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That New Zealand Hop-On Hop-Off Bus You’ve Never Heard Of…

An Alternative New Zealand Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour for backpackers!

Flexible fun travel is what makes hop-on hop-off bus travel such a popular option for backpacking New Zealand. If you have done any kind of research into “New Zealand hop-on hop-off buses” then no doubt you have seen pictures of the green and orange buses of Stray and Kiwi Experience. But did you know there is a blue bus too? Did you know there is one more option for New Zealand hop-on hop-off bus travel?

That’s right, after digging for all the ways backpackers can travel New Zealand, we found Flying Kiwi. A feature of the New Zealand tour bus company is its “Extended Trips” i.e. being able to hop-off the bus along the route and hop back on the bus at a later date. Sounds familiar? It’s time to dig a little bit deeper and see what this alternative hop-on hop-off bus in New Zealand is all about.

What is a hop-on hop-off bus?

First things first, let’s quickly go over what a hop-on hop-off bus is. Hop-on hop-off buses in New Zealand follow a set route around the country in one direction. Along the route, you have the option to “hop off” the bus, do some independent travel, then “hop on”  another bus on the network at a later date. Meanwhile, on the bus, you will have a driver tour guide who will not only take you to destinations to do some free activities and see some sights but will also organise your chosen paid activities. There is always a choice when it comes to activities, so no pressure. Accommodation will also be organised for you for each night that you will be travelling with the bus. For what to expect on a Stray or Kiwi Experience bus, take a look at What is a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus? and A Day in the Life of a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Passenger. For more about Flying Kiwi, read below!

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Flying Kiwi

What is it like to travel with flying Kiwi?

Flying Kiwi is New Zealand’s only all-inclusive bus tour (i.e. food and accommodation is included) that also offers the option to hop on and hop off the bus. As well as these inclusions and flexibility, there are a few aspects that make travelling with Flying Kiwi different from other New Zealand hop-on hop-off buses.

For full details on inclusions, check out the Flying Kiwi website.

What makes Flying Kiwi Different?
  • Stay in remote and scenic locations – Flying Kiwi has a permit with the Department of Conservation which allows them to stay in New Zealand’s national parks in camping accommodation. This means more mountains, more lakes, more beaches and being in the great outdoors.
  • Camping accommodation is included – Instead of staying in hostels, campsite accommodation is included in a shared tent with one other passenger. However, you can upgrade to a private tent or cabin in most locations. Plus, there will be alternatives if the weather is bad.
  • 24-month bus pass – The Flying Kiwi bus pass is available for 24 months so if you are on a working holiday or taking an extended backpacking trip in New Zealand, you can take as much time as you need to travel the country.
  • Meals are included – Up to three meals are included each day with the Flying Kiwi bus. Some meals will be at your own cost on a few occasions when there isn’t access to a kitchen.
  • Two driver-guides – Double the support!
  • The Interislander Ferry is included – If you pick a pass that takes you between the North and South Island, then the ferry between the islands is included.
  • Some activities are included – Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, Queenstown Gondola and Marlborough wine tasting are some of the activities included with your bus pass. Hiking, biking (if you hire a bike), museums, etc. are free and there are options to do other activities at an extra cost.
  • Bike hire is available – Hire a mountain bike for part or all of the trip to make the most of the trails while you’re out exploring New Zealand.
  • Use of sports equipment

Flying Kiwi

How to hop on and hop off along the route with Flying kIwi?

As with any hop-on hop-off bus company in New Zealand, Flying Kiwi has its own system on how hop-on hop-off works. Here’s what you need to know about hop-on hop-off with Flying Kiwi.

Although Flying Kiwi stays two to three days in locations with more activities and things to do, such as Queenstown, the Bay of Islands and Abel Tasman, passengers have the option to hop off the bus anywhere along the route and hop back on one of the following buses at a later date. The frequency of the buses is every nine days, and more often in Auckland.

To organise hopping on and off the bus, contact the Flying Kiwi office team who will not only give you advice on transport during your extended stay but will also organise your pick-up for when you hop back on the bus. Hopping back on the next bus is subject to the available seating on the next bus, so be sure to book your spot on the bus well in advance, especially for New Zealand summer trips.

Flying Kiwi

Top things to do when you hop off the bus

We know what you’re thinking: nine days is a long time. It might seem that way but with so much to do in multiple New Zealand destinations, it will feel like you’re back on the bus in no time. Here are some of the top things to do when hopping off the Flying Kiwi bus.

Hike around a volcano or canoe on the Whanganui River

Hop-Off: Taupo or Turangi

Taupo and Turangi are towns on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake and right on the edge of the Tongariro National Park and Whanganui National Park. Take on one of the multi-day hikes like the Round the Mountain Track (4-6 Days) going around the perimeter of New Zealand’s largest volcano, Mt Ruapehu. Or how about a stunning canoe journey down the Whanganui River on the New Zealand Great Walk, the Whanganui Journey (3 or 5 days)? Or if you are looking for small doses of activities, do white water rafting, jet boating, mountain biking, hiking, skydiving, bungy jumping and more.

Explore Stewart Island

Hop-Off: Gore

Take a holiday on your holiday to Stewart Island! It will probably be the furthest south you will ever get. 80% of the island is a national park, connected with hiking trails between five to 10 days long! To get there, hop-off at Gore and take a national coach to either Bluff, where you can take the ferry to the island, or Invercargill for a flight. The island is also thriving with wildlife, with sanctuaries like Ulva Island to discover. It’s also your best chance of seeing a kiwi bird in the wild.

Do a Winter Season in Queenstown

Hop-Off: Queenstown

Flying Kiwi already spends a couple of days in Queenstown, but most backpackers would be stoked to spend nine days there doing some of the 10 Queenstown Must-Dos. When winter rocks around, the nearby ski fields come alive! Spend the season ripping the slopes and hop back on the bus later. Remember, the bus pass is valid for two years!

Kayak or do the Abel Tasman Great Walk

Hop-Off: Nelson

Nelson is a great base for adventures in the Abel Tasman National Park! Activity providers offer transport directly to the national park from Nelson where you can explore pristine golden beaches backed by native forest. Take the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (3-5 Days), a New Zealand Great Walk, or kayak the bays.

Flying Kiwi

Spending extra time at your start and end destinations

It sounds simple but so many travellers often forget to make the most of the destinations at the start and end of their trips. With Flying Kiwi, trips begin and end in Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown, Picton and Nelson. Every one of these destinations has affordable accommodation, transport and activities, so you can extend your time here! Here are a few ideas of what to do.


Auckland might be New Zealand’s largest city, but there are some nature experiences to be had that are even accessed from the city centre! Take the ferry from the Downtown ferry terminal to Rangitoto Island, a volcanic island with lava caves, bush walks and wildlife. Or head over to Tiritiri Matangi, a pest-free wildlife sanctuary island.  For more inspiration, head on over to Auckland City Centre – Guide for Backpackers.


Christchurch is known as the “Garden City”, so it’s Botanic Gardens are great for a stroll. There are also lots of opportunities to learn about the 2010/11 earthquakes, or go surfing at Sumner or New Brighton Beach! Museums and street art will fulfil your culture needs. Get more ideas from our Christchurch City – Guide for Backpackers.


As the “Adrenaline Capital” you know you are spoiled for choice in Queenstown. From bungy jumping to mountain biking, jet boating to white water rafting, you’ll find your bag in Queenstown. In winter, head to the nearby ski fields to experience that Southern Hemisphere ski! The list goes on, so take a look at our Queenstown guide to make your bucket list.


Picton is not just the gateway to the South Island. It is also a mecca for mountain bikers, hikers, ocean-lovers and wine-drinkers. Hit the Queen Charlotte Track by bike or foot for a journey through the forests and mountains of the Marlborough Sounds. Take a wine-tasting tour or head out on the water by kayak or cruise! There’s more to explore, so start planning with our Picton – Guide for Backpackers.


Catch some rays in New Zealand’s sunniest city! Nelson is close to not one, not two but three national parks! Trips to the Abel Tasman National Park depart daily from Nelson or take a shuttle to Kahurangi or Nelson Lakes National Parks for their multi-day hiking adventures. What’s more, there are plenty of bike trails accessible from the city itself. Get more ideas from our Nelson guide.

More New Zealand destinations…

With new destinations often added to the Flying Kiwi itinerary, be sure to check out the bus tours itinerary on the Flying Kiwi website for more inspiration on what to do in New Zealand!

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