travel pass but under each day we have described our recommended accommodation, along with some free and paid activity suggestions.

Auckland to Raglan

Nau mai, haere mai (welcome)!  Your Stray adventure kicks off in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland, known by those who live here as the ‘city of sails’ because of its location between the Waitemata and Manukau harbours, making it a boaters and yachters paradise.

We depart Auckland from 7.30am and head south, travelling towards the mighty Waikato. We’ll take a walk to the majestic Bridal Veil Falls on the way to our destination, the world-renowned surf beach Raglan. Enjoy a free afternoon to relax, take a walk on the beach or a mountain walk.  Chill out or go hard in this funky surf and arts town.

An eco-lodge surrounded by native bush near the beach. 

Learn to surf $79 (save $10)

Walk to the waterfall, bush walk around Mt Karioi, relax on the beach, glow-worms in the bush, West Coast sunset, Inspiration Point.

Departing Raglan we head for Mourea in the Bay of Plenty, home to our unique cultural overnight stay. We stop in the rural town of Waitomo to explore the spectacular glow-worm caves, before continuing on to Mourea for a very special experience where you’ll get the opportunity to immerse yourself in New Zealand indigenous Maori culture. This is much more than just a show; you’ll learn about Maori traditions and history, spend time with real locals and become fully interactive with Kapa Haka (Maori song and dance). An unforgettable, genuine and educational night! 

* Cultural night is an all-inclusive price of $80 including afternoon tea, dinner, interactive performance, storytelling, bed and breakfast. If there are less than 12 people we will stay in Rotorua with an alternative cultural option.

Unique Stray stay in the Wharenui (Maori meeting house).

Waitomo must-do caving options: Haggas Honking Holes, Lost World, Tumu Tumu TOObing, or a glow-worm tour. 

Walk around Ruakuri Reserve, Waitomo Valley Caves walk.

Depart the marae at 8.00am and head to Rotorua for a free morning to discover its distinctive smell (geothermal areas), culture and adventure. At 12.30pm we do hostel pickups in Rotorua, moving onto Rainbow Mountain to meet our local Maori guide, we then head deep into the Kaingaroa Forest to the foothills of the Te Urewera National Park to experience stories, history and culture not yet touched by commercialism, dating back to the first known person to discover NZ (Kupe).

Lakefront lodge.

Lake Aniwhenua night is $75 including accommodation, bed and linen, dinner and breakfast. Activities include: traditional fishing, eeling, weaving lessons, cooking classes and kayaking. 1 activity costs $10, 2 activities $15 and 3 activities $20. For overnight bush experience (see STRAY ADVENTURES).Guided Tour with a local Maori, traditional fishing, eeling, weaving lessons, cooking classes and overnight bush experience.

Guided Tour with a local Maori, Karakia (maori blessing), relax by the lake, walks.

After breakfast we’ll depart for a local school to drop lunch off to some needy school kids, before heading to Taupo to visit Huka Falls and experience skydiving for the brave!  Our destination today is one of the most remote parts of the North Island. Located in Whakahoro, Blue Duck Station is a 5,200 acre high country farm that is both a working station and an environmental conservation leader. Once you arrive, settle in, relax and chill out around an evening fire.

Country station lodge. 

Skydiving, bungy, river jet (Taupo).

Huka Falls, Spa Road walk.

Today is yours to explore and discover this remote destination! Jump on a 4WD and travel up farm roads, over hilly peaks and through New Zealand native bush to learn about the stations history and conservation efforts. Don your cowboy hat and explore the farm by horseback or kayak through bush clad valleys and lush green hills. Visit the ‘bridge to nowhere’ and Kaiwhakauka waterfall or learn about the farms pest control and bring back tonight’s dinner. 

Country station lodge. 

An eco-warrior 4WD tour, a one day horse trek (like a real cowboy), clay bird shooting, kayaking, jet boating, pest control.

Walk around the truly amazing property at Whakahoro and just take in the lush scenery, walk to the Kaiwhakauka waterfall, enjoy your host Dan’s fantastic hospitality and stories on the local wildlife and history.

We’ll be up at the crack of dawn for an early departure to make our way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, ‘Tongariro National Park’. Today you get the chance to do what is rated one of the world’s best one day walks: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Trek through dramatic natural scenery, past volcanic peaks, vast craters and stunning turquoise lakes on one of the most spectacular treks in New Zealand. 

Beautiful alpine lodge.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Taranaki Falls walk, visit the Volcanic Centre, Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s pool).

After breakfast we head around the mountains via the rural towns of Ohakune, Taihape and Bulls to New Zealand’s capital city Wellington. Today is mostly an express day to get to Wellington, and the afternoon is yours to cruise and explore the sites of the capital. We recommend wandering down Oriental Parade or visiting Te Papa national museum. Wellington is a cool place to just hang out and check out the arts, shopping and café culture scene and is home to NZ’s parliament.

Central city hostel. 

Check out some of the great cafes and bars.

Walk ‘Oriental Parade’, head up Mt Victoria for fantastic views, and visit ‘Te Papa’ - our national museum, gumboot (welly) throwing.

We catch the 8.00am Bluebridge Ferry (check in 7.00am/$51-$75) across the Cook Strait to the South Island where we meet the Stray bus. On arrival we cruise through the famous Marlborough vineyard area and depending on the group will stop for a bit of wine tasting, before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We make a supermarket stop in Motueka and then make our way to our amazing and remote overnight stop Marahau, right on the edge of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park.

Unique Stray accommodation on the edge of the national park.

Wine tasting, skydiving.

Walk, mussel tasting around the fire, star gazing.

You have the day at leisure to explore this stunning, coastal national park. This park is famous for being one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand and for its natural golden sand beaches. It’s a great place to hop off and explore via kayak, water taxi or go for a walk. 

Unique Stray accommodation on the edge of the national park.

Full day sailing trip, kayaking, skydiving, water taxi, hang gliding, stand up paddle boarding. 

Walk in the national park or just relax on one of the golden sand beaches!

This morning you get the chance to get involved and give something back by participating in our Tree Planting Project. Become an eco-warrior, get soil under your finger nails and plant a tree with the Otuwhero Wetland Trust. This is a fantastic opportunity to create life-long memories of your time in New Zealand, and you can come back and visit your tree in years to come!

Today we head south towards the ‘wild’ West Coast passing through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was recently rated one of the top ten drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We stop at Cape Foulwind to visit the seal colony and then head for the historic coal mining town, Westport. The sunset from our accommodation tonight is a must if the weather is clear!

Charming character villa in the centre of town

Surfing, horse riding, jet boating, caving

Westport seal colony, West Coast sunset, Truman Track walk


An early start takes us down the rugged West Coast to the spectacular Punakaiki limestone pancake rocks and blowholes. We’ll stop to take a short walk and grab refreshments at the café before we head for the historic gold mining town, Greymouth. We do pick-ups in Greymouth and make stops in Hokitika, before heading to the quaint little town of Franz Josef – home to the mighty Franz Josef Glacier.

Lodge in the middle of the rainforest

Save some coin today

Punakaiki pancake rocks and the mighty blowholes; walk along the beach

Enjoy a free day and get out and explore the mighty Franz Josef Glacier. Navigate the maze of ice and explore the incredible landscape on a Franz Josef Glacier guided tour, or visit the glacial terminal face for some spectacular photos. There are also many excellent bush hikes available in the region. 

Lodge in the middle of the rainforest.

The ‘Ice Explorer’ Trip – a short heli-hop onto the glacier followed by an educational tour (entry to hot pools included), kayaking, skydiving.

Many excellent bush hikes (but we recommend a guided one for safety). Warm up and relax in one of NZ’s largest spa pools at your accommodation.

We depart in the morning stopping for hostel pick-ups at Fox Glacier before heading for the amazing mirror Lake Matheson. We’ll travel through the mountainous Haast Pass and Makarora towards Wanaka. This is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever do – 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.

Central hostel.

Save some coin today!

Mirror Lake walk; Ship Creek walk, Blue Pools walk, Thundercreek Falls walk, explore Wanaka.

We depart around mid-morning, giving you time to check out amazing views of the lake either by skydiving or taking a walk up Mt Iron!  We cruise to Queenstown known as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ and the spiritual home of commercial bungy! Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge) night out with excellent restaurants, pubs and live music.

Central hostel.

Puzzle World, skydiving, bungy jumping, pilot your own microlight plane.

Walk Mt Iron, watch people jumping off a bridge!

Today is yours to explore. Queenstown is a great place to spend some extra time no matter what your past-time of choice is. Options include: zipline tours, canyoning, Shotover river jet boating, skiing, sky diving and local walks, or just enjoy the stunning scenery and do nothing. Obviously you can break your journey in Queenstown for as long as you want. Speak to your driver or hostel travel desk for Dunedin connection options.

Central hostel.

Any adventure activity that we mad Kiwis can dream up (bungy, swing, jet boating, skydiving, mountain biking, zipline, horse riding…), Milford Sound cruise.

Sleep in, great walks; take in beautiful views from this cool resort town.

Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie Country and past 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 Mt. Cook 4WD and 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 mountaineers though).

Stunning alpine lodge.

Argo tour of Alpine Region, visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.

Take photos of awe-inspiring scenery, do one of the many great short walks to the Hooker glacial lake (weather dependent).

Leaving Mt Cook we make our way to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ landscape of Rangitata. We make a stop at the turquoise Lake Tekapo before heading onto Geraldine for an afternoon of white water rafting and our overnight stop in Rangitata. Tonight spend the night in one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations, a great place to get outdoors, go horse trekking or wander through native bush in Peel Forest.  

One of Canterbury's original sheep stations.

Ice-skating, snow tubing, swim at alpine hot springs; walk through Peel Forest.

Take photos of stunning scenery, go for a walk.

It’s an early departure for an express haul across the Canterbury plains to Christchurch. Hop off in Christchurch to explore this ever changing city.  We do pick-ups in Christchurch, then head up the coast for a beautiful drive to Kaikoura. Enjoy a free afternoon for activities. Get out on the water and experience one of Kaikoura’s famous dolphins and whale spotting tours, see seals sitting right beside the road at Goose Bay or wander around the peninsula and check out the breath-taking views from the lookout. 

Warm modern hostel.

Whale watching, piloting your own plane or swimming with dolphins (pre-booking is advised in summer for dolphin swimming). Go fishing and eat your spoils or try the amazing fresh fish and chips! 

Walk around the peninsula and up to the lookout.

We depart at 6:40am. This is an express day via National Park heading back to New Zealand’s largest city Auckland.  You can hop off anywhere along the way. With a late-afternoon arrival there’s still time to wander the streets of Auckland, visit the waterfront, do some souvenir shopping and hang out in some of Auckland’s lively cafes and bars.

We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!


Book this pass and get access to Stray-exclusive activity deals! Here's just a few of the things you can do... all activities can be booked through your driver-guide on a pay-as-you-go basis. Easy!


The days and times shown below are for the current season. Please refer to our Bus Timetables page for future seasons.

Timetables are subject to change but our team will email you if this happens whilst you are travelling. Your online booking account will also show confirmed departure times.

Auckland to Raglan

Auckland (Depart) 07:30 07:30 07:30 07:30 07:30
Hamilton (Depart) 10:30 10:30 10:30 10:30 10:30
Raglan (Arrive) 13:30 13:30 13:30 13:30 13:30

Raglan (via Waitomo) to Mourea

Raglan (Depart) 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00
Waitomo (Depart) 14:30 14:30 14:30 14:30 14:30
Mourea (Arrive) 17:30 17:30 17:30 17:30 17:30

Mourea (via Rotorua) to Lake Aniwhenua

Mourea (Depart) 08:30 08:30 08:30 08:30 08:30
Rotorua (Depart) 13:00 13:00 13:00 13:00 13:00
Lake Aniwhenua (Arrive) 15:30 15:30 15:30 15:30 15:30

Lake Aniwhenua (via Taupo) to Whakahoro

Lake Aniwhenua (Depart) 08:30 08:30 08:30 08:30 08:30
Taupo (Depart) 13:00 13:00 13:00 13:00 13:00
Whakahoro (Arrive) 17:00 17:00 17:00 17:00 17:00

Non-Travel Day: Whakahoro

Whakahoro (Blue Duck Station) Free Day Free Day Free Day Free Day Free Day Free Day Free Day

Whakahoro to National Park

Whakahoro (Depart) 06:45 06:45 06:45 06:45 06:45
National Park (Arrive) 08:30 08:30 08:30 08:30 08:30

National Park to Wellington

National Park (Depart) 09:00 09:00 09:00 09:00 09:00
Bulls (Depart) 12:00 PM 12:00 PM 12:00 PM 12:00 PM 12:00 PM
Wellington (Arrive) 15:00 15:00 15:00 15:00 15:00

Wellington to Marahau (Abel Tasman)

Wellington - Ferry Terminal (Depart) 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00
Picton - Ferry Terminal (Depart) 11:45 11:45 11:45 11:45 11:45
Nelson (Depart) 15:00 15:00 15:00 15:00 15:00
Marahau - Abel Tasman National Park (Arrive) 18:00 18:00 18:00 18:00 18:00

Non Travel Day: Marahau (Abel Tasman)

Marahau (Abel Tasman) (Non travel) Free Free Free Free Free Free Free

Marahau (Abel Tasman) to Westport

Marahau - Abel Tasman National Park (Depart) 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00
Murchison (Depart) 11:30 11:30 11:30 11:30 11:30
Westport (Arrive) 13:30 13:30 13:30 13:30 13:30

Westport to Franz Josef

Westport (Depart) 07:00 07:00 07:00 07:00 07:00
Greymouth (Depart) 13:00 13:00 13:00 13:00 13:00
Franz Josef (Arrive) 18:00 18:00 18:00 18:00 18:00

Non Travel Day: Franz Josef

Franz Josef (Non travel) Free Free Free Free Free Free Free

Franz Josef to Wanaka

Franz Josef (Depart) 09:00 09:00 09:00 09:00 09:00
Fox Glacier (Depart) 09:30 09:30 09:30 09:30 09:30
Wanaka (Arrive) 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00

Wanaka to Queenstown

Wanaka (Depart) 10:15 10:15 10:15 10:15 10:15
Cromwell (Depart) 12:00 PM 12:00 PM 12:00 PM 12:00 PM 12:00 PM
Queenstown (Arrive) 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00

Non-travel day: Queenstown

Queenstown (Non travel) Free Free Free Free Free Free Free

Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook

Queenstown (Depart) 08:40 08:40 08:40 08:40 08:40
Mt Cook (Arrive) 13:30 13:30 13:30 13:30 13:30

Mt Cook to Rangitata

Mt Cook (Depart) 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00 08:00
Lake Tekapo (Depart) 09:45 09:45 09:45 09:45 09:45
Rangitata (Arrive) 14:00 14:00 14:00 14:00 14:00

Rangitata (via Christchurch) to Kaikoura

Rangitata (Depart) 07:00 07:00 07:00 07:00 07:00
Christchurch (International Airport) (Arrive) 09:30 09:30 09:30 09:30 09:30
Christchurch (International Airport) (Depart) 09:45 09:45 09:45 09:45 09:45
Kaikoura (Arrive) 12:30 12:30 12:30 12:30 12:30

Wellington (via National Park) to Auckland

Wellington (Depart) 06:40 06:40 06:40 06:40 06:40
National Park (Depart) 11:30 11:30 11:30 11:30 11:30
Auckland (Arrive) 17:00 17:00 17:00 17:00 17:00
Was $1,265 $849 NZD

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