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New Zealand round trip including Bay of Islands and Milford Sound – 25 days self guided

Auckland to Paihia

Rise and shine! It’s time to depart Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) bright and early to head north to Paihia. Along the way, you’ll make a quick stop at Warkworth for breakfast, and later on to marvel at the Whangārei Falls.

By midday, you’ll find yourself in the Bay of Islands, also known as the ‘Winterless North’ – a true paradise waiting to be explored. Home to 144 picturesque islands, the Bay of Islands is known for its pristine beaches and rich historical heritage. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Waitangi, Aotearoa New Zealand’s most historic location– the ‘Birthplace of the Nation.’

If water activities are your thing, this is the place for you! Set sail on a cruise to the renowned Hole in the Rock and discover the hidden treasures of the surrounding islands. Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse marine wildlife that calls this area home. If you prefer a more active approach, indulge in sailing, fishing, diving, or parasailing. Alternatively, simply unwind and bask in the sun-kissed glory of the beach.

 

Accommodation

  • Paihia Pacific Resort – Not included

 

Optional activities

  • Whangarei Falls (free)
  • Hole in the rock cruise (optional extra)
  • Parasailing (optional extra)
  • Bay of Islands Skydive (optional extra)
  • Horse Trek (optional extra)
  • Sailing (optional extra)

Paihia 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 will have you back in time to find some dinner in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) or hit the town.

Accommodation

  • LyLo – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Auckland Skytower
  • Auckland nightlife
  • Rangitoto Island
  • Mission Bay (free)

Auckland to Hot Water Beach

Say goodbye to Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) as you embark on a journey south-east to the pristine beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula.

This breathtaking coastal region offers an array of experiences, including the option to kayak along its stunning shores to the world-famous Cathedral Cove, and the chance to visit Hot Water Beach; a unique beach where you can create your own personal spa pool by digging a hole in the sand, benefiting from the naturally heated water if timed right.

Indulge in a Kiwi classic and grab some fish and chips for dinner and chill out with your new friends, or if you prefer a more relaxing evening, opt for a quiet night in to recharge your energy for the upcoming adventure-packed days (you’re going to need it!).

 

Accommodation

  • Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park – Not included

 

Optional activities

  • Hot Water Beach (free)
  • Cathedral Cove Kayaking (optional extra)

Hot Water Beach to Waitomo

Leaving the gorgeous Coromandel behind we’ll venture into the enchanting Karangahake Gorge nestled among the Kaimai Ranges, for a hike amongst the walkways and old mining tunnels.

Next, we’ll be heading over to Waitomo (‘wai’ meaning water, ‘tomo’ meaning hole) to visit the magical glow-worm caves. World-famous for their abundance of glow worms, extensive underground river system and stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations, a trip to the caves is a trip to another world.

However, Waitomo is more than caves and glowworms; it’s a cultural hub rich in Māori history, myths and legends. Some of the cave guides are descendants of Chief Tāne Tinorau, the original explorer of the caves. Upon our arrival, we’ll stop for a refreshing walk through the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve where you can see the Ruakuri Natural Tunnel, native forest and small caves.

For those feeling adventurous, this afternoon you will have the opportunity to experience a Black Water Rafting trip (optional extra). Brave the underground rapids as you raft in tubes, leap off waterfalls, and float beneath a dazzling sky of glow worms.

 

Accommodation

  • Waitomo Homestead Cabins – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Karangahake Gorge Walk (free)
  • Ruakuri Scenic Walk (free)
  • Waitomo Glowworm cave tour (optional extra)
  • Black Water Rafting – Labyrinth (optional extra)
  • Ruakuri Cave Tour (optional extra)

Waitomo to Rotorua

It’s time to bid farewell to the glowing little critters. For those who wish to live out their Lord of the Rings fantasies, we will stop off at the enchanting village of Hobbiton, where the magic of the movies come to life (optional extra).

Next, we’ll roll on through to Rotorua; a mystical land of bubbling mud pools, rocketing geysers and natural hot springs. You won’t get bored here, as there are plenty of optional activities to keep you busy.

 

Take your pick from exhilarating White Water Rafting, the thrilling experience of Zorbing (rolling downhill in a big inflatable ball – trust us, it’s worth it!), luging at the Rotorua Skyline, or explore the area’s unique geothermal activity and natural hot springs.

This evening you will have the chance to embrace our history and culture with a 3-hour experience at the Mitai Māori Village (optional extra). Witness captivating stories unfold, be enchanted by performers, and satisfy your hunger with a traditional Māori feast.

 

Accommodation

  • Rock Solid Backpackers – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Ruakuri Bushwalk (free)
  • Hobbiton (optional extra)
  • White Water Rafting (optional extra)
  • Mitai Māori Village evening experience (optional extra)
  • Zorb (optional extra)

Rotorua to Taupo

If you haven’t had a chance yet to explore the geothermal reserve of Te Puia, we will check it out this morning before heading onto Lake Taupō, taking a walk to the pounding Huka Falls (included) first.

In Taupō there is lots to do, just tell us what you’re in the mood for and we’ll get you there. The lake itself (actually an extinct volcano crater) is a sight to behold from the shoreline, but the more adventurous might want to take the opportunity to experience optional activities such as sailing across the lake on a yacht to the Māori rock carvings, or even get a birds-eye view by skydiving above it.

 

Accommodation

  • Based By The Lake – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Te Puia Geothermal wonderland (optional extra)
  • Huka Falls (free)
  • Skydive Taupo (optional extra)
  • Taupo Sailing Adventure (optional extra)
  • Tongariro Crossing hike (optional extra)

Free Day in Taupo

Taupō’s central location means it’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from other world-class activities which we give you the option to experience on this free day. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (extra activity); a dramatic landscape of stunning contrasts created by extinguished lava flows and emerald lakes, or chill out by the Lake and get some much-needed r&r.

 

Accommodation

  • Based By The Lake – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Tongariro Crossing shuttle bus (optional extra) Not available in winter (May-Oct)
  • Skydive Taupo (optional extra)

Taupo to Wellington

We head south around the “great lake” towards the Tongariro National Park for a two-hour walk through native bush and waterfalls. In the afternoon we travel to New Zealand’s capital city Wellington. This city is the undisputed capital of culture, the arts, restaurants, fashion, and nightlife. Here you can experience Mount Victoria (free), or get amongst the thriving craft beer scene and Wellington nightlife.

 

Accommodation

  • Nomads Backpackers – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Tongariro National Park
  • Mount Victoria lookout (free)
  • Te Papa Museum (free)
  • Cuba street nightlife (free)

Wellington to Abel Tasman

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, or see it all from above by jumping out of a plane!

 

Accommodation

  • Kaiteri Lodge – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Interislander ferry (included)
  • Kahu Kayaks (optional extra)
  • Abel Tasman skydive (optional extra)

Abel Tasman to Westport

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, so you can get your legendary wharf jumping shot before hitting surf town Westport.

 

Accommodation

  • Bazils Hostel and Surf School – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Nelson Lakes (free)
  • Surfing (optional extra)
  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding (optional extra)

Westport to Lake Mahinapua (seasonal location)

*Lake Mahinapua is a seasonal location from 9th January 2024 – 10th May 2024. When out of season the bus will travel directly from Westport to Franz Josef.

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.

Tonight you will be staying at the historic Mahinapua hotel, across the road from Lake Mahinapua and a short wander away from a rugged west coast beach. This location is unique to Kiwi Experience and gives you the chance to bond with your bus mates over a meal.

 

Accommodation

  • Lake Mahinapua Hotel – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Cape Foulwind Seal Colony walk (free)
  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks (free)

Lake Mahinapua to Franz Josef

This morning it’s a short drive 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.

 

Accommodation

  • Rainforest Retreat – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Franz Josef Glacier walk (free)
  • Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike (optional extra)
  • Franz Josef Wilderness Kayak tour (optional extra)
  • Franz Josef skydive (optional extra)

Free Day in Franz Josef

Today you have a free day in Franz Josef where you have the opportunity to experience the famous Franz Josef Glacier on a Heli Hike tour, or on foot (for free) by hitting up the many walking trails in the area. Explore the Franz Josef wilderness further on a kayak tour amidst the serene waters and breathtaking scenery of Lake Mapourika.

 

Accommodation

  • Rainforest Retreat – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Franz Josef Glacier walk (free)
  • Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike (optional extra)
  • Franz Josef Wilderness Kayak tour (optional extra)
  • Franz Josef skydive (optional extra)

Franz Josef to Queenstown

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.

After a stroll around Lake Wanaka to check out the famous Wanaka Tree, we arrive in Queenstown – the adventure capital of New Zealand! Head down to the spectacular waterfront before it’s out on the town exploring Queenstown’s infamous nightlife with all the crew!

 

Accommodation

  • Nomads Queenstown – not included

 

Optional activities

  • That Wanaka Tree (free)
  • Lake Matheson Lake Walk (free)
  • Kiwi Crawl (optional extra)

Free Day in Queenstown

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, and you’ll get at least three nights here to explore everything it has to offer! 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.

 

Accommodation

  • Nomads Queenstown – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Milford Explorer (included in some passes)
  • Shotover Jet (optional extra)
  • Nevis Bungy (optional extra)
  • Canyon Swing (optional extra)

Milford Sound Day Trip

Located within 1.2 million hectares of UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park and at the end of the spectacular Milford Road, Milford Sound Piopiotahi is Fiordland’s jewel in the crown.

Visiting Milford Sound is a must-do when visiting the South Island. The Milford Explorer departs Queenstown early, and the first stop for breakfast, coffee or just a snack is at the picturesque town of Te Anau, before getting to the Homer Tunnel, with plenty of Instagram-worthy photo stops along the way. Once we arrive in Milford, you will go on an unforgettable scenic boat cruise through the sound.

Beginning under the watchful eye of Rahotu / Mitre Peak, Milford Sound Piopiotahi runs 16 kilometres to the Tasman Sea. A treasure trove of ecological delights awaits within this steep, narrow, glacially carved valley. Discover dolphins, penguins and seals safe within the protection of the Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve. Explore the phenomenon known as deep-water emergence, where species usually found at great depths are just metres below the surface due to a constant layer of dark, cool freshwater blocking light to creatures below.

After your cruise, we return to Queenstown for the evening.

Queenstown to Lake Tekapo

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.

 

Accommodation

  • Lakefront Lodge Tekapo – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Lake Pukaki (free)
  • Church of the Good Shepherd (free)
  • Mount John walk (free)

Lake Tekapo to Christchruch

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, explore the street art, see the blooming botanical gardens, and learn about the history of a city that’s experienced so much in recent times.

 

Accommodation

  • Hotel Give – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Christchurch Botanic Gardens (Free)
  • Quake City
  • International Antarctic Centre

Christchurch to Kaikoura

Departing Christchurch, we arrive in Kaikoura in time for you to check out what it’s most famous for – whale watching or swimming with the dolphins. Spend the evening chilling on the beach or sampling some of the best seafood New Zealand offers for your dinner. The name Kaikoura means to eat crayfish (“kai” means to eat, “koura” means crayfish).

 

Accommodation

  • Dusky Lodge – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Kaikoura Viewpoint Walk (free)
  • Seal Colony (free)
  • Swim with Dolphins (optional extra)
  • Whale Watching (optional extra)

Kaikoura to Wellington

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 before arriving into the capital city in the evening.

 

Accommodation

  • Nomads Backpackers – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Seal colony (free)
  • Interislander Ferry
  • Cuba Street nightlife

Wellington til Taupo

With an early start from windy Wellington, we head north through Taihape, the gumboot capital of New Zealand and the Central Plateau, home of the Tongariro National Park. Then it’s through to Taupō, driving alongside New Zealand’s biggest lake. If the weather suits, it’s time to skydive.

 

Accommodation

  • Based by the Lake – not included

 

Optional activities

  • Taupō Skydive (optional extra)
  • Taupō Sailing Adventure (optional extra)

Taupo to Auckland (Via Rotorua)

Today we head for Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), via Rotorua*. Rotorua is renowned for its Maori heritage and thermal activity, jump off the bus here if you haven’t had a chance to explore it yet, or continue onwards through the rolling countryside to Auckland, also known as the ‘City of Sails’.

*Please note this bus is an express service to Auckland, but you can jump off the bus in Rotorua

 

Accommodation

  • LyLo Auckland (not included – book via the Trip Planner)

 

Optional activities

  • Auckland Skytower
  • Auckland nightlife
  • Walk up Mt Eden
  • Explore Mission Bay
  • Jump on a ferry to Rangitoto Island, or Waiheke Island

Embarking on the Kiwi Experience, every turn reveals an adventure waiting to unfold. Flexibility reigns supreme in this backpacker’s haven, offering the freedom to sculpt the journey according to whim and fancy. Whether it’s swapping routes last minute to chase a rumor of a breathtaking waterfall or lingering longer in a quaint town to soak in its local charm, spontaneity is the name of the game.

The open-ended passes of the Kiwi Experience allow for impromptu stops at hidden gems and unforeseen encounters with fellow travelers. One might find themselves sharing stories around a campfire under the starlit sky or joining a group for an exhilarating kayak expedition along the coastline. From adrenaline-pumping activities like bungee jumping in Queenstown to serene hikes through the lush landscapes of Abel Tasman National Park, the Kiwi Experience caters to every taste and inclination.

It’s not just a trip; it’s a canvas waiting for your unique strokes of exploration. The flexibility inherent in the Kiwi Experience fosters a sense of liberation, where the journey itself becomes as much a part of the adventure as the destinations. In this tapestry of discovery, each traveler’s narrative intertwines with the spontaneity of the road, creating memories that linger long after the journey’s end.

The Kiwi Experience in New Zealand offers backpackers unparalleled flexibility. With open-ended passes, travelers can customize their journey, from swapping routes to spontaneous stops. From adrenaline-fueled activities to serene hikes, it’s a canvas for personalized adventure, where every moment promises excitement and discovery.

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  • Minimum of 25 days of travel – start anywhere, finish anywhere
  • Milford Sound boat cruise
  • Flexible, easy, stress-free travel with like-minded travellers
  • Legendary local Driver Guides

  • Flights
  • Insurance
  • Meals not mentioned
  • Accommodation

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