- 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 18 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
- 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
Where we Visit:
- Hot Water Beach
- River Valley
- Abel Tasman
- Lake Mahinapua
- Franz Josef
- Lake Tekapo
- Accommodation cost
- Interislander ferry ticket
Why Do We Love This
"We love Kiwi Experience because they have over 25 years of experience in the industry - these guys know what they're doing! They're also the country’s largest, leading, most legendary bus experience and probably the best way to see New Zealand!"
What to Expect
This is a flexible travel pass around New Zealand. The Sheep Dog is a one-way pass starting in Auckland winding its way down the North Island, cruising down the West Coast of the South Island before making its way across to Christchurch. Being a one-way pass, this route has a minimum travel time of just 17 days, which is great if you are short on time but want a jam-packed adventure! However, the pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel, so you can really take your time seeing all that New Zealand has to offer. 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 – 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 – Hot Water Beach
Departing Auckland in the morning, head to the Coromandel Peninsula for an afternoon spent at the beautiful Cathedral Cove. Here you can go for a swim, try kayaking or just chill out on the beach (keep a lookout for dolphins!). Next up is Hot Water Beach, one of the top ten beaches in the world (according to Lonely Planet), here you'll grab a spade and dig your own natural hot tubs.
Hot Water Beach – Waitomo
We'll hit the road bright and early, towards our first stop of the day, Karanga Hake Scenic Reserve. Explore abandoned gold mines and learn about New Zealand's gold mining history. After which, it's on to Waitomo ("wai" meaning water and "tomo" meaning hole), home of the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Feeling brave? Then head underground with the adrenaline-fuelled Black Water Rafting company! Leap off waterfalls, swim through caves and discover what makes these little glowworms so special.
Waitomo – Rotorua
Start the day with a scenic walk through Ruakuri Reserve (one of the top 10 short walks in New Zealand) before heading onto Rotorua. Along the way, the bus makes a pit stop at The Shire so you can explore the magical Hobbiton Movie Set, not just one for the Lord of the Rings fans! That evening you will visit Tamaki Marae for a unique Maori cultural experience. Feast on a delicious hangi (food cooked underground) and enjoy a traditional performance from the locals at Tamaki Maori Village. Alternatively, you can visit Hells Gate and soak in the geothermal hot pools.
Rotorua – Taupo
Today, explore the geothermal reserve of Te Puia, home to New Zealand's largest geyser and native Kiwi bird. On the road again, make a pit stop at Taupo's mighty Huka Falls. Once at Taupo, you'll discover why this stop is such a hit with backpackers, known as the adrenaline capital of the North Island, take the opportunity to go skydiving, sailing on Lake Taupo (New Zealand's largest lake) or tackle the infamous 19km Tongariro Crossing!
Taupo (Extra Day)
Today would be the perfect day to take on the Tongariro Crossing. On this 8-hour hike, you will be blown away by the spectacular scenery, passing the Emerald Lakes and Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom; this really is a hike not to be missed! Fancy taking things a little easier? Then spend the day at Spa Park soaking in natural hot springs. (We add this extra day as there is just so much to do in Taupo! Short on time? You can skip this extra day, timetable allowing.)
Taupo – River Valley
This morning head around Lake Taupo to the World Heritage Tongariro National Park for a picnic lunch and walk through native bush and waterfalls. In the afternoon, drive off the beaten track to the picturesque location of River Valley. Situated deep in a valley, surrounded by towering cliffs, the River Valley Lodge offers access to heaps of outdoor activities, including grade 5 rafting on the Rangitikei River, scenic horse riding and many exhilarating hikes. After a jam-packed day outdoors, spend the evening relaxing by the fire and enjoy a delicious roast dinner.
River Valley – Wellington
Head out a little later after a morning of outdoor activities. You'll arrive in New Zealand's capital in the early evening, here you can get a flavour for Wellington's buzzing bar scene by indulging in a few drinks. We recommend jumping off the bus here and spending a couple of extra days exploring because there is simply so much to do! Check out the Te Papa Musem, visit the Beehive (New Zealand's parliament building), climb Mt Victoria and discover the filming secrets behind the LOTR at Sir Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop.
Wellington – Abel Tasman
Depart Wellington early that morning for the ferry crossing to the South Island across the Cook Strait and through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds - keep a lookout for dolphins along the way! We take a scenic drive through vineyards towards New Zealand's sunniest capital, Nelson. After a pit stop for snacks and supplies, head to the beautiful beach town of Kaiteriteri on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park. Definitely stay an extra day here if you can; there are so many stunning bays to explore and water activities to do like, swimming, kayaking and sailing.
Abel Tasman – Westport
The bus leaves a little later today so that you can spend the morning enjoying more of Abel Tasman's golden beaches. Take a kayaking trip out to 'Split Apple Rock', spotting marine life along the way or catch a water taxi to one of the national park's secluded bays and take a stroll around New Zealand's native bush. That afternoon we will stop at legendary Nelson Lakes so you can get your 'insta' pic, jumping off the famous wharf! Then, head through snow-capped mountains and past the Buller Gorge before reaching the West Coast. Spend the night at the surf town of Westport, where you can learn to ride the waves or have a go at stand up paddleboarding.
Westport – Lake Mahinapua
Journey along the picturesque State Highway 6 along the rugged Tasman coastline. That evening you'll stay the night in a traditional West Coast pub, where everyone will get their costumes ready for the infamous "Pu Party", feast on a delicious dinner and party the night away!
Lake Mahinapua – Franz Josef
Start the day with a hearty breakfast at Lake Mahinapua before continuing south past the Southern Alps to glacier country. Franz Josef is the northern gateway to Te Wahipounamu, the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage area. This region includes Aoraki/ Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring, the Fiordland National Parks and many more. It's truly spectacular.
Franz Josef (extra day)
Today is your chance to hike the impressive Franz Josef Glacier, rated as one of the top three activities to do in New Zealand by Kiwi passengers. If you don't fancy hiking the glacier, you have the opportunity to take a scenic helicopter flight, go horseback riding, quad biking or enjoy one of the many walks in the area. We add this extra day in because Franz Josef really is an awesome spot, so whatever you do, get out there and make the most of it!
Franz Josef – Wanaka
Another early start, but it's well worth it. Head out in the morning to catch the reflections of Mount Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson. We then head to the breathtaking Southern Lakes region, where you'll have time to relax and take in the beautiful surroundings. After which, it is on to Mount Aspiring National Park, arriving in the glorious town of Wanaka for the afternoon.
Wanaka – Queenstown
Before we leave Wanaka, it's time to wake up those hungover heads at Puzzling World! After all those brain teasers, feel free to snooze on the coach before the tour reaches the adrenaline pumping Queenstown. The first stop is the World Home of Bungy - the 43 metre Kawarau Bridge jump! Are you brave enough to jump? Next, head into town and down to the beautiful lakefront, then afterwards, venture to some of Queenstown's infamous bars and sample the town's buzzing nightlife. It really is the adventure capital of the world.
Queenstown (extra day)
Queenstown is one of the coolest places in New Zealand and has been voted as one of our passengers' favourite spots - so take your time here! Explore the lake, take scenic walks, ride the gondola to the top of Bob's Peak and just soak it all in. Be sure to get involved with many of the adrenaline activities on offers such as jet boating, bungy jumping, white water rafting and skydiving - you won't regret it! But one activity that you just can't miss is a day trip to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a spectacular fiord that is often considered the Eighth Natural Wonder of the World. You can take a 2-hour boat trip across the waters, marvelling at spectacular waterfalls, and you may even spot Humpback whales. However, if you are short on time, you can skip these days. Timetable permitting.
Queenstown – Lake Tekapo
Today, head out of Queenstown through Lindis Pass, also known as Lord of the Rings territory. After stopping to admire Mount Cook at Lake Pukaki, we travel on to Lake Tekapo, which is surrounded by the snow-capped Alps and underneath one of the clearest skies in the world (perfect for stargazing). You have the opportunity to hop off the bus here and head up to Mount Cook with your new mates, adding an extra night as it won't fit in the minimum 18-day timetable. In Lake Tekapo, you can enjoy scenic walks, relax by the lakeside, soak in natural hot springs or go stargazing at the world's largest dark sky reserve.
Lake Tekapo – Christchurch
Today the bus is heading to the largest city on the South Island and 3rd largest in New Zealand. Christchurch is a city that is rebuilding and flourishing in the wake of the 2011 earthquake; with new shops popping up every day (including the South Island's first H&M) and quirky street bars, Christchurch is full of surprises. Spend a bit of extra time here and drive north to the marine mecca of Kaikoura for the day. Kaikoura is renowned as one of the best coastal wildlife regions in the WORLD! Here you can spot whales, dolphins and seals; the name itself, Kaikoura, means to eat crayfish ('kai' meaning to eat, 'koura' meaning crayfish).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
No, but loads of the places we stop at including hostels have excellent meal deals & cheap drinks!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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 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.