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Home. Our Trips » New Zealand » Big South

Big South

Discover the best of the South Island - Hike some of New Zealand's best tracks, see dolphins in their natural habitat, bungy jump (if you dare) and be mesmerised by some of the bluest lakes you've ever seen. Our Big South Pass is our most popular South Island Pass for good reason!


Pass Highlights:



What's included:

Flexible Bus Transport

Take the pressure off, kick back, relax and let someone else do the driving. You'll be travelling on our comfortable private buses and can "hop-on, hop-off" anywhere along the route.


 Stray Guide

So much more than just your driver - expect entertaining anecdotes, great recommendations, extra support and local insider knowledge. They know every inch of this country. You can't get this from a google search! 


Strademark icon Access to Strademark Places

Discover the best of the South Island, plus some off-the-beaten-track destinations that make Stray stand out from the crowd. You can see them marked with a heart on the map because they're the places our travellers love.


smartphoneStray Mate App

It's easy to view your itinerary and book accommodation and activities on-the-go. 
Flexibility at its finest!


 Reserved Accommodation

A dorm bed will be reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. 
Book and pay as you go via our Stray Mate app.



What we're all about...

tick for website 01We're locals who support localsWe're not about mass produced tourism.
We're all about finding one-of-a kind experiences and supporting small communities. 


tick for website 01We spearheaded the 'off the beaten track' movement in New Zealand. 
Stray are the original experts in seeking out secluded destinations, taking our travellers off the grid since 2002.


tick for website 01Our Stray Guides are next level and will, no doubt, play a starring role in your travel stories. 
Read our reviews and you'll see what we mean!


tick for website 01Travel is about creating lasting connections and sharing experiences. 
Stray travellers are open minded adventurers who make the most of every moment.


tick for website 01We aim to leave New Zealand better than we found it, protecting our environment for future generations.
Travel with us and together we can make a positive change.

Itinerary

Due to COVID-19 all Stray trips are suspended until 1 November 2020. A new timetable will be available 1 August 2020. Please check our Service Updates page for more information.


This is a loop pass, which means you can start and finish anywhere but Christchurch and Picton are the most 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 discover 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 and the tiny port town of Picton. There are plenty of short walks to enjoy around the township and waterfront, such as the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk. You can take advantage of free fishing gear and bicycles offered by the accommodation, and don't miss out on a chance to unwind in the spa pool this evening.

Picton Villa - Cosy villa

Queen Charlotte Sound view walk, fishing, biking around town, relax in the accommodation's spa pool

Enjoy a leisurely morning further exploring 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. Depending on the group’s interest, we may stop for a wine tasting to sample the region’s specialty Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We will stock up on supplies for the next couple days in Motueka 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 an awesome day driving down the incredibly scenic ‘wild’ West Coast, an area known for its untamed beaches and spectacular rainforest. Today takes us through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was labelled one of the top drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We’ll stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes to walk around these unique geological wonders. 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 ‘Pounamu’, a native greenstone) before continuing on to the quaint township of Franz Josef, home of the famous Franz Josef Glacier and our base for the next two nights.  

Rainforest Retreat - Lodge in the middle of the rainforest

Buller Gorge, 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 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 local hot pools afterwards. Other options include kayaking, visiting the glacial terminal face for 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, 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 another superbly scenic drive 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

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 heaps of restaurants, pubs and live music to check out.

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 (in winter), skydiving, local bush walks, or just spend a day relaxing and enjoying the stunning scenery.

Nomads Queenstown - 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…)

Fabulous walks, take in beautiful views surrounding this cool resort town

Today you are in for a treat. It’s an early start as we make our way to Milford Sound, one of NZ’s most famous destinations, sometimes called 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, where it’s likely you’ll spot a few wild dolphins, seals and penguins. We then head through to Te Anau for the night.

Lake side accommodation

Milford Sound cruise (special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo available for those wanting to visit Stewart Island)

Stunning views, take a walk around Lake Te Anau

This morning we'll travel further south to Invercargill and on to Bluff, where you can catch a ferry to Stewart Island. NZ's third largest island, Stewart Island, has an abundance of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, such as fishing, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill.

See More moment: When the solar winds are right, between March – September, you might be lucky enough to see the Aurora Australis, better known as the Southern Lights!

Stewart Island: Stewart Island Backpackers 
Invercargill: Tuatara Lodge

Catch the ferry to Stewart Island (special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo available for those wanting to visit Stewart Island)

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 option to visit 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.

Nomads 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 region 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 it’s a clear night, make sure you head outside to experience one of the best stargazing spots in the country. There are some incredible longer walks to do if you want to hop off the bus for a few days (we’d recommend you leave climbing Mt Cook to the experienced mountaineers though).

Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge - Stunning alpine lodge

Alpine Argo tour, 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’ll stop to admire the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd, a famous photo stop. Relax in the Tekapo hot pools, go snow tubing or ice skating (winter only) or hike up to the Mt John Observatory where you’ll witness stunning views of the lake from above. After lunch, we will continue to our overnight stop in Peel Forest. Tonight, we’ll stay in a cosy lodge at one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations.

* Valid until 30 April 2020. From 1 May we will travel from Mount Cook (via Tekapo) to Christchurch - View Winter Timetables

Rangitata Rafts Lodge - Lodge on a Canterbury sheep station

Tekapo Hot Springs, ice skating (April-Sept), snow tubing (June-Sept), stargazing (must hop off in Tekapo)

Visit Lake Tekapo, Church of the Good Shepherd, Mt John observatory walk, Rangitata forest walks

This morning, you can sign up for top-notch grade 5 white water rafting on the Rangitata River at the foot of the Southern Alps or choose to explore the stunning Peel Forest scenery on horseback. Tonight, we’ll stay in Christchurch, a city where old meets new, as the rebuild continues following the devastating 2011 earthquake. You will find New Zealand’s most modern architecture nestled next to some of the country’s oldest buildings. Spend your afternoon wandering the city streets and laneways to discover creative street art intended to bring cheer and colour to a city once buried in rubble.

All Stars Inn - Comfortable, modern backpackers near the city centre

White water rafting (summer only), horse trekking

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

Stray Map Big South 2019 20

Need to Know

  • Due to COVID-19 all Stray trips are suspended until 1 November 2020. A new timetable will be available 1 August 2020. Please check our Service Updates page for more information.

  • Book with confidence - You can start travel anytime within 18 months of booking and you can change your start date as many times as you like.  Once you start travelling, you can use your Freestyle Pass  for up to 12 months.

  • Booking Buses (Hopping on/off) - Use the Stray Mate app to manage your trip - you'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. Hop on and off as much as you like along the travel route - Here are our favourite places to hop-off. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance.
     
  • 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 with multiple departures per week. View Pickup Points and Departure Times

  • Transport - Travel by private, air-conditioned bus (24-48 seats). We actively seek to reduce our carbon emissions by scaling bus fleet to meet demand, so if there are not as many passengers we use a smaller coach. Travel on the ferry between the North and South islands is not included.
  • Flexibility - The cost of your accommodation, activities and meals is not included in a Freestyle Travel pass giving you extra flexibility to choose options that suit your budget and taste.

  • 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.  Backpacker hostel rates are between $27-$37 per night for a dorm bed. 

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

  • Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, they are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 18-30. 75% of our travellers are travelling solo.

  • Payment Options - If you'd like to secure your place on the trip, but are a little bit short on cash, you can reserve a seat with a 20% deposit. You then have 6 months to pay it off - too easy! Better yet - there's no admin fee. You can make payments when it suits you using our Extra Payments page. You just need to have paid for your trip in full 14 days before you jump on the bus.

Learn more about: 

Travelling Freestyle   The Stray Experience   Our Unique Strademark Places