Explore the North Island! Discover the sub-tropical climate, white sandy beaches and forests of the Far North of New Zealand. Immerse yourself in local Maori culture at our exclusive, inclusive overnight stops. Chill out on amazing empty beaches and sample incredible fresh seafood on the East Cape. Get well off the beaten track at an award-winning conservation stop and challenge yourself with the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Jase - 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 3 days and 2 nights on the East Coaster, an off-the-beaten-track roadie around the remote coastline of the East Cape.
- 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.
"My time with Stray was some of the best I've spent in New Zealand, not only were the drivers amazing but they really made you feel welcome and got to know you all and make your experience with them as memorable as possible! There was a great selection of activities and if you didn't want to do any of them then the driver would still take you out to do something like a walk etc. Most of the accommodation was amazing even though it included your average hostel, but the ones 'off the beaten track' were amazing! I met some incredible people and loved every minute with Stray."
- 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.
Please Note: The East Cape section of this pass is summer only. Your pass is valid for 12 months from day 1, but you do need to complete the East Cape loop between October and April (Rotorua - Maraehako - Tatapouri - Rotorua). If you can't do this part, then you should book our Jill pass.
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.
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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.
Nau mai, haere mai (welcome)! Your Stray adventure kicks off in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. We depart for the beautiful Bay of Islands, bound for the relaxed seaside town of Paihia often called the ‘gateway to the Bay.’ We stop en-route to visit the Parry Kauri Forest Park and hug some of the world’s mightiest trees, the native kauri, on our way to Paihia.
NB: For those travelling up to Cape Reinga the next day, remember to book this day trip in Stray Mate by 11am the day before you intend to travel or speak to your Stray Driver Guide on the way to Paihia. The Cape Reinga day trip is operated by a local partner so pre-booking is essential. Any changes after 11am cannot be made in Stray Mate. Talk to your Driver Guide or visit the Fullers GreatSights office located on Paihia's waterfront.
Enjoy a sleep in and spend the morning at your leisure. There’s time to do the fantastic half-day Hole in the Rock dolphin cruise around the Bay in the morning, or take this opportunity to walk to the nearby Haruru Falls or just hang out on the beach. Mid-afternoon we jump back on board the Stray bus, destined for the bright lights of Auckland, where there are still plenty of exciting activities to do if you have a free day or two.
We depart Auckland and head south, travelling to the Coromandel Peninsula via the old colonial town of Thames. Renowned for its natural beauty and pristine swimming beaches, the Coromandel Peninsula has plenty to offer the active traveller, but is also a great place to kick back and relax in a pretty coastal setting. On arrival into Hahei, a small beachside village, we’ll get settled into our accommodation 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.
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 take a guided coastal boat tour or fully immerse yourself with a snorkelling excursion.
We leave Hahei early to travel through the rural Waikato region, known for its many dairy farms and the mighty Waikato River. We’ll start with a little adventure to Bridal Veil Falls, where a short walk through beautiful native bush leads to the impressive 55m cascading waterfall. Our destination today is the world-renowned surf town of Raglan. There’s no better place to learn to surf than Raglan’s legendary left-hand surf break. If you don’t fancy a splash in the waves, the afternoon is free to watch the surfers from the beach, enjoy a bush walk or watch the sunset from the aptly named Inspiration Point. Chill out or go hard in this arty surf town – it’s up to you!
Departing early, our first stop of the day is 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 can make this a real 10 out of 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 be joined by the Hobbiton goers in the early evening.
We depart from Rotorua in the morning to start our journey into the remote East Cape region. We will head east towards the lush Bay of Plenty, navigating our way through the beautiful lakes in the Rotorua region, with a stop for supplies and a picnic lunch in Whakatane. Our destination this afternoon is a remote hostel located directly on the waterfront. It’s the perfect spot to go kayaking or swimming in the local bay just outside your door. If you’re keen on a fresh seafood dinner tonight, sign up to take a boat tour to gather crayfish from their pots or a fishing trip with your host to some of his favourite fishing spots.
We set out early to make our way around the eastern point of the Cape, exploring the pristine beaches and settlements along the way. In Te Araroa we’ll collect supplies for a picnic lunch, before setting off on a walk up to the East Cape Light House, where the views are well worth the climb. We’ll later stop by Tolaga Bay Wharf, the longest pier in New Zealand where you can enjoy a dip before arriving at our overnight accommodation situated about 15km outside Gisborne. Nestled on a private beach you can enjoy sundowners on a deck or build a beach bonfire and feel the outside world drift away.
Today you’ll have a free morning in Tatapouri to enjoy some activities in the area. Hone your surfing skills or join a local guide for a ‘must do’ experience feeding wild stingrays in the bay (tide permitting). In the afternoon we’ll cruise back to Rotorua driving through the spectacular Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve, stopping to enjoy some of the sights along the way and then dropping people off in Whakatane for the spectacular White Island Volcanic Tour *. Before arriving back in Rotorua, we will make one last stop for a stretch and a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters of Lake Rotoma.
We depart at midday, leaving the morning free to get involved in one of the many amazing 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 NZ’s oldest Maori rock carvings. Tonight, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Maori traditions, including the entertaining stick games traditionally used to teach hand-eye coordination, as well as how to prepare a ‘Hangi’, a sumptuous feast cooked underground. Sign up for one of the 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 is $89pp and includes:
- 1 night’s accommodation at the comfortable Kohutapu Lodge
- 1 x Hangi dinner, 1x dessert and 1x continental breakfast
- Guided tour to sacred Maori rock carvings
- Introduction to the Murupara area, its people, history and challenges
- Learn traditional Maori stick games
- Participation in a local community program (school term only)
This ‘Strademark’ overnight experience is optional, but in our opinion, it's an absolute must do!
After breakfast we’ll make a special visit to the local school to deliver packed lunches for kids that often go without and participate in a beneficial program aimed at driving cross-cultural education in an otherwise isolated part of NZ (dependent on school timetable). Then it’s on to Taupo to visit the mighty Huka Falls. The brave hearted can opt to plunge from a plane on an adrenaline fuelled skydive over NZ’s largest lake! Our destination this evening is often rated 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. On arrival, we will settle in to learn a little about daily life at Blue Duck, then relax and chill out around an evening fire.
SERVICE UPDATE: Groups travelling on or before 24th March will spend 2 nights in Taupo instead of Blue Duck Station. Check our service updates here.
Today is yours to fully explore this truly incredible location. Jump on a 4WD and travel up farm roads, over hilly peaks and through 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 Kaiwhakauka waterfall or assist with the farm’s pest control efforts and bring back tonight’s dinner. It doesn’t matter which option you choose, just get outdoors and enjoy all that Blue Duck has to offer!
SERVICE UPDATE: Groups travelling on or before 24th March will spend 2 nights in Taupo instead of Blue Duck Station. Check our service updates here.
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 tick off one of the most popular activities in New Zealand by hiking the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered one of the top one-day walks in the world. This 19km walk will take you across a rocky plateau with Mars-like vistas, dramatic volcanic peaks (including the real ‘Mt Doom’), craters and turquoise lakes that you’ll remember for a lifetime. The Crossing is open to walk year round (alpine gear and guide are required in winter), but subject to the weather conditions. Ensure you pack a day pack with plenty of supplies and clothing for all conditions. If the weather prevents you from doing the Crossing, there are a couple shorter walks in the area, as well as bike tracks that are well worth doing. Tonight we will stay in a homely historic Nurses Home in Raetihi, with friendly farm animals, a pamper room and spa bath with mountain views to enjoy at the end of an active day.
SERVICE UPDATE: Groups travelling on or before 24th March will stay in Taupo and depart at 6.30am when the Tongariro Crossing is open and 9am when the Tongariro Crossing is closed due to weather. Check our service updates here.
This morning we travel towards the bottom of the North Island via the rural towns of Ohakune, Taihape and Bulls. Today is mostly an express day to get to Wellington, our capital city and home to New Zealand’s parliament and the iconic Beehive government building. Also known as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ thanks to Lonely Planet, Wellington is a great place to check out the lively arts, craft beer and café culture scenes or do some shopping. The afternoon is yours to explore the sights, and we recommend wandering down Oriental Parade or viewing the excellent exhibits on display at Te Papa National Museum.
We depart in the early morning. This is an express day via Raetihi heading back to the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland. For those who may have missed out on hiking the Tongariro Crossing, you have the option to hop off in National Park and try again. With an early evening arrival, there’s still time to wander the streets of Auckland, visit the Viaduct, do some souvenir shopping or hang out with new friends and share stories about your recent adventures. If you are hanging around Auckland for another day or two, don’t miss your chance to jump off the Harbour Bridge or Sky Tower, skydive, or take a wildlife cruise around the Hauraki Gulf. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
The days and times shown below are for the current season (1 Mar - 30 Apr 2018). 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.
Your pass is valid for 12 months from day 1, but you need to complete your travel the East Cape loop between 4th October and 29th April (Rotorua - Maraehako Bay - Tatapouri - Rotorua). If your travel dates do not allow you to do this part, then you should book our Jill Pass instead.
Auckland to Paihia
|Whangarei - Info Centre (Depart)||11:00||11:00||11:00||11:00||11:00|
Paihia to Auckland
|Whangarei - Info Centre (Depart)||15:00||15:00||15:00||15:00||15:00|
Auckland to Hahei
|Hahei (Non-Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Hahei to Raglan
Raglan (via Waitomo) to Rotorua
Rotorua to Maraehako Bay
|Maraehako Bay (Arrive)||14:00||14:00|
Maraehako Bay to Tatapouri (Gisborne)
|Maraehako Bay (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Tatapouri (Gisborne) (Arrive)||17:00||17:00|
Tatapouri (Gisborne) to Rotorua
|Tatapouri (Gisborne) (Depart)||10:00||10:00|
Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua
|Lake Aniwhenua (Arrive)||15:30||15:30||15:30||15:30|
Lake Aniwhenua to Blue Duck Station
|Lake Aniwhenua (Depart)||08:30||08:30||08:30||08:30|
|Blue Duck Station (Arrive)||17:00||17:00||17:00||17:00|
Blue Duck Station
|Whakahoro (Non-Travel Day)||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free||Free|
Blue Duck Station to Raetihi
|Blue Duck Station (Depart)||06:00||06:00||06:00||06:00|
Raetihi to Wellington
Wellington (via Raetihi) to Auckland
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 thought 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, your online Trip Manager (you'll receive log in info after you've booked).
The buses run on a regular timetable with multiple departures a week so you can 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?
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?There are over 150+ activities on offer! Whether you are a hiker, a biker, a Lord of the Rings fan or an adrenaline junkie you can start getting inspired by checking out our comprehensive Destination Guides.
Who travels with Stray?
Our travellers are an energetic outgoing crowd who share a common objective: to have a great time! Most are aged between 18 - 30 although we have no maximum age because we believe age doesn't matter - it's more about having a thirst for adventure! We get a wide range of nationalities from all over the world with the majority from UK, Europe and America. 75% of our travellers are travelling solo and some travel as part of a couple or group of friends.