A Review of the Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours of New Zealand
Imagine a tour that combines the best of both worlds: the flexibility of a hop-on hop-off pass with the convenience of a tour. Well, we just found it with Flying Kiwi Tours. It’s the only tour in New Zealand that is both an “all-inclusive” bus tour and also a “hop-on hop-off” bus tour. We explain how Flying Kiwi works, what sets it apart and what are its drawbacks in this complete Flying Kiwi tour review.
Before we begin, bookmark Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide with even more tips.
What Makes Flying Kiwi Bus Tours Different?
Traditionally, a bus tour means sticking with the same group for a fixed itinerary and set options. Flying Kiwi, however, chooses a different approach. Every day, there is a range of activity options. You create your own combination of bike rides, hikes and adventure activities. You will enjoy your chosen adventures with other passengers before getting back with the whole group on an evening to share stories of the day with freshly cooked meals and campfires in spectacular camping locations.
Flying Kiwi’s ethos is about spending more time outdoors and disconnecting. Although you will still get plenty of chances to update your Insta-feed, more of your time will be spent exploring national parks, trying new activities and camping under the stars.
Groups sizes on these trips are typically 16-28 and you will have two guides on every tour which puts Flying Kiwi on top of the pack for their guide-to-passenger ratio. The buses have been custom-built to include bike racks and a kitchen that gives them the freedom to stay in remote locations. They are the only backpacker bus to have a Department of Conversation license which gives them (and you) the opportunity to stay in New Zealand’s campsites.
Trip options vary from 3 to 23 days in the summer and shorter tours during the winter when their focus switches to snowboarding and skiing. Pricewise, they provide decent value-for-money with most food and all accommodation included.
8 Things You Need to Know About the Flying Kiwi Bus Tours
Flying Kiwi is New Zealand’s only all-inclusive hop-on hop-off bus tour (i.e. food and accommodation are included). 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.
1. 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.
2. Accommodation is Included + There are Cabin Upgrades Available
While you get to visit the towns where most hostels are based, they spend their time in campsite accommodation among New Zealand’s famous landscapes. Cabin upgrade options are available too. If the weather is bad they will find other accommodation.
3. 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.
4. Meals are Included
Breakfast is included each day with the Flying Kiwi bus, while a substantial number of lunches and dinners are also included – more than most 20+ Days (3-4 Weeks) Tours of New Zealand. Some meals will be at your own cost on a few occasions when there isn’t access to a kitchen. You’ll take it in turns to help your guides cook meals in the evenings.
5. Two driver-guides
Double the support! Usually on New Zealand bus tours, there’s only one.
6. 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.
7. Some Activities are Included
Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, the 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, while there are options to do other activities at an extra cost. Sports equipment is also available for free to enjoy some fun with your new travel mates.
8. Bike Hire is Available
Once you hire a bike, you can cycle as little or as much as you want every day with a mixture of on and off-road trails.
How to Hop-On and Hop-Off Along the Route with Flying Kiwi?
For many people, the Total Aotearoa tour with Flying Kiwi for 23 days fits well with their timing (just under a month) but if you want more time, there are options to hop off or take “extended breaks” in some destinations. 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 a whopping nine days or more often in Auckland. Admittedly, this is a little long for some travellers but those with the time can really make the most of each destination (we give advice on how in the section below).
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.
For more about when to take your Flying Kiwi bus tour, check out When is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?
Top Things to Do if You Take an Extended Break from Your Flying Kiwi Tour
We know what you’re thinking: nine days is a long time. It might seem that way but with so much to do in many of New Zealand’s 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. See the 16 Best Things to Do in Taupo and 12 Best Things to Do in Turangi for more ideas.
Explore Stewart Island
Hop Off: Gore – Take a holiday on your holiday in New Zealand 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! Learn more about the ski season in The Ultimate Guide to the Queenstown Ski Season.
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 Coast Track (3-5 Days), a New Zealand Great Walk, or kayak the bays.
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 its 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 TourRadar for more inspiration on what to do in New Zealand!
More About Flying Kiwi Bus Tours
That’s it for our complete Flying Kiwi tour review. For more about bus tours and travelling with Flying Kiwi, take a look at the following guides:
- 10 Things We Like About the Hop-on Hop-off Buses
- How Does the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Network in New Zealand Work?
- The 10 Best Backpacker Bus Tours in New Zealand
Finally, don’t miss a thing from your New Zealand bus holiday by checking out How to Travel by Bus in New Zealand.