See the best of New Zealand's North and South islands with this flexible bus pass. The Zephyr Pass takes you past New Zealand’s big highlights and up north to the stunning Bay of Islands. You'll get to see all of the iconic spots in New Zealand and so much more!
This is a flexible bus pass, meaning you can get on and off when you like! You start in Auckland and finish in Christchurch, and it takes a minimum of 20 days to travel the entire route. However, the pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel, so you can hop off for longer at the compulsory stops or even visit the non-compulsory stops in between. All you need to do is book your own accommodation for the extra nights and then call the reservations line to reschedule your next bus pick-up date. The pass is complete once you've travelled each section once.
The base itinerary for the Zephyr pass is: Auckland – Pahia (1 night) – Auckland (1 night) – The Coromandel (1 night) – Waitomo (1 night) – Rotorua (1 night) – Taupo (2 nights) – River Valley (1 night) – Wellington (1 night) – Able Tasman (1 night) – Westport (1 night) – Lake Mahinapua (1 night) – Franz Josef (2 nights) – Wanaka (1 night) – Queenstown (2 nights) – Lake Tekapo (1 night) – Christchurch (1 night). Of course, you can stay longer!
All the paid activities suggested in the itinerary are optional and can be booked on the day with your driver. There are quite a few free activities and attractions to enjoy as well!
Auckland – Paihia
Depart Auckland and begin the journey north. Stop at Whangarei Falls on your way before arriving in the Bay of Islands around midday. Check out the sights surrounding Paihia, including New Zealand's most historic location, Waitangi – the 'Birthplace of the Nation'. Northland is rich in history and Maori culture and with its crystal clear water, huge kauri forests, and plentiful islands to explore. Swim with the dolphins, ride out to the famous hole in the rock, go kayaking, sail, fish, dive, snorkelling, or just relax on the beach!
Paihia – Auckland
Today is your chance to squeeze in those activities you haven’t completed in Paihia 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 you'll be back in the city in time to find some dinner and hit the town.
Auckland – Hot Water Beach
Today we head towards the Coromandel Peninsula and spend the afternoon at Cathedral Cove. This stunning area is only accessible on foot or by kayak. This beautiful coastal spot is great for swimming,sea kayaking, and spotting dolphins if you’re lucky. Later, carry on to Hot Water Beach, which was rated one of the top ten beaches in the world by Lonely Planet. Head out with your shovel at low tide to dig your own hot pool in the sand.
Hot Water Beach – Waitomo
After an early start, hit the road to your first stop today, the Karangahake Scenic Reserve. Explore a native bush-clad gorge, swing bridges and a bit of New Zealand’s gold mining history. Next, it’s onto Waitomo, where you will get the chance to visit the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. If you're feeling adventurous, here is your chance to go underground and experience a trip with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Waitomo – Rotorua
Start the day with a walk through the Ruakuri Reserve and a breakfast stop at the Long Black Café. Then, it's onto Rotorua! Along the way, 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 a concert with Tamaki Maori Village. It's a night not to be missed!
Rotorua – Taupo
Taupo is 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!
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 this morning - if you're not doing the Tongariro Crossing, that is! Head off on this incredible hike, or experience one of the many other 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).
Taupo – 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.
River Valley – Wellington
New Zealand’s capital of cool is full of culture, cafes and cinema! We head away from River Valley late after a morning white water raft or horse ride and head through the rolling hills full of deer, cattle and sheep. 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).
Wellington – Picton – Abel Tasman
Take the Interislander ferry 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.
Abel Tasman – Westport
Spend the morning kayaking out to Split Apple Rock and along the golden bays near Kaiteriteri. Look out for the local marine wildlife as you go! Then, if you feel like using your legs, 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 you'll stop at the iconic Nelson Lakes, where you can get your legendary wharf jumping shot. Then, continue on to the surf town of Westport.
Westport – 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, which stretches 435 kilometres along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds through a diverse series of landscapes that never cease to amaze. Highlights today include the Cape Foulwind seal colony walk, rugged beaches, and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Tonight's unique accommodation is a chance to enjoy a delicious group meal and bond with your bus mates.
Lake Mahinapua – 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 and the Fiordland National Parks. 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.
Franz Josef (Extra Day)
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.
Franz Josef – 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.
Wanaka – Queenstown
Your destination today is the 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 it's on to the world’s first commercial bungee 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!
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.
Queenstown – 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 the 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.
Lake Tekapo to Christchurch
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.