I recently experienced the most epic road trip in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand with Stray.
I travelled the South Island for three weeks, exploring so many new places off the beaten path, doing Kiwi-typical adrenalin pumping activities and making new Straymates from all over the world – I had the best time!
Check out my video to see a snippet of my trip:
Who are Stray & why did I choose them?
I returned to New Zealand recently after living overseas for a few years and wished to travel the South Island properly as I hadn’t done so since I was young.
Researching, I came across Stray – New Zealand’s award-winning, guided hop-on-hop-off bus network for adventurous travellers.
This sounded right up my alley as I enjoy group tours, and they take you further off the beaten track to so many incredible lesser-known places, as well as hitting the most popular attractions and highlights.
They have hand-picked the best road trip routes, unique accommodation places and memorable activities to do.
All I had to do was sit back, relax and enjoy the journey!
Which Bus Pass to take?
Stray’s hop-on, hop-off bus route runs in a loop showcasing the best of both islands.
They offer many different types of bus passes, depending on where you wish to travel to in New Zealand and how much time you have.
The passes are flexible and you can hop-on and hop-off wherever you like.
On your bus, you will have a super friendly Driver Guide full of local knowledge who can help you book accommodation and activities as you go.
The ultimate Stray pass is the Maximus Pass – covering both islands in full so you’ll get to see it all!
The Ron Pass – the one I did
I was thrilled to explore so many places, including the Deep South where I had never been.
I had never even met a single person that had been to Stewart Island before!
It was a real adventure.
That evening we had a social dinner and our awesome driver Bobby cooked us all a mean burger feast at our accommodation at Abel Tasman – which was located right on the very edge of the National Park.
This morning, after a stunning pink sunrise we headed to our next destination, Westport. After a few hours on the bus, we arrived on the West Coast, known for its wild and untamed beauty. We were dropped off at Tauranga Bay where we got to stretch our legs for a nice one-hour hike along the scenic coastline. We passed by a local seal colony and ended at the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse.
We had another stop in Greymouth where we picked up some more Strayers before ending in Franz Josef. Those of us opting for the Glacier Heli-Hike (me, me, me!) got all booked in at the base for the next morning.
That evening at our awesome accommodation we had a fun pizza night with all you can eat woodfired pizza and a house drink for only $20 – choice!
I spent my time doing some picturesque hikes in the area, eating nice food at the local cafes and catching up on work.
Day 9 – 10: Franz Josef
Read More: Franz Josef Travel Guide
Arriving in Wanaka, the first thing I did was take a photo (or twenty) of #thatwanakatree – the most Instagrammed tree in the world. Wanaka is an absolutely stunning town, next time I would definitely stay for longer and do the Roy’s Peak hike.
|The Southern Swine Fergburger|
Read more: Stray’s Queenstown Guide
That evening our accommodation was off the grid at historic Gunn’s Camp. We had no wifi or signal and the electricity generator shut off at 10 pm. I really enjoyed being offline for once and everyone hung out together and just chatted like the old days! Later on, we went out to search for glowworms and gaze at the stars – I had never seen the Milky Way so clear and bright before in my life!
We had dinner and a couple of pints at the one and only pub. Some friendly locals gave us some temporary tattoos that said ‘I love Stewart Island’ which we gladly sported.
Later on, we went out to try and spot some kiwis. We were unsuccessful but apparently, it is one of the best places to see them in the wild.
Stewart Island blew me away and wasn’t at all what I expected. It was like stepping back in time and a total paradise – I loved it! We caught the ferry back at 3 pm and drove back to Queenstown for the night.
At Mount Cook, most of us did the Hooker Valley track – one of the best day-walks to do there. It’s a three-hour return hike amongst the beautiful landscape of the Southern Alps, across swing bridges, milky-blue alpine streams and ending with views of Mueller Glacier. On a clear day, you can see Mount Cook but it was clouded over for us. It was still probably the best hike I’ve ever done in my life.
We had one last photo stop by the lake and the Church of the Good Shepherd before expressing it to Christchurch. I hopped off the Stray bus for the final time and made my way to the airport, sad to say goodbye to my new friends, but full of new experiences, incredible memories and about a thousand photos on my camera!
Stray is a super affordable way to travel around New Zealand.
Hostels in New Zealand typically cost between $27 – $35 a night. You have the flexibility to choose what suits your budget and pay as you go. You can book your accommodation daily via your Driver, often at a discounted price.
Food costs will depend on the person. New Zealand is known for being a bit pricey but you can eat quite cheaply if you cook your own meals. The Stray bus regularly stops at local supermarkets so you can get your own fresh supplies at a lower cost.
Activities can range from $60 – $400+ depending on what it is so it’s definitely worth preplanning and budgeting for the ones you really wish to do. Stray also offers many of these activities at a discounted price which is awesome!
All of your Stray transport is included on their private and comfortable buses.
Driver Guides are your bus driver and tour guide all in one, each of them are super friendly, helpful and great sources of local knowledge.
Reserved accommodation is available for you even in the busiest summer months – you are always guaranteed a bed!
I loved kicking back and relaxing on the Stray bus, you get to enjoy the best views! All of the vehicles I hopped on were clean and comfy and the larger buses have USB ports to charge your phone. The Driver Guides have microphones so you can easily hear them talking and music is played regularly on the journeys.
I was generally very impressed by the places we stayed at. Each hostel was clean and always in the perfect location, only a short walk away from grocery stores and nearby attractions.
My favourites were located at Franz Josef (which had a spa pool!), Gunns Camp and Mount Cook.
On my bus, our group was typically aged between early twenties to early thirties.
I met so many awesome people from all over the world including Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Sweden, Wales, The Netherlands, USA, even Egypt.
So many people, like myself, were travelling solo, so it’s such a fantastic way to make new friends. Strayers will soon become your Straymates, there’s no doubt about that!
To avoid most of the crowds, travel in spring, autumn and even winter! The South Island, in particular, is insanely beautiful in the winter as it snows in many places – but you’re right in thinking it will be very cold!
I had such a fantastic experience with Stray from start to finish. We went to so many unique and beautiful places and I was very impressed by how organised and seamless my tour was run, even with multiple people hopping on and off at different places all the time.
Longer travel days are always broken up with well-thought-out stops, including countless photo opportunities, places where you can go for little hikes, have lunch or do a grocery shop.
The drivers I had were all hilarious, super friendly and easygoing, and had a wealth of knowledge to share.
The ever-changing landscape of New Zealand is just incredible; even if you drive for half a day it is never boring because the views out of the windows are stunning. Multiple shades of green, snow-peaked mountains, rolling hills – it all looks straight out of a movie.
If you are thinking about doing Stray, 100% go for it! It’s the ultimate road trip where you don’t have to worry about planning routes, researching where to go, where to stay and what to do.
It’s all taken care of for you and all you have to do is turn up with a heart of adventure. It is a truly enjoyable way to travel the South Island and it will be just the same for the North.
I have never done so many beautiful hikes or super fun activities in my life, all packed into three weeks. I can’t wait to use my pass again in summer!
|Pin it! 🙂|
Stray Australia and Stray Asia
Did you know Stray is Asia Pacific’s largest hop-on hop-off adventure travel operator?
With the same flexible and off the beaten track bus routes in Australia and Asia – your adventure doesn’t have to stop in New Zealand!
From Sydney to Cairns, Stray Australia offers various passes running north and south along their spectacular East Coast.
Stray Asia‘s guided network spans Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, offering access into remote and interesting parts of Asia that are otherwise hard to access.
If you’re looking for a fun way to travel with total flexibility over your day-to-day itinerary, be shown extraordinary places and meet great people, then Stray is the best choice!