"Willy" travels in a loop, showcasing the very best of the South Island. It includes our entire South Island travel network without the Far South.
Willy - 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.
- Stay at the base of New Zealand's highest mountain, Mount Cook/Aoraki.
"Stray bus gave me the New Zealand experience I wanted. I wanted to be outside, hit the highlights and be off the beaten track."
- 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 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.
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.
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 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|
How It Works
This is a "hop-on hop-off" pass. What does this mean?
The bus route is fixed, but you have the freedom to book your own travel dates 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. 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 dates and pickup location through Stray Mate. The buses run on a regular timetable with multiple departures a week.
Passes are valid for up to 12 months from your first day of travel, meaning you can hop off and on as many times 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’.