On this tour you'll explore New Zealand from top to bottom, getting off the beaten track and seeing all the things on your NZ Bucket List! You'll travel in a small group with an experienced guide, exploring unique destinations and immersing yourself in local culture and New Zealand's beautiful environment - it doesn’t get better than this!
You'll travel in our comfortable mid-sized coaches around New Zealand and your inter-island ferry transport is included too.
Far more than just a driver - expect entertaining commentary, insight into local secrets and extra support from your guide.
These are the special off-the-beaten-track destinations on the route that make Stray's tours stand out from the crowd. You can see them marked with a heart on the map because they're the places our travellers love.
23 nights’ accommodation in a variety of quality hostels, wilderness lodges, cabins and an overnight cruise.
20 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 12 dinners.
Top rated activities
From hiking across volcanic plateaus to sand-boarding down giant dunes, there are so many awesome activity included:
- Parry Kauri Forest
- Swim or walk to the waterfalls at Waipu Cove
- Bay of Islands Wildlife Cruise
- Ferry ride across Hokianga Harbour
- Sand boarding
- Visit Waipoua Forest and Tane Mahuta (NZ’s largest Kauri tree)
- Swim at Kai Iwi Lakes
- Walk to the world famous Cathedral Cove
- Visit Hot Water Beach
- See bubbling hot mud pools in Rotorua
- Experience Maori culture at Tamaki Maori Village
- 4WD eco-wilderness farm tour
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island
- Wine tasting at a vineyard cellar door in Marlborough
- Abel Tasman National Park water taxi ride
- Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes
- Walks around Lake Matheson and the Blue Pools, Mt Aspiring National Park
- Jet Boat Ride in Makarora
- Doubtful Sound overnight cruise, Fiordland National Park
- Sea kayaking in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park
- Mountain biking in Wanaka
- Tasman Valley Walk, Mt Cook National Park
- Explore Lake Tekapo area
- Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa
- Conical Hill walk, Hanmer Springs
- Visit a New Zealand Fur Seal (Kekeno) colony in Kaikoura
Your Guide can help you book any additional activities you want to do that are not included in the itinerary, often at a special discounted Stray price!
Due to COVID-19 all Stray trips are suspended until 1 November 2020. Please check our Service Updates page for more information.
Summer Departures: November 2020 - April 2021
Departs from: Auckland
You can select your departure date and check availability at checkout.
- Download itinerary: Cook Summer 20-21 (PDF)
Nau mai, haere mai (welcome)! Your journey kicks off in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland, known as the ‘City of Sails’ because of its location between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours, making it a boaters' paradise. Pick-ups start at your accommodation bright and early, before we head north to the seaside town of Paihia, gateway to the Bay of Islands. We stop en-route to view some of the world’s mightiest trees, the native Kauri, and stop for lunch at scenic Waipu Cove. This is followed by a trip to the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds (own expense), before settling into our accommodation where you’ll have a group meal and the evening free to relax. Includes Dinner.
This morning we take a scenic sightseeing cruise around the beautiful Bay of Islands, a collection of 144 islands bursting with marine life. There’s no better way to see it than by boat - keep an eye out for wild dolphins. In the afternoon it’s off to the Hokianga Harbour, where we will see the huge sand dunes across the harbour. Tonight, you have the option to take part in a Maori-guided twilight encounter in the Waipoua Forest, where you'll learn about Maori legends and the spiritual inhabitants of the forest, and visit the largest Kauri tree in the world, the “God of the Forest” Tane Mahuta (own expense). Finish the day with a Kiwi classic for dinner, traditional fish and chips. Includes breakfast and dinner.
We start the morning with a ferry ride across the Hokianga Harbour for a sand boarding adrenalin rush (weather dependent) before we start to make our way south through the mighty Waipoua Forest. Here we will have the opportunity to see NZ’s largest Kauri trees. We'll stop at the idyllic Kai Iwi Lakes for a swim in the beautiful crystal-clear waters surrounded by a pure white sandy beach, before returning to the ‘Big Smoke’ Auckland for a late afternoon arrival. Includes breakfast.
We depart Auckland and head south east to the pristine sands of Hahei Beach, from which you can access the famous Cathedral Cove. Accessible only by foot, boat or kayak, you’ll discover some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery and stunning sea views in this beautiful coastal spot. Cathedral Cove is a ‘must see’ on the Coromandel Peninsula. We’ll also pay a visit to Hot Water Beach, a unique surf beach where you can dig a hole in the sand to create in your own personal spa pool (tide dependent). Includes dinner.
Today, we’ll make our way towards the North Island's main tourism hub of Rotorua. This evening you will be welcomed into the authentic Tamaki Maori Village, where you will discover Maori art, ancient rituals and traditions. Tonight, we dine on a delicious hangi (Maori feast), enjoy an interactive cultural performance and the company of our Maori hosts. Includes breakfast and dinner.
You have a full free day in Rotorua to discover an area well-known for its Maori heritage, adventure and geothermal activity. Here you have the chance to do some great optional activities, such as a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set, white water rafting, ziplining through native bush, mountain biking and more. A great option to finish the day is to spend the evening soaking in the hot pools at the luxurious Polynesian Spa. Includes breakfast
After your big day of hiking, you get a chance to sleep in and we won’t depart until midmorning. Our destination today is one of the most remote parts of the North Island by road. We’re heading for the award-winning Blue Duck Station in Whakahoro, a 7,200-acre high country farm that is both a working sheep and beef station and an environmental conservation leader. This afternoon you get the opportunity to take part in a 4WD Bush Safari and farm adventure, where you’ll explore this vast land and the New Zealand native bush, discover the remains of an unbelievable local history, and learn about the farm’s conservation efforts. Your dinner is cooked using local produce. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After your big day of hiking, you get a chance to sleep in because we won’t depart until mid-morning. Our destination today is one of the most remote parts of the North Island accessible by road. We’re heading for the award-winning Blue Duck Station in Whakahoro, a 7,200-acre high country farm that is both a working sheep and beef station and an environmental conservation leader. This afternoon you get the opportunity to take part in a 4WD Bush Safari and farm adventure, where you’ll explore this vast land and the New Zealand native bush, discover the remains of an unbelievable local history, and learn about the farm’s conservation efforts. Your dinner tonight is cooked using local produce. Includes breakfast and dinner.
We depart early to arrive into Wellington by early afternoon. Wellington is known as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ thanks to Lonely Planet, and it’s a great place to check out the lively arts scene, shopping, craft breweries and café culture. As New Zealand’s capital city, it is home to New Zealand’s parliament and the iconic 'Beehive' government building. This afternoon, you have the option to marvel at the wonders of Te Papa National Museum or wander along the Oriental Parade for excellent views of the city. Includes breakfast.
Leaving Wellington, we’ll travel across the Cook Strait to the South Island’s coastal town of Picton. Here we meet our coach and cruise through the famous Marlborough wine region. We visit a local vineyard’s cellar door to sample New Zealand’s world-famous Sauvignon Blanc, before heading to the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park. Tonight we enjoy some 4 Valid: October 2020 – April 2021 delicious seafood and a BBQ dinner at our exclusive campsite accommodation. Includes breakfast and dinner
Today is a free day to experience the incredible Abel Tasman National Park. Explore this stunning coastal area famous for being one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand. Walk the coastal track and discover some of New Zealand’s best natural golden sand beaches or choose an optional activity like sailing or sea kayaking (own expense). Tonight, you can selfcater using the BBQ and kitchen facilities at our accommodation. Includes breakfast
We start early to head south along the ‘wild’ West Coast, travelling on the rugged rocky coastline that makes this stretch of road one of the country’s top drives. We’ll stop along the way to visit the spectacular limestone Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes, as well as call in at the historic mining town of Hokitika, one of the best spots to find a greenstone souvenir. From there, we carry on to our next overnight stop in the quaint little West Coast town of Franz Josef, home to the mighty Franz Josef Glacier. Includes breakfast and dinner.
Enjoy a free day to get out and explore the mighty Franz Josef Glacier. Navigate the maze of ice and explore the incredible landscape on a Franz Josef Glacier guided tour which we highly recommend (own expense). There are also many excellent bush hikes available in the region. Tonight, you can self-cater in the communal kitchen at our accommodation or take the opportunity to dine at one of the local cafes or restaurants in town. Includes breakfast
Today we head further down the West Coast towards Mount Aspiring National Park, stopping to take in the breathtaking scenery at the amazing mirror-like Lake Matheson, NZ’s most photographed lake. See waterfalls as we travel through the mountainous Haast Pass towards Makarora then visit the stunning Blue Pools. On arrival in Mount Aspiring National Park we go jet boating to experience the best in shallow water boating, skimming just inches from the riverbed, viewing pristine waterways, snow-capped peaks and native bush. Includes breakfast and dinner
Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful locations, with stunning ice-carved fiords, valleys, lakes and mountain scenery; and it is our first port of call today. Within Fiordland we visit Doubtful Sound, the deepest of all the fiords, surrounded by towering peaks and huge waterfalls. We will board a purpose-built boat and enjoy complimentary afternoon tea while cruising past fur seals, penguins and dolphins. There are also sea kayaks available to explore the fiord. Includes breakfast and dinner
We depart Doubtful Sound around midday, leaving behind stunning Fiordland to head for the ‘adventure capital of the world’, Queenstown. Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge!) night out with a wide variety of excellent restaurants, pubs and live music around town. Includes breakfast
You have two free days in Queenstown to fully explore everything on offer. With so many fantastic activity options, it’s a great place to spend a couple days, no matter what your past-time of choice is. Why not start your first free day with the heart pounding adrenalin rush of one of Queenstown’s adventure activities? Options include: bungy jumping, zipline tours, canyoning, Shotover River jet boating, skiing and skydiving. Optional activities and meals not indicated are at your own expense. Includes breakfast
Make the most of your final free day doing any of the incredible activities still on your bucket list or simply spend the day further exploring this spectacularly scenic little town. If you haven’t already, we recommend riding the gondola or walking to the top of the hill for the best views of the town, lake and surrounding mountains. Optional activities and meals not indicated are at your own expense. Includes breakfast.
We’ll jump back on the bus for a short drive to Wanaka, where we’ll spend the morning cycling along some of the world’s most beautiful lakeside bike paths. After lunch, we head over the Lindis Pass through the picturesque Mackenzie region to the base of the country’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook. There is time for a hike through the Tasman Valley for breathtaking views of the dramatic mountain landscape or opt to take an alpine scenic flight (own expense). This is also one of the best places in New Zealand to join an evening stargazing tour. Includes breakfast and dinner
Today we make our way through a landscape made famous in the 'Lord of the Rings' films. We’ll take a break for a stroll around Lake Tekapo, iconic for its historic church and turquoise waters. Between Tekapo and Christchurch there is an option for thrill seekers to hop-off and join a top-notch Grade 5 white water adventure on the Rangitata River (own expense). Those not rafting will continue on to Christchurch, where your driver guide will point out the highlights of the South Island’s largest city. The rafters will rejoin the group at the accommodation in Christchurch this evening. Includes breakfast.
This morning's activity is determined by the weather and what the group wishes to do. The options are to spend the morning taking in the city sights and walking through the Garden City's renowned Botanic Gardens or drive out to the Banks Peninsula to discover the delights of Akaroa, New Zealand's only historic French settlement. Next, we head to the peaceful alpine town of Hanmer Springs, where you can spend the evening surrounded by mountains and forest as you relax in the thermal hot pools. Tonight is a group dinner. Includes dinner
We start today with an invigorating walk up Conical Hill for the best views in Hanmer Springs. Then, we’ll make our way east to the coastal village of Kaikoura, famous for a huge array of natural wonders from land to sea. We arrive in Kaikoura with plenty of free time to experience all this location has to offer. Why not go out on the water on one of Kaikoura’s 7 Valid: October 2020 – April 2021 famous dolphin and whale spotting tours (own expense), see seals sitting right beside the road at Goose Bay or wander around the peninsula and check out the breathtaking views from the lookout. Includes breakfast
Today we’ll travel north on a scenic drive along rugged coastal roads to Picton, where we catch the interisland ferry crossing over the Cook Strait back to Wellington. The evening in Wellington is free –we recommend heading out to discover some this funky town’s culinary delights at one of the top-notch restaurants along Cuba Street.
Today is an express day, via National Park back to New Zealand’s largest city Auckland. We stop along the way for photo opportunities and have lunch in National Park village, before heading back to Auckland for a late afternoon arrival. We hope you had a blast on your New Zealand journey! Includes breakfast
You'll stay in high quality backpacker accommodation in a variety of hostels, wilderness lodge, cabins and even overnight on a boat in the middle of Doubtful Sound!
Quad-share accommodation is included with your tour. You can choose to upgrade your accommodation to a single or twin/double private room (subject to availability).
- Single Room: +$1449
- Double/Twin Room: +$719 per person (can only be booked if you are travelling with a companion).
To request an accommodation upgrade, please email us before you book to check availability: [email protected]
At some destinations your private room will include an ensuite bathroom and some it won't.
The standard accommodation at Hahei and on the Doubtful Sound Cruise is quad-share and upgrades are limited. If available, you can upgrade on arrival and pay direct to the operator.
At Blue Duck Station the standard accommodation is six-share.
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.
Stray Journeys are small group tours designed to take you on a once-of-a-lifetime journey, with plenty of awesome stops along the way showing you the real New Zealand!
Some key details...
- Group Size: Small Group (Max 24, Avg 18)
- Physical Rating: Average - our tours include light hiking, biking and kayaking in addition to walking.
- Transport: Travel by private, air-conditioned minibus (14-24 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.
- Accommodation: Standard accommodation is quad-share. Upgrades may be available on request.
- Activities: Top-rated activities are included. If you want to do any additional activities, not specified in the itinerary, these can be booked via your guide, often at special Stray price.
- Meals: Meals are included in this tour. Any dietary requirements or allergies must be advised upon booking.
- Stray Journeys Travellers: Our travellers are from all over the world, they are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 22-35 years old. 70% of our travellers are travelling solo.
- Children: While not common, children aged between 7 - 17 are permitted to travel on this tour providing they are travelling with a parent or legal guardian and are booked to stay in a private room together. A 15% discount off these rates is available for children. Please email [email protected] to enquire about availability.
What to Bring:
Sturdy walking shoes/boots, swimming gear, hat and sunscreen, motion sickness tablets, water bottle, towel and toiletries, warm clothing and waterproof jacket, insect repellent, camera.
Luggage should be restricted to 15kg in a single bag or suitcase, plus a small day pack.
Every Sunday from Auckland between October and April
Pick up locations and times:
Waterloo Quadrant (10 Waterloo Quadrant) - 6.55am
70 Queen Street (by Bank of NZ) - 7am
YHA City (Go to corner of Queen St outside Bus Stop 7062) - 7.10am
YHA International - 7.10am
Base (Corner of Queen and Darby Street) - 7.20am
Sky Tower (Victoria Street) - 7.20am