"Dave" is a great pass if you want to focus your time on the South Island but are flying out of Auckland. You will complete the whole South Island circuit and then travel on our express service from Wellington to Auckland.
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. If you have less time, check out the Short Dave.
Dave - Highlights
Scroll through the gallery below to see the kinds of the things you'll get up to!
UNIQUE STRAY EXPERIENCES
Our mission is to get you off the beaten track amongst authentic local culture and our experienced crew has chosen some incredible and unique destinations to explore for the complete Stray experience!
- Stay beachfront on the golden sands at the edge of Abel Tasman National Park.
- See the stunning fiord of Milford Sound and stay at historic Gunn’s Camp.
- Stay at the base of New Zealand's highest mountain, Mount Cook/Aoraki.
"I loved Stray, and it really helped in the fact that it went to places most other tour buses did not go to. The wifi on the bus is pretty useful, and it was also reassuring knowing that however unprepared you are, Stray would be able to provide accommodation if you had remained on the bus and had taken it to where the bus stops - so you wouldn't be out in the cold. On top of that the drivers are awesome! :)!"
- Bus transport – Travel on our comfortable private buses.
- Driver-guide - Far more than just a driver, Stray Driver Guides are invaluable sources of local knowledge and assist with booking activities and accommodation on your behalf.
- Reserved Accommodation – Have a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. Book through your Driver and pay-as-you-go directly to the accommodation.
Not included: The cost of your accommodation and activities is not included in a hop-on hop-off pass. You have the flexibility to choose what suits your budget and pay-as-you-go. These can be booked via your Driver, often at an exclusive Stray price!
If you would prefer a tour with accommodation and activities included, check out our Stray Journeys tours.
Get inspired and start planning your trip!
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 stop briefly to do pick-ups and drop-offs at bus parking area of the Christchurch International Airport as we depart Christchurch early this morning. Once we’re out of the city, we head north across the Southern Alps through scenic Lewis Pass and drive past Nelson Lakes National Park on our way to our next destination Picton, a picturesque town nestled on the edge of the stunning Marlborough Sounds. Feel free to unwind this evening in the spa pool at the accommodation.
You have a full free day in Picton to discover the charms of the Marlborough Sounds. Take the opportunity to go swimming with wild dolphins in the scenic Sounds, or we highly recommend catching a water taxi to walk or mountain bike a section of the unbelievably beautiful Queen Charlotte Track. There are shorter walks to enjoy around the Picton township, such as the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the free fishing gear and complimentary bikes at your Picton accommodation.
Today meet your Stray group at midday to start the jouney west towards Nelson. We will cruise through the world famous Marlborough wine region with the option to stop by a 'cellar doors' to taste some of the regions specialty Sauvignon Blanc before continuing on to Nelson. We'll do a supermarket stop in Motueka to stock up on supplies for the next couple days before continuing on to our standout 'strademark' destination in Marahau, located on the edge of the paradise-like Abel Tasman National Park.
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 kayak, sail or take a water taxi to get a taste of the natural golden sand beaches and brilliant blue waters.
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 see’ if the weather is clear.
An early start takes us further down the rugged West Coast to the spectacular limestone Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes. We’ll stop to take a short walk before we head for the historic gold mining town, Greymouth. We do pick-ups in Greymouth and make a stop in Hokitika, before heading to the quaint little town of Franz Josef, home to the mighty Franz Josef Glacier.
Enjoy a free day to get out and experience the Franz Josef Glacier, a true 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 always ranks as a favourite activity amongst Stray travellers. Other options include visiting the glacial terminal face for some spectacular photos or one of the many excellent bush hikes in the region.
It’s time to leave the West Coast behind - we stop in the morning for hostel pick-ups at Fox Glacier before heading to the amazing mirror-like Lake Matheson. 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 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.
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. Then, we cruise along 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, for your chance to take the big plunge. Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge!) night out with lots of excellent restaurants, pubs and live music to check out.
You need at least one free day in Queenstown to make the most of the range of activities on offer, but it’s also a great place to hop off and spend extra time no matter what you choose to do. Options include: bungy or swing, zipline tours, canyoning, jet boating, skiing, skydiving and local bush walks, or just enjoy the stunning scenery and do nothing. Speak to your driver or hostel travel desk for Dunedin connection options.
It’s an early start as we head for breathtaking Fiordland National Park and NZ’s most famous destination Milford Sound, sometimes called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Sit back and enjoy one of the most scenic drives on the South Island circuit as we cruise past Lake Wakatipu and watch the landscape change from farmland to mountains, glacier carved valleys and fiords. There is time to do a cruise around Milford Sound before 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 and listen out for kiwi bird calls.
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 soak up the spectacular landscape around you. This afternoon we travel further south via Te Anau to Invercargill, next stop Stewart Island! NZ’s third-largest island, Stewart Island has an abundance of activities such as fishing, kayaking, diving, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill.
The morning is yours to explore the island, meet the locals, go fishing or enjoy some of the walks. We catch an afternoon ferry back to the mainland. For those who chose not to venture onto Stewart Island your bus departs mid-morning to head out to Waipapa Point, Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay for some sea-lion, penguin and dolphin spotting. On the chance we can’t find any wildlife, we can visit the 180 million-year-old fossilized forest and grab a milkshake. Afterwards we return to Bluff Hill to meet up with the island-goers before we express back to Queenstown.
Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie Country and past pictureque 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).
Leaving Mt Cook we make our way through a landscape made famous in the 'Lord of the Rings' films. We make a stop at turquoise Lake Tekapo to view the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. You have the option to go ice skating, snow tubing or soak your cares away in the soothing hot springs in Tekapo before we depart for Christchurch. We arrive in Christchurch in the late afternoon so you have some time to explore the South Island's largest city in the evening.
You may feel a sense of déjà vu as you again make your way from Christchurch across the Southern Alps via Lewis Pass to our next overnight stop, Picton. Take the opportunity to do any of the activities you missed last time, or just kick back and relax with the comforts of the accommodation.
For those heading to the North Island, you have the morning in Picton free to explore. You have the opportunity to go swimming with wild dolphins in the scenic Sounds. If you’re looking to save some coin, we recommend checking out the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk or taking advantage of the free fishing gear and bikes provided by the accommodation. At midday make your way to catch the 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.
We depart in the early morning. 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 an early evening 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!
The days and times shown below are for the current season (Winter: 1 June – 30 September). For future seasons, please refer to our Bus Timetables page.
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.
Christchurch to Picton
|Christchurch International Airport (Depart)||08:00||08:00||08:00|
|Picton (Non Travel)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Picton to Marahau (Abel Tasman)
|Picton - Ferry Terminal (Depart)||12:00pm||12:00pm||12:00pm|
|Marahau - Abel Tasman National Park (Arrive)||18:00||18.00||18.00|
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)||08:30||08:30||08:30|
Westport to Franz Josef
|Franz Josef (Arrive)||18:00||18:00||18:00|
|Franz Josef (Non travel)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Franz Josef to Wanaka
|Franz Josef (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30|
|Fox Glacier (Depart)||09:00||09:00||09:00|
Wanaka to Queenstown
|Cromwell (Depart)||12:00 PM||12:00 PM||12:00 PM|
|Queenstown (Non travel)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Queenstown to Gunn's Camp
|Te Anau (Arrive)||10:00||10:00|
|Gunn’s Camp (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
Gunn's Camp to Invercargill/Stewart Island
|Gunn’s Camp (Depart)||08:30||08:30|
|Te Anau (Depart)||11:30||11:30|
|Bluff Wharf (for ferry) (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
Invercargill/Stewart Island to Queenstown
|Bluff Wharf (for ferry) (Depart)||16:00||16:00|
Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
|Mt Cook (Arrive)||13:30||13:30||13:30|
Mt Cook to Christchurch
|Mt Cook (Depart)||09:00||09:00||09:00|
Christchurch to Picton (2nd Time)
|Christchurch International Airport (Depart)||08:00||08:00||08:00|
Picton to Wellington
|Picton Ferry Terminal (Check In)||13:00||13:00||13:00|
|Bluebridge Ferry (to Wellington) (Depart)||14:00||14:00||14:00||14:00||14:00||14:00||14:00|
Wellington (via National Park) to Auckland
|National Park (Depart)||11:30||11:30||11:30|
How It Works
Stray's operates a private transport network using comfortable air conditioned 24 - 48 seater buses. The buses are driven by qualified, knowledgeable Driver Guides who will lead you on a true adventure around our carefully though out route, offering the mix of iconic 'hot spots' and super special 'off the beaten track' destinations we refer to as STRADEMARK places. Best of all you have total freedom to hop on and off the bus at destinations along the way so you can spend more time in the places you love.
How do you hop on and off the bus?
‘Hop off’ the bus anywhere along the route, even places in between the designated stops. Either plan to hop off in advance or do it spur of the moment – it’s up to you!
To hop back on, simply book your next travel date and pickup location through Stray Mate, our online Trip Manager.
The buses run on a regular timetable with multiple departures a week so it is to plan ahead too.
Your pass is valid for up to 12 months from your first day of travel, meaning you can hop on and off as often as you like for up to a year!
Short on time?
You are not required to hop off the bus – feel free to use your pass like a tour and complete the itinerary in its ‘minimum days’. Either way you'll have a great time!
What about accommodation?
At all of Stray's overnight stops along the route, you'll have a dorm bed reserved at our preferred accommodation. Simply confirm with your Driver Guide each day and pay on arrival. Its that easy.
If you choose to hop-off and stay a few nights, it is your responsibility to book those extra nights in.
If you'd like a private room, ask your Driver, but note, these are subject to availability on the day.
What activities can I do?
We are all about ensuring you have the best possible experience in New Zealand. To do that you need to experience some of the amazing adventure activities on offer around the regions.
Whether you are a hiker, a biker, a Lord of the Rings fan or an adrenaline junkie we have a range of activities we can recommend at each destination. You can start getting inspired by checking out our comprehensive Destination Guides.
Your Driver will give you good advice on what to do, where and what it all costs. They can even get you booked in. You simply pay the operator on arrival.