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The Max Hop-On Hop-Off Pass

The Max Pass is the most popular hop-on hop-off travel pass of its kind

This is the trip stories are created from.  The Max Pass sacrifices a little time in Northland for more time in the South Island, giving you access to a whole lot of off-the beaten-track activities and accommodation options.  By far the most popular pass on the market, the route is designed as a loop so you can start wherever you’d like on the circuit, and finish where you started!

The attractions and activities are so extensive its hard to remember them all but you can definitely expect to stay at a wilderness lodges in the bush at one of New Zealands best West Coast surf beaches, Raglans, go caving and see glow-worms at Waitomo Caves. Have an immersive cultural experience in Rotorua – amongst steam mud pool and geothermal activity.  Some of the best white water rafting is available around the region too. Step back in time at Lake Aniwhenua, and enjoy the scenic wonder that is Tongariro National Park (the volcanoes, Mordor and Mt Doom, NZ’s best one day walk the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’). 

Stay at award-winning conservation stop Whakahoro for wilderness activities and enjoy the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park (walks, sailing and kayaking options in this stunning area).  Fall in love with the rugged Punakaiki and the West Coast of the South Island and enjoy a stop at Franz Josef to explore the glacier.

Base yourself from Queenstown, the adventure capital of NZ, if not the world, in order to discover the delights of the stunning Milford Sound and historic Gunn’s Camp.  Explore further south into remote regions within Southland  before heading back up the Central South Island and over to the East Coast (via Aoraki Mt Cook and the high country sheep station of Rangitata (one for the lord of the rings enthusiasts) to Kaikoura - made famous for its legendary Fish ‘n’ Chips and the opportunity to see whales and dolphins off the coast.

And to top it all off, you’ll have the very best Driver Guides who live to share their knowledge and make your trip as legendary as possible!

Booking Conditions

Age Restriction: 7

Fitness Requirement: Easy

What's included

  • Reserved Accommodation
  • Bus Transport
  • Experienced Driver Guide

What To Bring

  • Camera
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Swimwear/Towel
  • Light Rain Jacket
  • Water Bottle

Itinerary

Day 1 : Auckland to Hahei
Haere mai (welcome)! 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 (tide 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. Accommodation: Exclusive Stray accommodation by the waterfront Free activities: Visit Hot Water Beach for a natural beach spa (tide & weather dependent), walk to Cathedral Cove, explore old cultural sites or simply relax on the beach
Meals :None

Day 2 : Hahei
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. Accommodation: Exclusive Stray accommodation by the waterfront Optional paid activities: Kayaking, bike hire, guided boat tour. Free activities: Walk to Cathedral Cove, watch the sunrise on the beach, go snorkelling in the marine reserve, explore old cultural sites or simply relax on the beach
Meals :None

Day 3 : Hahei to Rotorua
We leave Hahei early travelling through to Paeroa, home of New Zealand’s oldest and largest soft drinks company – L&P, where we’ll stop for breakfast. Our drive today will take us through the Waikato region, known for its many dairy farms, rolling hills and the mighty Waikato River (the largest river in New Zealand). This afternoon you’ll have free time to explore the sights and smells of Rotorua. Accommodation: Comfortable central city hostel Optional paid activities: White-water rafting, zorbing, adrenaline fuelled adventure park (big swings, bungees and more) Free activities: Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest walk
Meals :None

Day 4 : Rotorua
Often labelled the adventure capital of the North Island, you have a full free day in Rotorua to discover an area rich in Maori heritage, adventure activities and bubbling geothermal wonders. There are plenty of exciting local activities to get the adrenaline pumping, such as whitewater rafting, ziplining through native bush, zorbing or a truly unique guided jet boat adventure up to bath in a hot waterfall. You can opt to visit the incredible Waitomo Caves, where you will wade, climb, abseil and tube through Waitomo’s magnificent limestone cave network lit up by millions of resident glowworms. The choice is yours! Accommodation: Comfortable central city hostel Optional paid activities: Waitomo caving trip, river jet tour, white water rafting, zip lining, zorbing, geothermal parks, luging, Maori village & performance experience
Meals :None

Day 5 : Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua
You can make this a real 10 out of 10 morning by signing up to a guided tour through the world famous Hobbiton Movie Set. Otherwise you can enjoy a relaxing morning before our journey ventures right off the beaten track into the remote area of Lake Aniwhenua - voted 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. Top-rated ‘Strademark’ experience includes: 1 night’s accommodation at the serene lakeside Kohutapu Lodge / 1 x traditional hangi dinner, dessert and a continental breakfast / Guided tour to sacred Maori rock carvings / Introduction to the Murupara area, its people, history and challenges / Participation in a local school program designed to inspire the next generation (participation available on school days only) This ‘Strademark’ overnight experience at Lake Aniwhenua is optional, but in our opinion, it’s an absolute must do! To skip this experience, you need to catch an Intercity bus from Rotorua to Taupo and then hop back on the Stray bus the next day in Taupo. Accommodation: Scenic lakefront lodge Free activities: Crater-lake walk at Rainbow Mountain, Kerosene creek
Meals :None

Day 6 : Lake Aniwhenua (via Taupo) to Blue Duck Station
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. Accommodation: Country station lodge Optional paid activities: Skydiving, bungy Free activities: Huka Falls, Spa Park walk, swim in naturally heated pools
Meals :None

Day 7 : Blue Duck Station
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! Accommodation: Country station lodge Optional paid activities: An eco-warrior 4WD tour, a half day horse trek, clay bird shooting, kayaking, jet boating, pest control Free activities: Walk around the amazing Blue Duck property and take in the lush scenery, walk to the Kaiwhakauka waterfall, enjoy your hosts’ fantastic hospitality and stories of the local wildlife and history
Meals :None

Day 8 : Blue Duck Station (via Tongariro) to Raetihi
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 hikes in New Zealand - 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 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 of 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. Accommodation: Historic restored lodge with mountain views Optional paid activities: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, shuttle to Ohakune township, mountain bike Old Coach Road or Fishers Track, hop-off to go skiing/snowboarding (winter only) Free activities: Taranaki Falls walk, visit the Volcanic Centre, Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s pool), pet the local farm animals, volunteer tree planting
Meals :None

Day 9 : Raetihi to Wellington
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 - we recommend wandering down Oriental Parade or viewing the excellent exhibits on display at Te Papa National Museum. Accommodation: Central city hostel Optional paid activities: Wellington Movie Tours, check out some of the great cafes and bars. Free activities: Walk Oriental Parade, head up Mt Victoria for fantastic views, visit Te Papa National Museum, gumboot (welly) throwing
Meals :None

Day 10 : Wellington to Marahau (Abel Tasman)
We catch an early Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island where you meet the Stray bus in Picton. Once on the bus, we’ll cruise through the world-famous Marlborough vineyard area and, depending on the groups 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 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. Accommodation: Unique Stray accommodation on the edge of the national park Optional paid activities: Wine tasting, skydiving Free activities: Walks, mussel tasting around the fire, stargazing
Meals :None

Day 11 : Marahau (Abel Tasman)
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. Accommodation: Unique Stray accommodation on the edge of the national park Optional paid activities: Full day sailing trip, kayaking, skydiving, water taxi, canyoning, hang gliding Free activities: Walk in the national park, relax on one of the golden sand beaches, go for a swim
Meals :None

Day 12 : Marahau (Abel Tasman) to Franz Josef
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 take a walk along the craggy cliffs at Cape Foulwind to view the seal colony before continuing further down the coast to the geographic wonder 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. Accommodation: Lodge in the middle of the rainforest Free activities: Buller Gorge, Cape Foulwind Seal Colony, Pancake Rocks and Blow holes, Hokitika greenstone store
Meals :None

Day 13 : Franz Josef
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. Accommodation: Lodge in the middle of the rainforest Optional paid activities: Glacier heli-hike (entry to hot pools included), kayaking, skydiving Free activities: Many excellent bush hikes (we recommend a guided one for safety), relax in one of NZ’s largest spa pools at your accommodation
Meals :None

Day 14 : Franz Josef (via Fox Glacier) to Wanaka
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. Accommodation: Central Wanaka hostel Free activities: Lake Matheson walk, Ship Creek walk, Blue Pools walk, Thunder Creek Falls walk, explore Wanaka
Meals :None

Day 15 : Wanaka to Queenstown
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. Accommodation: Central hostel close to all the action Optional paid activities: Puzzling World, skydiving, mountain biking, pilot your own stunt plane or learn to fly and take a friend for free, bungy jumping Free activities: Walk Mt Iron, watch people jumping off a bridge!
Meals :None

Day 16 : Queenstown
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 spend a day relaxing and enjoying the stunning scenery. Accommodation: Central hostel close to all the action Optional paid activities: Any adventure activity that we mad Kiwis can dream up (bungy, swing, jet boating, skydiving, mountain biking, zipline, horse riding…) Free activities: Fabulous walks, take in beautiful views from this cool resort town
Meals :None

Day 17 : Queenstown (via Milford Sound) to Gunn’s Camp
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. Accommodation: Historic camp in the heart of Fiordland National Park Optional paid activities: Milford Sound cruise (ask the driver about the special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo) Free activities: Stunning views, visit the historic museum or take in the incredible surroundings at Gunn’s Camp, Chasm walk
Meals :None

Day 18 : Gunn’s Camp to Invercargill/Stewart Island
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, Stewart 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. Accommodation: Stewart Island backpackers or central hostel in Invercargill Optional paid activities: Te Anau Wildlife Centre, catch the ferry to Stewart Island (ask the driver about the special Milford Sound + Stewart Island combo) Free activities: Humboldt Falls walk, Viewing Gantry walk
Meals :None

Day 19 : Invercargill/Stewart Island to Queenstown
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. Accommodation: Central hostel close to all the action Optional paid activities: Stewart Island: fishing, Village & Bays tour, a visit to Ulva Island. Invercargill: Go-karting, Demolition World Free activities: Stewart Island: explore the island and amazing birdlife Invercargill: Bluff Hill walk
Meals :None

Day 20 : Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
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). Accommodation: Stunning alpine lodge Optional paid activities: Argo tour of alpine region, visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Free activities: Take photos of awe-inspiring scenery, do one of the many great short walks to the Hooker glacial lake (weather dependent), stargazing
Meals :None

Day 21 : Mt Cook (via Tekapo) to Rangitata
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 Rangitata Peel Forest. Tonight, we’ll stay in one of Canterbury’s original sheep stations. Accommodation: One of Canterbury’s original sheep stations Optional paid activities: Tekapo Hot Springs, Ice skating (April-Sept), Snow tubing (June-Sept) Free activities: Visit Lake Tekapo, Mt John observatory walk, Rangitata forest walks
Meals :None

Day 22 : Rangitata to Christchurch
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. Accommodation: Comfortable, modern backpackers near the city centre Optional paid activities: White water rafting, horse trekking Free activities: Explore Christchurch by foot, check out the Cardboard Cathedral and inner-city street art
Meals :None

Day 23 : 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. Accommodation: Warm modern hostel Optional paid activities: Whale watching by boat or by plane, swimming with dolphins, guided fishing trip Free activities: Walk around the peninsula and up to the lookout
Meals :None

Day 24 : Kaikoura (via Picton) to Wellington
Leaving Kaikoura in the morning we wind our way up the rugged coastal roads towards the top of the South Island. For those that choose to hop off in the port town of Picton, check out the Queen Charlotte Sound view walk and take advantage of the free fishing gear and pushbikes at the Picton accommodation. Those heading to Wellington will catch the afternoon Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait (from Picton to Wellington). The evening in Wellington is free so why not explore this funky town’s nightlife at any of the bars and restaurants along Cuba Street. Accommodation: Central city hostel Free activities: Wellington: Explore the city’s nightlife, Picton: fishing, biking
Meals :None

Day 25 : Wellington (via Raetihi) to Auckland
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!
Meals :None

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Departs Auckland, pickups begin from 7:20am

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