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.
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.
- Stay at a wilderness lodge in the bush at Raglan – overlooking New Zealand’s premier surf beach.
- See glow-worms and do some amazing caving at Waitomo Caves.
- Overnight stay on a Marae (Maori meeting house) in Mourea (accommodation, hangi dinner, breakfast and unique cultural experience all for only $80).
- Discover history and culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism at our exclusive stop at Lake Aniwhenua.
- Stop in at Rotorua to experience (smell) the geothermal activity and do extreme white water rafting.
- Tongariro National Park (home to the 'Lord of the Rings' volcanoes and NZ’s best one day walk the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’).
- Stay at award-winning conservation stop Whakahoro for wild, wilderness activities!
- 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).
- Experience the remote and rugged West Coast.
- 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!
- Stay at base of NZ's highest mountain Aoraki/Mt Cook.
- High country sheep station in Lord of the Rings scenery at Rangitata.
- 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.
We depart Auckland 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.
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!
We wave goodbye to Richard, Ruth and the whanau and head for Rotorua for a free morning to discover its distinctive smell (geothermal areas), culture and adventure. Around midday we do hostel pick-ups in Rotorua before heading onto Rainbow Mountain to meet our local Maori guide and venture deep into the Kaingaroa Forest in the foothills of the Te Urewera National Park. Today you will experience stories, history and a culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism that dates back to the first known person to discover NZ (Kupe).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
*Winter only: We stop longer at Lake Tekapo for ice-skating, snow tubing or a swim in the hot springs.
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.
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!
Abel Tasman National Park
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
Raglan (via Waitomo) to Mourea
Mourea (via Rotorua) to Lake Aniwhenua
|Lake Aniwhenua (Arrive)||15:30||15:30||15:30||15:30|
Lake Aniwhenua to Whakahoro
|Lake Aniwhenua (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30||08:30|
|Whakahoro (N/A)||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day|
Whakahoro to National Park
|National Park (Arrive)||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00|
National Park to Wellington
|National Park (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30||08:30|
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)||12:00||12:00||12:00||12:00|
|Marahau - Abel Tasman National Park (Arrive)||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|
Westport to Franz Josef
|Franz Josef (Arrive)||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)||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00|
|Fox Glacier (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30||08:30|
Wanaka to Queenstown
|Cromwell (Depart)||12:00 PM||12:00 PM||12:00 PM||12:00 PM|
Non-travel day: Queenstown
|Queenstown (Non travel)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
|Mt Cook (Arrive)||13:30||13:30||13:30||13:30|
Mt Cook to Rangitata
|Mt Cook (Depart)||08:00||08:00||08:00||08:00|
|Lake Tekapo (Depart)||09:45||09:45||09:45||09:45|
Rangitata (via Christchurch) to Kaikoura
|Christchurch (International Airport) (Arrive)||09:30||09:30||09:30||09:30|
|Christchurch (International Airport) (Depart)||09:45||09:45||09:45||09:45|