Tom is perfect for you if you want to get off the beaten track in the central North Island and immerse yourself in New Zealand culture.
We recommend at least 2 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 want to include Wellington, choose the Jill Pass.
Tom - Highlights
Scroll through the gallery below to see the kinds of the things you'll get up to!
Our mission is to get you off the beaten track amongst authentic local culture and our experienced crew has chosen some incredible destinations so you can see more and do more! 'Strademark' Places are the places you're less likely to find in the guide book but the ones you'll be talking about long after the adventure has ended.
- Only Stray stay at Hahei beach, an idyllic spot in the Coromandel, within walking distance to Cathedral Cove.
- Stay at an eco-lodge, built in native bush in Raglan – overlooking New Zealand’s black sand, premier surf beach.
- Spend two nights at Blue Duck Station, an award-winning conservation farm and get hands-on with some wilderness activities!
- Discover history and culture not yet touched by the hand of commercialism at Lake Aniwhenua - it's also your chance to try a traditionally cooked hangi dinner.
"Even though I was only in New Zealand for a week, your tour was exactly what I wanted. The driver was amazingly helpful and knowledgeable. The travellers were friendly. I will be back on a Stray bus again! :)"
- 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!
Get your trip off to a hassle free start with 2 nights’ accommodation at Nomad's Auckland close to the departure location.
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 to the Coromandel Peninsula via the old colonial town of Thames*. The Coromandel Peninsula, which is renowned for its natural beauty and pristine swimming beaches, is the perfect place to kick back and relax for a couple days. We’ll get settled into our beachside accommodation in Hahei 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.
* If you came to NZ looking for adventure, we recommend hopping off in Thames to go canyoning in the Sleeping God Canyon, one of the most exciting and challenging activities on offer. It’s not for the faint hearted!
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 go scuba diving, snorkelling or take a guided coastal boat tour. Tonight, opt to learn how to cook your own 'kai' with a seafood cooking class offered at the accommodation.
We leave Hahei early to travel to the mighty Waikato region. First up is a little adventure into Bridal Veil Falls, where a short walk through beautiful native bush leads to an impressive cascading waterfall. Our destination today is at the world-renowned surf town of Raglan. There’s no better place to learn to surf; but if you don’t fancy a splash in the waves, the afternoon is free to watch the surfers from the beach or enjoy a bush walk. Chill out or go hard in this arty surf town.
Departing early, our first stop on route to Rotorua is at Waitomo, a small rural town where its main attraction is in fact underground. Don’t miss out on the opportunity for a seriously cool caving adventure that will have you wading, climbing, abseiling and tubing through Waitomo’s magnificent cave network. From here we continue on to Rotorua where you have the opportunity to make this a 10/10 day with a visit to the world famous Hobbiton Movie Set. Explore the hills, gardens and houses that were home to Frodo and Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogies. Those not interested in Hobbiton, will continue on to Rotorua and will be joined by the Hobbiton goers early evening.
We depart at midday, leaving the morning free to get involved in one of the many adventure activities on offer in Rotorua. This afternoon our trip takes us further off the beaten track into the remote area of Lake Aniwhenua, voted as 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 some of NZ’s oldest Maori rock carvings. Tonight during your stay at Kohutapu Lodge, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Maori traditions, song, dance and local legends. Your hosts will teach you how to prepare a traditional ‘Hangi’ (a feast cooked underground) and provide a cooking demonstration on how to prepare Maori fried bread… yum! Sign up to one of the many 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.
This ‘Strademark’ experience includes: The Lake Aniwhenua overnight experience is $89, which includes comfortable lodge accommodation, a guided tour to sacred Maori rock carvings, an introduction to the Murupara area, its people, history and challenges, a demonstration on how to lay down a ‘Hangi’ (underground feast) and prepare Maori bread, as well as participation in a community program at the local school (school term only).
This ‘Strademark’ overnight experience is optional, but in our opinion, it's an absolute must do.
After breakfast we’ll depart to drop lunch off at a nearby school as part of an inspiring community project that brightens the lives of local school children. Then it’s on to Taupo to visit mighty Huka Falls and experience skydiving for the brave! Our destination today is regularly ranked 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. Once you arrive, settle in to learn a little about daily life at Blue Duck, then relax and chill out around an evening fire.
Today is yours to fully explore this incredible location. Jump on a 4WD and travel up farm roads, over hilly peaks and through New Zealand 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 ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and the Kaiwhakauka waterfall or assist with the farm’s pest control efforts 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 Dual World Heritage Site, Tongariro National Park. Today you get the chance to do what is rated as one of the world’s Top 10 one day walks and a definite NZ ‘must do’: the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Trek through dramatic natural scenery, past volcanic peaks, vast craters and stunning turquoise lakes on one of the most spectacular walks in New Zealand. The Crossing is open to walk year round (alpine gear and guide are required in winter), but subject to the weather forecast.
This is an express day from National Park back to New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. 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.
Auckland to Hahei
|Hahei (Non-travel Day)||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day||Free Day|
Hahei to Raglan
Raglan (via Waitomo) to Rotorua
Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua
|Lake Aniwhenua (Arrive)||15:30||15:30||15:30|
Lake Aniwhenua to Whakahoro
|Lake Aniwhenua (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30|
|Whakahoro (Non-Travel Day)||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|
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.
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?
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.