Day 1: Auckland to Paihia (Bay of Islands)
Journey to the winterless north - home to 144 islands.
We arrive in the Bay of Islands around midday and check out the sights surrounding Paihia, including the historical location of Waitangi. Northland is rich in history and Maori culture and with its clear water, huge kauri forests, and plentiful islands to explore you will soon see why Kiwi Experience heads up north. Swim with the dolphins, ride out to the famous hole in the rock, or go kayaking, sailing, fishing, diving, snorkelling, or just relax on the beach!
Day 2: Paihia to Cape Reinga to Paihia
Don’t miss this awesome day trip to the very top of New Zealand.
Roll yourself out of bed and be prepared for an action packed day up to Cape Reinga. This area is sacred to the Maori people and the day trip to Cape Reinga is a must do. The day is full of walks and free activities. Drive along 90 Mile Beach, see huge kauri trees, body board down the gigantic sand dunes, view the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean clashing, gather shellfish on the beach, and experience one of New Zealand’s best fish ‘n’ chip shops!
Day 3: Paihia to Auckland
Squeeze in those activities you haven’t completed yet before heading back to Auckland
Departing mid-afternoon, you have the best part of the day to experience one of the many activities on offer in the Bay, or simply chill on the beach with a good book. The drive back to the “big smoke” is relaxed and we have you back in the city in time to find some dinner and hit the town.
Day 4: Auckland to Hot Water Beach
Spend the afternoon walking or kayaking to Cathedral Cove, and then soak in the natural springs at Hot Water Beach!
After visiting the Kiwi Experience office we head towards the Coromandel Peninsula and spend the afternoon at Cathedral Cove; accessible only on foot or by kayak. This beautiful coastal spot is great for swimming, sea kayaking, and spotting dolphins if you’re lucky. We then carry on to Hot Water Beach (rated one of the top ten beaches in the world by Lonely Planet) where you can head out with your shovel at low tide to dig your own hot pool in the sand.
Day 5: Hot Water Beach to Waitomo
Check out New Zealand’s gold mining history before travelling on to experience the glowworms, underwater caves and forest walks of Waitomo.
After an early start our first stop is the Karangahake Scenic Reserve to explore a native bush-clad gorge, swing bridges and a bit of New Zealand’s gold mining history. Next it’s onto Waitomo ('wai' meaning water, 'tomo' meaning hole) where you will get the chance to visit world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. If you're feeling adventurous, here is your chance to go underground and experience one of our top rated NZ activities with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Day 6: Waitomo to Rotorua
Last chance to explore Waitomo on the Ruakuri bush walk before heading to Rotorua, the Maori culture capital of New Zealand.
We start the day with a walk through the Ruakuri Reserve and a breakfast stop at the Long Black Café before heading off toward Rotorua. Along the way we will stop at The Shires Rest where you can jump off and take a tour through the enchanting Hobbiton Movie Set. Tonight don’t miss the chance to stay overnight at Tamaki Marae, where you can experience a traditional Maori hangi (feast) and concert with Tamaki Maori Village – a night not to be missed!
Day 7: Rotorua to Taupo
A popular backpacker destination, with New Zealand’s biggest lake and plenty to keep you occupied
The first activity of the day is exploring the geothermal reserve of Te Puia, with New Zealand’s largest geyser and a chance to see a real live Kiwi bird. The afternoon journey includes a stop off at Taupo’s famous Huka Falls. Taupo is rightly known as the adventure capital of the North Island with optional activities on offer such as skydiving, bungy jumping, jet boating, sailing and the spectacular Tongariro Crossing!
Day 8: Taupo (extra day)
We recommend staying an extra night in Taupo because there’s so much to do! If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Enjoy a sleep-in (for those not doing the Tongariro Crossing) and experience one of the many activities on offer. A walk down to Spa Park to relax in the natural hot springs by the river is a great way to spend the day (or night).
Day 9: Taupo to River Valley
Today we visit Tongariro National Park to enjoy some stunning free walks before arriving at River Valley Adventure Lodge later in the day
We head south around the “great lake” towards the Tongariro National Park for a picnic lunch and a two hour walk through native bush and waterfalls. In the afternoon we travel through to the ultimate adventure lodge - River Valley, situated amongst towering cliffs and bush-clad hills. The lodge offers grade five rafting on the Rangitikei River, scenic horse riding, and a small golf course. Spend the evening enjoying the delicious roast dinner and relaxing by the open fire.
Day 10: River Valley to Wellington
New Zealand’s capital of cool is full of culture, cafes and cinema!
We head away late after a morning white water raft or horse ride, and head throught the rolling hills full of deer, cattle and sheep. If you want a true rural experience jump off today and stay at a working NZ farm. We arrive in Wellington late in the afternoon. This city is the undisputed capital of culture, the arts, restaurants, fashion and nightlife. It’s home to the largest cultural attraction in New Zealand, Te Papa Museum, which is well worth a look (and it’s free).
Day 11: Wellington to Picton to Kaiteriteri
Travel across the stunning Cook Strait to the seaside town of Picton, then on to Kaiteriteri where the beautiful golden sand beach is on your doorstep.
We take the Interislander ferry across to the South Island through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. Travel through vineyards to Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city, then on to Kaiteriteri at the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. Kaiteriteri is a great spot to begin an adventure (on foot, by kayak or by water taxi) into Abel Tasman National Park.
Day 12: Kaiteriteri to Westport
Travel through snow-capped mountains and fantastic lakes on your journey towards the wild West Coast.
Spend the morning kayaking out to Split Apple Rock and along the golden bays near Kaiteriteri, looking out for the local marine wildlife; or catch a water taxi to one of the bays in the Abel Tasman National Park to go for a morning stroll in the native New Zealand forest. This afternoon we stop at the iconic Nelson Lakes on the way to Westport so you can get your legendary wharf jumping shot before hitting surf town Westport. .
Day 13: Westport to Lake Mahinapua
Explore the rugged West Coast of NZ, see the Pancake Rocks and spend the night in a traditional West Coast pub!
Today we start our journey down spectacular State Highway 6, that stretches 435 kilometres along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds through a diverse series of landscapes which never cease to amaze. Highlights today include the Cape Foulwind seal colony walk, rugged beaches, and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Tonights unique accommodation is a chance to enjoy a delicious group meal and bond with your bus mates.
Day 14: Lake Mahinapua to Franz Josef
Continue along the beautiful West Coast of New Zealand through forests and past the towering Southern Alps to glacier country.
After breakfast at Lake Mahinapua we hit the road on our way to Franz Josef. Franz Josef is the northern gateway to Te Wahipounamu, the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage area. The region includes Aoraki/Mount Cook, Westland Tai Poutini, Mount Aspiring, the Fiordland National Parks, and surrounding conservation lands. We factor in a free day in Franz Josef so that you can get out there and experience what Franz Josef has to offer. It’s a wicked spot and whatever you get out and do, you will be blown away by the views of the glacier and Alps.
Day 15: Franz Josef (extra day)
We recommend staying an extra night in Franz Josef because there’s so much to do there. If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Today is your chance to hike on Franz Josef Glacier, rated as one of the top three activities in New Zealand by Kiwi Experience passengers. You could also enjoy a scenic heli-flight over the glacier, go horseback riding, kayaking or explore the various walks in the area.
Day 16: Franz Josef to Wanaka
Journey to the magical Southern Lakes region to take the time to chill by beautiful Lake Wanaka.
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson. We then cruise down the last stretch of Highway 6, stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then it’s into Mount Aspiring National Park, arriving in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka in the afternoon.
Day 17: Wanaka to Queenstown
Adventure capital of New Zealand…and the world! What more do we need to say!
Before we leave Wanaka get your brain working at Puzzling World and then its on to the world’s first commercial bungy site - the Kawarau Bridge. Only the brave will sign themselves up for this iconic NZ activity. On arrival in Queenstown we will head down to the spectacular waterfront before it’s out on the town exploring Queenstown’s infamous nightlife with all the crew!
Day 18: Queenstown (extra day)
We recommend staying an extra night in Queenstown because there’s so much to do there. If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Queenstown is one of the most amazing places on Earth. No matter what time of the year it is rated as one of our passenger’s favourite spots. Take the time to spend a few days here as it is one of the most picturesque places in the world. Make the most of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. If there was one activity that you couldn’t miss it would be the day trip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as The Eighth Wonder of the World.
Day 19: Queenstown to Dunedin
We head towards the east coast via the massive Clyde Hydro Dam and the Central Otago fruit growing basin. Dunedin is famous for its student activity, being home to 20,000 plus students at Otago University, the city is also well known for its Scottish heritage. On arrival we do a city tour including a visit to Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street and in the evening there is an option to visit another icon of Dunedin, the Speights Brewery with one of their tours and tastings!
Day 20: Dunedin to Invercargill
The Catlins is probably as far south as you may ever go. Travel through awesome native forest, sandy beaches and see rare wildlife. The might of the New Zealand sea-lion (New Zealand’s largest native mammal) is a real highlight as are the many short walks to the Catlins natural attractions, which includes a 180 million year-old fossilised forest (where you are also likely to see Yellow-eyed penguins returning from a hard days fishing). The night is spent in Invercargill, home of the world’s fastest Indian and Henry the tuatara!
Here you have the choice to hop over to Stewart Island – it’s definitely worth the visit, an island paradise with a kiwi (bird) population 100 times that of the kiwi (human) one.
Day 21: Invercargill to Milford Sound to Queenstown
Travel through to Milford Sound checking out the most amazing scenery in New Zealand along the way. The day includes a 1 hour 45min boat cruise through the sound exploring soaring peaks, towering waterfalls and New Zealand nature at its best. See the Homer Tunnel, gigantic waterfalls and amazing fiords. See the Homer Tunnel, gigantic waterfalls and amazing fiords. If you have the time jump off in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and home to a stunning lake, and/or in Milford Sound to spend a night or two. Provided the weather and bank balance permits you have the option of flying back to Queenstown, otherwise the Kiwi Experience bus will take you back to the adventure capital.
Day 22: Queenstown to Lake Tekapo
Discover the untouched beauty and crystal clear skies in the world's largest dark sky reserve.
We head out of Queenstown, through the Lindis Pass, so get your cameras ready because this is ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory. After stopping to admire Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki, we travel to Lake Tekapo with its amazing location by snow-capped alps and clear starry skies. Lake Tekapo has something for everyone - relaxing at the lakeside and taking in the untouched view, soaking in the hot springs, discovering one of the many scenic walkways or checking out the mind-boggling stars in what is the world’s largest dark sky reserve.
Day 23: Lake Tekapo to Christchurch
A day of contrasts from snowy peaks to fertile plains home to the Garden City.
We have a straight run into Christchurch, our largest city in the South Island and the 3rd largest in New Zealand. Witness a city rebuilding and flourishing in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes. Check out the funky Re:Start Mall and keep your eyes peeled for the sweet pop-up bars around the city.
Day 24: Christchurch to Kaikoura
Kaikoura is known as one of the best coastal wildlife regions in the world - whales, dolphins and seals!
Departing Christchurch bright and early, we arrive in Kaikoura in time for you to check out what Kaikoura is most famous for – its whale watching, or swimming with the dolphins. Spend the evening chilling on the beach or sampling some of the best seafood New Zealand has to offer for your dinner. In fact, the name Kaikoura means to eat crayfish (“kai” meaning to eat, “koura” meaning crayfish).
Day 25: Kaikoura to Wellington (via Picton)
Check out seal colonies and drive along the amazing Kaikoura coastline
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive and we stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks. We make our way to the Picton ferry terminal in time to catch the afternoon sailing to the North Island. Say farewell to the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) and we’re on our way! The ferry ride takes a few hours so chill out and enjoy the view of the amazing Marlborough Sounds!
Day 26: Wellington to Taupo
The drive today has beautiful rivers and lakes as well as Lord of the Rings landscapes!
With an early start from windy Wellington we head north and pass through Taihape, where we drop off and pick up people for River Valley Adventure Lodge. Departing Taihape - the gumboot capital of NZ - we head to the Central Plateau, home of the Tongariro National Park. Then it’s through to Taupo driving alongside New Zealands biggest lake. If the weather suits, it’s time to skydive!
Day 27: Taupo to Auckland (via Rotorua)
Hop-off in Rotorua, or head onwards to the ‘City of Sails’.
This morning we head north to Rotorua, renowned for its Maori heritage and thermal activity. After dropping off passengers in Rotorua who are spending a night or two here, we stop at Kiwi Encounter, where you can get up close and personal with our national icon – the Kiwi bird. Next, we make our way to Matamata (aka Hobbiton). You can jump off here if you’re a Lord of the Rings nut. Then it’s onwards through the rolling countryside to Auckland, otherwise known as the ‘City of Sails’. We call into the Kiwi Experience office for a chance to purchase merchandise, confirm future bookings or extend your trip even further!