Stray bus south island

Ron Pass

Want to concentrate on the South Island? The "Ron" is for you – whether you have 2-3 weeks or 12 months, this pass includes our full South Island travel network. Click here to see the route!


What's included:

Flexible bus transport

Travel on our comfortable private buses and hop-on hop-off anywhere along the route.


Driver-guide

Far more than just a driver, Stray Driver Guides are invaluable sources of local knowledge and support.


Reserved Accommodation

Have a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. Book and pay via our Stray Mate app.


12 month travel pass

Your pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel.


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 the Stray Mate app, often at an exclusive Stray price!


Is this trip right for you?

 Do you want to explore with a group of like-minded travellers?


✓ Do you want to take the pressure off, kick back relax and let someone else do the driving?


 Do you want to get off the beaten track in the South Island and visit some of those harder to reach, remote destinations?


 Do you want exclusive Stray discounts on accommodation and activities?


 Do you want the flexibility to start and finish anywhere?

 

The Ron Freestyle Pass is a 'sweet as' choice for you!

 Want a tour with accommodation and activities included? Check out our Stray Journeys tours.

 


Highlights:


STRADEMARK PLACES 

Ron Strademark route 2018 192

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. 

  • 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.
  • Enter Middle Earth territory! Be surrounded by the breathtaking mountains and dense native bush, and have the chance to go white water rafting in Rangitata.

Want more? 

New Zealand Destination Guides 

Get inspired and start planning your trip!


World Nomads Travel Insurance

Travel smarter and safer - Stay covered on your adventures!


Short on cash but don't want to miss out? 
Deposit option available. Hit BOOK YOUR TRAVEL below and select from the payment options at checkout. Find out more.

Itinerary

This is a loop pass, which means you can start and finish anywhere!
Christchurch and Picton are popular start locations for this pass.

Please Note: 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. Given the spontaneous nature of our trips and lack of control over New Zealand's weather(!), what we do each day might occasionally vary.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

We depart early this morning for a beautiful drive up the coast to Kaikoura. Arriving in Kaikoura around midday, you will have the afternoon free for activities to experience the incredible marine world just off shore. Get out on the water and experience one of Kaikoura’s famous dolphin and whale spotting tours, see seals sitting right beside the road at Goose Bay or wander around the peninsula and check out the breathtaking views from the lookout.

Dusky Lodge - Warm modern hostel.

Whale watching by boat or by plane, swimming with dolphins, guided fishing trip.

Walk around the peninsula and up to the lookout.

Leaving Kaikoura in the morning we wind our way up the rugged coastal roads towards the top of the South Island. Your overnight stop tonight is the port town of Picton, where you have the afternoon free to get a feel for this picturesque town nestled on the edge of the stunning Marlborough Sounds. There are plenty of short walks to enjoy around the township and waterfront, such as the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk. Feel free to unwind this evening in the spa pool at the accommodation.

Picton Villa - Cosy villa.

Queen Charlotte Sound view walk, go fishing, bicycle around town, relax in the accommodation’s spa pool.

Enjoy a leisurely morning getting to know charming Picton. You’ll meet your Stray group at the accommodation at midday. Once on the bus, we’ll cruise through the world famous Marlborough vineyard area and, depending on the group, we may stop for a wine tasting to sample the region’s specialty Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We make a supermarket stop in Motueka to stock up on supplies for the next couple days and then make our way to our amazing overnight destination Marahau, right on the edge of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park.

The Barn - Unique Stray accommodation on the edge of the national park.

Wine tasting, skydiving.

Walks, mussel tasting around the fire, stargazing.

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 use this free day to hike, kayak, sail or take a water taxi to get a taste of the park’s natural golden sand beaches and brilliant blue waters.

Buckle up for a awesome day driving down the incredibly scenic ‘wild’ West Coast, an area known for its untamed beaches and spectacular rainforest. We’ll pass through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was labelled one of the top ten drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We’ll make a stop along the coast to marvel at the geographic wonders of Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Here we’ll take a walk around these unique limestone rock formations and stop for a bite of lunch. Our next stop is the historic gold mining town of Greymouth to collect passengers connecting from Christchurch. From here we’ll make one last stop via Hokitika (the best place to buy ‘Pounami’, a native greenstone) before continuing onto the quaint township of Franz Josef, home of the mighty Franz Josef Glacier where we’ll spend the next two nights.

Lodge in the middle of the rainforest

Buller Gorge, Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes, Hokitika greenstone store

Enjoy a free day to get out and experience the Franz Josef Glacier, an iconic 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 consistently ranks as a favourite activity amongst Stray travellers. The most popular trip features a short heli-hop onto the glacier with a guided educational tour on the ice and includes entry to the hot pools afterwards. Other options include visiting the glacial terminal face for some spectacular photos or doing one of the many excellent bush hikes in the region.

Rainforest Retreat - Lodge in the middle of the rainforest.

Glacier heli-hike (entry to hot pools included), kayaking, skydiving.

Many excellent bush hikes (but we recommend a guided one for safety). Relax in one of NZ’s largest spa pools at your accommodation.

It’s time to leave the West Coast behind. We stop in the morning for pick-ups at Fox Glacier before heading to the amazing mirror-like Lake Matheson to stretch our legs with a short walk. Then, 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 along the way 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.

Base Wanaka - Central Wanaka hostel.

Lake Matheson walk, Ship Creek walk, Blue Pools walk, Thunder Creek Falls walk, explore Wanaka.

Kick start your day with a brisk walk up Mt Iron, an early morning skydive or learn to fly a stunt plane over Wanaka. At mid-morning we’ll pack up and make our way 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 in the world, for your chance to take the big leap of faith. Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge!) night out with plenty of excellent restaurants, pubs and live music to check out.

Central hostel close to all the action.

Puzzling World, skydiving, mountain biking, pilot your own stunt plane or learn to fly and take a friend for free, bungy jumping.

Walk Mt Iron, watch people jumping off a bridge!

You need at least one free day in Queenstown to make the most of the wide range of activities on offer. With a buzzy night life, beautiful mountain scenery and an exciting outdoor lifestyle, it’s easy to understand why Stray passengers often hop off here to spend extra time exploring. Options include: bungy or swing, zipline tours, canyoning, jet boating, skiing, skydiving, local bush walks, or just enjoy the stunning scenery and do nothing.

Central hostel close to all the action.

Any adventure activity that we mad Kiwis can dream up (bungy, swing, jet boating, skydiving, mountain biking, zipline, horse riding…).

Sleep in, fabulous walks, take in beautiful views from this cool resort town.

Today you are in for a treat. It’s an early start as make our way to Milford Sound, one of NZ’s most famous destinations, sometimes referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. You won’t want to nap on this leg of the journey as we drive past Lake Wakatipu and watch the landscape change from farmland to mountains, glacier carved valleys and fiords. There is time to do an afternoon boat cruise around Milford Sound to soak up this untouched world. Known for its rich marine ecology, it’s likely you’ll spot a few wild dolphins, seals and penguins. Next, 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 in the bush and listen out for kiwi bird calls in the night.

Gunn's Camp - Historic camp in the heart of Fiordland National Park.

Milford Sound cruise (ask the driver about the special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo).

Stunning views, visit the historic museum or take in the incredible surroundings at Gunn’s Camp, Chasm walk.

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 marvel at the spectacular surrounding landscape. This afternoon we travel further south via Te Anau to Invercargill and on to Bluff, where you can catch a ferry to Stewart Island. NZ’s third largest island has an abundance of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, such as fishing, kayaking, diving, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill.

Stewart Island backpackers on Stewart Island or Tuatara Lodge - central hostel in Invercargill.

Te Anau Wildlife Centre, catch the ferry to Stewart Island (ask the driver about the special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo).

Humbolt Falls walk, Viewing Gantry walk. 

For those who stayed overnight on Stewart Island, this morning is free for you to explore, meet the locals, go fishing or enjoy some of the walks before catching an afternoon ferry back to the mainland. Those in Invercargill will have the day free to explore. We recommend a visit to Demolition World (a world entirely constructed from demolished buildings and recycled items), race your bus mates around a go-karting track or walk up to the Bluff Hill lookout before reuniting with the island-goers for an express journey back to Queenstown.

Central hostel close to all the action

Stewart Island: fishing, Village & Bays tour, a visit to Ulva Island.
Invercargill: Go-karting, Demolition World

Stewart Island: explore the island and amazing birdlife
Invercargill: Bluff Hill walk

Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie Country and past picturesque 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).

Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge - Stunning alpine lodge.

Argo tour of alpine region, visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.

Take photos of awe-inspiring scenery, do one of the many great short walks to the Hooker glacial lake (weather dependent), stargazing.

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 for a photo op before heading through Geraldine to get to our overnight stop in Rangitata Peel Forest. Arriving in the afternoon, there is plenty of time for thrill seekers to raft the top notch white water on the Rangitata River. Tonight spend the night in one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations, a great place to get outdoors, go horse trekking or wander through the native bush of Peel Forest. 

*Winter only: We stay longer in Tekapo for ice skating, snow tubing and visiting the relaxing hot springs.

One of Canterbury's original sheep stations.

Walk through Peel Forest, Rangitata River Rafting (late September – late March only).

Take photos of stunning scenery, go for a walk.

This morning, you will have the opportunity to sign up to a top-notch grade 5 white water rafting experience on Rangitata River under the foot of the Southern Alps or to explore the stunning Peel Forest scenery on horseback. Tonight, we’ll stay in Christchurch - a city where old meets new, as an enormous rebuild continues following the devastating 2011 Earthquake. You will find some of New Zealand’s most modern architecture nestled next to some of our oldest buildings. Wander the city streets and laneways to discover creative street art intended to bring cheer and colour to a city once buried in rubble. Spend your afternoon exploring the city or getting involved in one of the activities on offer.

Comfortable, modern backpackers near the city centre

White water rafting, horse trekking

Explore Christchurch by foot, check out the Re-Start Mall, Cardboard Cathedral and inner-city street art

Timetable

The days and times shown below are for the current season. 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. You can also see your confirmed departure times in the Stray Mate app.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Christchurch (Depart) 08:00 08:00 08:00
Kaikoura (Arrive) 12:00 12:00 12:00

Kaikoura to Picton

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Kaikoura (Depart) 09:00 09:00 09:00 09:00
Blenheim (Depart) 11:15 11:15 11:15 11:15
Picton (Arrive) 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00

Picton to Marahau (Abel Tasman)

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Picton - Ferry Terminal (Depart) 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00
Nelson (Depart) 15:00 15.00 15.00 15:00
Marahau - Abel Tasman National Park (Arrive) 18.00 18.00 18.00 18.00

Marahau (Abel Tasman)

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Marahau (Abel Tasman) (Non Travel Day) Free Free Free Free Free Free Free

Marahau (Abel Tasman) to Franz Josef

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Marahau (Abel Tasman) (Depart) 07:00 07:00 07:00
Greymouth (Depart) 14:00 14:00 14:00
Franz Josef (Arrive) 18:00 18:00 18:00

Franz Josef

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Franz Josef (Non Travel Day) Free Free Free Free Free Free Free

Franz Josef to Wanaka

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Franz Josef (Depart) 08:30 08:30 08:30
Fox Glacier (Depart) 09:00 09:00 09:00
Wanaka (Arrive) 16:30 16:30 16:30

Wanaka to Queenstown

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Wanaka (Depart) 09:45 09:45 09:45
Queenstown (Arrive) 15:00 15:00 15:00

Queenstown

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Queenstown (Non-Travel Day) Free Free Free Free Free Free Free

Queenstown to Gunn's Camp

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Queenstown (Depart) 06:40 06:40
Te Anau (Arrive) 10:00 10:00
Gunn’s Camp (Arrive) 16:00 16:00

Gunn's Camp to Invercargill/Stewart Island

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
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 (Arrive) 17:00 17:00

Invercargill/Stewart Island to Queenstown

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Bluff Wharf (Depart) 16:30 16:30
Invercargill (Depart) 17:00 17:00
Queenstown (Arrive) 19:00 19:00

Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Queenstown (Depart) 08:40 08:40 08:40
Mt Cook (Arrive) 13:30 13:30 13:30

Mt Cook to Rangitata

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Mt Cook (Depart) 10:00 10:00 10:00
Tekapo (Depart) 13:30 13:30 13:30
Rangitata (Arrive) 16:00 16:00 16:00

Rangitata to Christchurch

  MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Rangitata (Depart) 09:30 09:30 09:30
Christchurch (Arrive) 14:00 14:00 14:00
Ron south island bus tour route map1819

Need to Know


Some key details...

  • Transport - Travel by private, air-conditioned bus (14-48 seats). 

  • Guides - Your Guide is also your driver - expect entertaining commentary, to learn some interesting facts about New Zealand and to hear a crazy story or two. 

  • Validity - This Freestyle Pass is valid for 12 months from your first day of travel.

  • Hopping on/off - Hop on and off as much as you like along the travel route.

  • Minimum Days - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel your pass in the "Minimum Days". There are non-travel days throughout the route so you will not be travelling everyday. 

  • Departures - Buses run to a seasonal timetable at least 3x a week.

  • Booking Buses - Use the Stray Mate app to manage your trip - you'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance. 

  • Accommodation - Book Stray preferred accommodation as you go via the Stray Mate app - there will be a dorm bed allocated to you at each overnight stop providing you book via the app 24 hours before. 

  • Activities - Book activities as you go via the Stray Mate app.

  • Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 20-35. 75% of our travellers are travelling solo.

 

Find out more by reading our FAQs