Kiwi Experience 'Backyard' Bus Pass – 21 Days

Travel from Auckland to Christchurch on a hop on hop off tour, with stops at Franz Josef and Rotorua along the way!
Auckland, New Zealand
21 days
Minimum Age
Minimum Age
18 years
Not Included
Start & End Location
Start & End Location
Auckland - Christchurch
What's Included

  • Get up to $90 cash back per person when you book with us
  • Bus pass from Auckland to Christchurch, with the ability to hop on & hop off where you like along the route
  • A minimum of 21 days travel time to complete all sections of the itinerary, however you can take longer
  • Flexible travel around New Zealand, with 12 months to complete your journey once you start
  • Unforgettable boat cruise along the Milford Sound, exploring soaring peaks & towering waterfalls 
  • Best price guarantee on activities in each compulsory stop – just chat with your driver for the hook-up (the price of activities is not included)
  • Accommodation guaranteed at the Operator's preferred hostel/hotel each overnight stop booked on the day with your driver (the price of accommodation is not included)
  • Knowledgeable local guide & driver, who has all in the inside tips for the best photo stops, activities, restaurants & accommodation
What's excluded

  • Accommodation costs
  • Meals
  • Activities
  • Interislander ferry ticket
Why do we love this

We love the flexible nature of this tour. You can choose exactly when and where you want to hop off and explore!

What to Expect

Check out New Zealand's best bits, travelling on this comprehensive hop on hop off tour from Auckland to Christchurch. Visit the Bay of IslandsCape Reinga and Milford Sound. Even explore Franz Josef and Rotorua in between! 


The Back Yard pass takes a minimum of 21 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 this tour is: Auckland – Pahia (2 nights) – 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 – Cape Reinga – Paihia


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 and bodyboard down the gigantic sand dunes! Then, take some time out to 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. Yum!


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


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


Today you'll head from geothermal Rotorua to Taupo, home to New Zealand’s biggest lake. There's plenty to keep you occupied! In Rotorua, spend the morning exploring the geothermal reserve of Te Puia. Here you'll see New Zealand’s largest geyser and 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, head south around the “great lake” towards the Tongariro National Park. Enjoy a picnic lunch and a two-hour walk through native bush and waterfalls. In the afternoon, 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


Head out of River Valley after a morning white water raft or horse ride. Travel through the rolling hills full of deer, cattle and sheep. You'll 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). There's so much to explore here!


Wellington – Picton – Abel Tasman


Take the Interislander ferry across to the South Island through the magnificent MarlboroughSounds. 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


Today you'll start the journey down spectacular State Highway 6, a route that 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


After breakfast at Lake Mahinapua, hit the road toward Franz Josef. Franz Josef is the northern gateway to Te Wahipounamu, the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, including Aoraki/Mount Cook, Westland Tai Poutini, Mount Aspiring, the Fiordland National Parks, and surrounding conservation lands. You'll need a free day in Franz Josef so that you can really get out there and experience what the area has to offer.


Franz Josef (Extra Day)


Today is your chance to hike on Franz Josef Glacier, rated as one of our passengers' top three activities in New Zealand. You can also enjoy a scenic heli-flight over the glacier, go horseback riding, kayaking or explore the various walks in the area. 


Franz Josef – Wanaka


Start out early to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson. Then, cruise down the last stretch of Highway 6, stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then, in the afternoon, it's onto Mount Aspiring National Park. Your final stop is the awe-inspiring Wanaka.


Wanaka – Queenstown


Before leaving Wanaka, get your brain working at Puzzling World! Then, it's onto the world’s first commercial Bungy site - the Kawarau Bridge. Only the brave will sign themselves up for this iconic NZ activity. Later, on arrival in Queenstown, head down to the spectacular waterfront before you go out on the town. Queenstown has some infamous nightlife just waiting to be discovered. 


Queenstown (Extra day) 


We recommend staying an extra night in Queenstown because there’s so much to do there. However, 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, there are tons to see and do. 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 adrenaline-pumping activities.


Milford Sound Day Trip


You can't miss the day trip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as The Eighth Wonder of the World. It's a New Zealand must see! You'll board the Milford Explorer early and make a stop for breakfast, coffee, or just a snack is at the picturesque town of Te Anau. Before getting to the Homer Tunnel, there's plenty of photo stops at places like Mirror Lakes and the Chasm. Once at Milford, you'll embark on an unforgettable scenic boat cruise through the Sound, exploring soaring peaks and towering waterfalls. This is a chance to see New Zealand’s scenery and nature at its best. After the cruise, it’s back on the bus for your journey back to the adventure capital.


Queenstown – Lake Tekapo


Head out of Queenstown through the Lindis Pass. Get your cameras ready because this isLord of the Rings territory. After stopping to admire Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki, travel to Lake Tekapo with its amazing location by snow-capped alps and clear starry skies. Lake Tekapo has something for everyone. Relax at the lakeside and take in the untouched view, soak in the hot springs or take a wander and discover one of the many scenic walkways. Tonight, spend some time checking out the mind-boggling stars in what is the world’s largest dark sky reserve.


Lake Tekapo – Christchurch


It's a straight run into Christchurch today, the largest city in the South Island. As you zoom around, you'll 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. Tonight, wave goodbye to your new travel mates.


Where we Visit:

  • Auckland 
  • Paihia
  • Cape Reinga 
  • Hot Water Beach
  • Waitomo
  • Rotorua
  • Taupo
  • River Valley
  • Wellington
  • Picton 
  • Abel Tasman
  • Westport 
  • Lake Mahinapua 
  • Franz Josef
  • Wanaka
  • Queenstown
  • Milford Sound
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Christchurch
Frequently Asked Questions

Kiwi Experience pass allows you to hop-on and off our route wherever you like for as long as you like. This means instead of purchasing a bus pass to travel from point A to point B and once getting to point B you stop; you will be purchasing a pass that you have 12 months to travel on, so make the most of this and come for longer than the 'minimum travel time' time on our passes. 


In fact, we encourage you to jump off the bus to explore more of New Zealand! Try out one of New Zealand's Great Walks, chill out on a beach for a couple of days, stop for a few months if you have a working holiday visa or try out woofing in one of the many locations around the country.


Just a small reminder, when you are jumping on and off the bus for longer than the 'minimum' time, you do need to get in contact with us via email or phone so we can get you booked on another bus or cancel a bus you may be booked onto. 

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No, all your accommodation costs are additional to your bus pass.


But once you’re on the bus, you have guaranteed accommodation for the first night stay in each new location along your bus pass itinerary. In some locations the bus stays two or three nights, your accommodation will be guaranteed on these nights too. If you choose to hop off the bus and stay longer in a location, your driver can book your extra nights for you. You don’t need to book in advance, your driver-guide will take care of this for you each day on the bus so you can travel as flexibly as you like. 

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Every day that you are travelling on the bus, we will guarantee you a bed for your first night stay at each overnight stop. In some locations, the bus stays 2 or 3 consecutive nights (such as Taupo, Franz Josef and Queenstown) so we guarantee these nights too. In peak season when accommodation can be hard to come by, your driver-guide will take care of all bookings for you as you go. If you are planning to stay somewhere longer than the minimum travel time, we recommend you contact the hostel we stay at in advance and secure those extra nights. All accommodation costs are additional to your bus pass.

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    No, but we have great rates!


    We have lots of mates, so as soon as you’re onboard the bus, you will get the best price guarantee on all activities along the route. Your driver-guide will book your activities for you on the bus each day so you can decide what tickles your fancy in each location. At the peak of summer, New Zealand activities are hugely popular and we promise you a spot in the line!

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    No need to book activities in advance, it can all be done on the bus with your Driver Guide. As part of your bus pass, we’ll take you directly to New Zealand’s top tourism and adventure activities i.e. Skydiving, bungy jumping, kayaking, great walks.


    Like accommodation, this can all be booked through your driver-guide and your bus pass entitles you to some fantastic activity discounts along the way. Due to our size, we’re also looked after by heaps of great activity providers, who make sure there are always spots for Kiwi Experience passengers, even when it’s busy.


    Download our app from the app store on your device to check out which activities you can book with your driver, how much they cost and more information about the activity. This way you can start planning how best to spend your hard-earned money now!

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    No, but loads of the places we stop at including hostels have excellent meal deals & cheap drinks!

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    In a nutshell... Minimum time stands for the shortest time you can get from your starting point to the last destination. 


    Our minimum travel times include spending an extra night (so 2 nights total) in Taupo, Franz Josef and Queenstown because they’re so awesome, one night just isn't enough. If you’re on a deadline and you need to make it to your destination faster you can sometimes miss these extra days out but this is timetable dependent. You may have trouble skipping these places in the low season (Wintertime) as we do not run as many services. 

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    12 months to begin, 12 months to travel!

    Once you’ve purchased your Kiwi Experience bus pass you have 12 months to begin your travel, and then once you start you have 12 months to complete it. 

    You will notice that each pass has a minimum travel time. This is the fastest possible time you can complete the pass. We highly recommend you spend longer than this, at least adding on a week or two to the 'minimum' time stated on your pass. 


    Each section of a pass can only be travelled once. There are 2 exceptions to this rule: 

    • The Kea and Tui passes travel Christchurch to Kaikoura twice
    • If you start in Christchurch and travel the South Island before going up to the North Island on your Start Anywhere, National Pass. You can do the Christchurch - Kaikoura - Picton bit twice. Please note this does add on an extra two days to your pass.
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    Also known as hop-on hop-off, flexible travel means there is no set-in-stone itinerary. If you want to hop off for a few days in a certain destination, simply hop off, then hop back on when you want! Basically, it allows you to personalise your trip to suit you and spend as much time as you want in each destination. 

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    Decide the date you want to hop back on, whether it be the following day or in a months time and then either call or email the reservations team. We need at least 24 hours notice to book you onto the bus, however the more notice the better the chance you get a confirmed seat.


    Make sure to check out our current timetable, to see if there is a bus running on the day you want to leave.

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    You can hop off anywhere along the route. But if there is somewhere we don't go let us know and we can give you some advice on how to get there. 


    When you do decide to hop off the bus- you do need to let us know so we can help you book your next journey! 

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    If you hadn't already noticed, New Zealand is split into two Islands. So how do we get you from one island to the other?


    Well, that's easy, we take the Interislander, across the Cook Strait, to the other side! The very scenic ferry ride takes us roughly 3.5 hours to reach Picton travelling from Wellington or vice versa. 


    Is it included?


    This is not induced in your Kiwi Experience ticket, but will only cost you NZ$55 per person, per way. However it is really simple to book, just like activities and accommodation, your Driver Guide will book this for you. Your driver will ask you either on the day you travel Taupo to River Valley (on the North Island) or Christchurch to Kaikoura (on the South Island) if you would like to grab a ferry ticket. If you do great, grab $55 cash - exact change is preferable - hand it over to your driver and he/she will stamp your Kiwi Experience ticket with a South/North Island ferry ticket.

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    Terms & Conditions:

    • You must start this pass in Auckland and finish in Christchurch
    • Luggage is limited to one piece at 23 kilograms. For additional luggage, charges may apply
    • Kiwi Experience has preferred agreements with accommodation providers however we cannot always guarantee your first choice of accommodation
    • Travel using the Travel Pass must commence within 12 months of the date of purchase unless otherwise stated. Travel Passes are valid for 12 months from the first date of travel, or until you have travelled once over all sections of the Travel Pass, whichever occurs first

    Please note that the bookings for this tour are processed manually so there might be a slight delay in confirmation from the tour operator.

    Cancellation Policy:

    • Cancellation policy for Travel Passes: In the event you have purchased a Travel Pass and subsequently wish to cancel it, Kiwi Experience may refund your Travel Pass at its sole discretion, in which event you will be required to pay a cancellation fee as follows:
      a. where the purchase price of the Travel Pass is less than NZD$200, the cancellation fee shall be equivalent to the price paid for the Travel Pass 
      b. where the purchase price of the Travel Pass is greater than NZD$200, the cancellation fee is NZD$200 ($166AUD). No Travel Pass may be cancelled following the first date of travel.
    • Travel reservations are recommended on Kiwi Experience services and should be made at least 5 days before departure to give you the best chance of a seat in the summer period (1 January to 30 April), and 2 days before departure to ensure a seat at other times. Changes to reservations must be made at least 24 hours prior to departure. All reservations and changes must be made by contacting our reservations department: 
    • No Shows: Should you fail to show for any booked and confirmed departure your Travel Pass will become invalid unless and until a NZD$50 fee is paid to reinstate the Travel Pass.

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