Which National New Zealand Coach Tour Should You Choose?
Want to see as much of New Zealand as possible without the hassle of driving? With the best connection to get around the country by road, taking a New Zealand coach tour is an action-packed good value-for-money way to see the best of New Zealand! However, with so many coach tours in New Zealand to choose from it can be pretty overwhelming to make a choice! We’ll compare all the top New Zealand coach tours right here in this guide.
There are coach tours suited to young backpackers, families, adventure-seekers and the older crowd. We compare as wide a range of New Zealand coach tours as possible to help you find the right coach tour for you.
If you want to learn more about how the coaches work in New Zealand, take a look at our guide to the Bus Networks in New Zealand. Plus, don’t forget to bookmark Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide for even more tips.
5 Things to Compare Between the New Zealand Coach Tours
We believe that there is no best coach company, as we are all looking for different travel experiences. However, it’s almost impossible to not have a blast on every single one of these coach tours. To help you make the best decision for yourself, here are a few tips!
1. Compare the Type of Coach Tour
Are you a fully independent traveller that wants a cheap way to travel? Choose a coach network. Do you want some flexibility to leave the tour to make the most of an extended trip in New Zealand or a working holiday? Choose a hop-on hop-off bus. Or do you want an experience with the least organising to do as possible and just want to make the most of your limited time in New Zealand? Choose an all-inclusive coach tour!
2. Compare the Activities and Accommodation
You’ll get the best value for money if the tour includes activities that you want to do or at least gives you the option. If accommodation is important to you, then compare accommodation, as some will be in tents, hostels, 3-star hotels, 4-star hotels, cabins or something else. Is there a chance to upgrade to a private room if you want to and at what price?
3. Compare What the Passengers are Like
Taking a New Zealand coach tour is a social experience and you’re bound to meet some amazing people! People often make (or break) the experience. Some coach tours are catered to 18-35-year-olds, while others are more suitable for the 50+, others cater to families and mature couples… Take a look at the comparison below where we compare coach passengers as much as possible.
4. Compare the Destinations Visited
Does the coach company visit the New Zealand locations on your bucket list? Remember, even if they don’t stay the night in every destination around New Zealand, it’s likely that they will pass through giving you enough time to at least quickly visit the place. All the destinations in the comparison below are where the coaches stay overnight.
5. Compare Prices
Budgeting is an important part of the holiday process! With all the inclusions taken into consideration, is the price worth it? A trick we like to do is to divide the price by the number of minimum travel days on a bus pass the result will give you a better idea of how much you are paying for the bus pass and its inclusions per day.
Before we begin, make sure that you understand the different types of coach tours in New Zealand by checking out our guide, What is the Difference Between the Buses in New Zealand?
This all-inclusive coach tour caters to a wide range of travellers, from family holidaymakers to retired couples from all over the world. There’s a good mix of activities included in AAT Kings national New Zealand coach tour, as well as giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy some free time along the set national route. Because AAT Kings also appeals to the older crowd, we also list them in The 5 Best New Zealand Tours for Seniors.
Inclusions with AAT Kings
In this all-inclusive coach tour, accommodation is provided in a wide range of hotel brands, such as ibis and Copthorne. 20 breakfasts, one lunch and eight dinners are included in the 21-day national tour, as an example. Airport transfers are available. Selected paid activities are included such as an overnight Milford Sound overnight cruise, a Maori cultural experience with Te Pa Tu (formerly Tamaki Maori Village), Waitangi Treaty Grounds and short walks to free attractions. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at an added cost. The North Island-South Island ferry is also included.
Typical Passengers on AAT Kings
AAT Kings has a diverse range of passengers from North America, the UK, Europe and Asia. You’ll find a mix of families with young children (minimum 5 years old), as well as older couples and solo travellers typically around the 40-60 age range. Group sizes tend to be 20-50 passengers per coach.
Destinations Visited with AAT Kings
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. AAT Kings’ full national coach tour has a travel time of 21 days taking you to the following locations:
- Franz Josef
- Bay of Islands
For more tours from Christchurch, check out The 5 Best New Zealand Tours Starting from Christchurch.
Typical AAT Kings Tours Prices
A full national tour with AAT Kings is around NZ$9,800 if staying in a twin/double room, but the pass is very often on sale. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$3,000 to the prices stated. Child prices are also available, usually around NZ$1,000 cheaper than the adult price. You can compare AAT Kings tours on TourRadar to get the best deal.
Contiki is an all-inclusive New Zealand coach tour for travellers aged 18-35 following a set route around the country. At least one meal a day is included, as well as accommodation and some activities. For more information on how Contiki works, see Contiki Vs. G Adventures: Comparison for New Zealand.
Inclusions on Contiki
Accommodation is included in Contiki coach tours in the form of hotels and lodges. You may share a room with 1-4 other passengers or upgrade to get a private room. Some activities are included in your bus pass, such as a Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, a Maori hangi meal and more. For other paid activities you can either add them to your tour when booking your pass or book with the driver as you travel. Food is also included in Contiki tours, usually breakfast and occasionally lunch or dinner.
Typical Passengers on Contiki
Contiki tours are aimed at 18-35-year-olds with the majority of passengers usually being 18-25 years old. There is usually a ratio of more females to males. There can be a mix of nationalities, however, most passengers are from the Americas and Australia. Group sizes are usually a full large coach in the peak season and about half a large coach in the shoulder seasons. For more tours for younger travellers, check out The 10 Best Backpacker Bus Tours in New Zealand.
Destinations Visited with Contiki
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Contiki’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 21 days hitting the following locations:
- Franz Josef
- Te Anau
- Lake Ohau
Typical Contiki Tour Prices
A full national pass with Contiki is around NZ$5,000 but the pass is very often on sale. You can usually pick up a national pass for around NZ$4,200.
The hop-on hop-off bus company, Kiwi Experience, follows a set route in one direction around the country. Passengers have the opportunity to “hop off” the bus anywhere along the route and “hop on” another bus at a prearranged time and date. Certain passes allow “unlimited travel” meaning you can do the route multiple times while your pass is valid (usually 12 months from your start date) as long as you travel in order and when there is availability. For a complete review of Kiwi Experience’s hop-on hop-off bus tour, head to What is it Really Like to Travel with Kiwi Experience?
Kiwi Experience also operates a number of all-inclusive coach tours called “Small Group Tours“. They follow a set route around the country in a predetermined number of days. Accommodations and some meals are included (mostly breakfast). Some activities are included in the pass with options to add on paid activities.
Inclusions with Kiwi Experience
Paid activities are on an optional pay-as-you-go scheme where the bus driver will book activities and accommodation (mainly hostels) for you as you travel, but note that accommodation is not included in the price of the bus pass. However, you can choose to arrange your own activities and accommodation as you wish. There are opportunities to do free activities as you go, as your driver will stop at free walks and attractions along the route. Discover more about what it’s like to travel with Kiwi Experience in A Day in the Life of a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Passenger.
On Kiwi Experience’s Small Group Tours, accommodation is included in hostels, usually on a shared basis but there are opportunities to upgrade to a private room at an extra cost. Activities included are a guided tour of Te Puia geothermal park, a stargazing tour with Dark Sky Project, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, wine tasting in Marlborough, a return shuttle to Roy’s Peak, greenstone carving and more. The tour also stops for plenty of free walks and hikes. Most breakfasts are also included, as well as a couple of dinners.
Typical Passengers on Kiwi Experience
Kiwi Experience boasts a coach tour experience for 20-something adventurous backpackers. 18-25-year-old passengers from the UK and Europe are often the majority with a larger ratio of females to males. Nevertheless, you will still find a diverse range of people outside of the “typical” age range and nationality. Expect group sizes to fill two large coaches in the peak season and almost fill one large coach in the low season.
On the Small Group tours, the maximum group size is 16. While the age limit is between 18 and 49 years old, the tours attract those in their early 20s to early 30s.
For more tours appealing to 18 to 30-somethings, check out The 10 Best Backpacker Bus Tours in New Zealand.
Destinations Visited with Kiwi Experience
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Kiwi Experience’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 27 days hitting the following locations:
- Bay of Islands & Cape Reinga
- Ruahine Ranges (River Valley)
- Kaiteriteri (Abel Tasman)
- Lake Mahinapua (Hokitika)
- Franz Josef
- Te Anau
- Lake Tekapo
Typical Kiwi Experience Tour Prices
The full price for a national pass is around NZ$1,800 but you will never pay the full retail price for a Kiwi Experience bus pass. Sales on bus passes happen year-round, usually bringing you around NZ$1,500 for a full national bus pass. Small Group Tours cost approximately NZ$3,900 for their most complete tour.
For budget tips for hop-on hop-off bus travel, check out How to Budget for a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Trip Around New Zealand.
InterCity is a coach network used by locals and travellers alike in New Zealand mostly for an affordable way to get between towns and cities across the country. InterCity offers a couple of different bus passes to travellers: the FlexiPass and the TravelPass. FlexiPass gives travellers a set amount of hours to travel anywhere in the country, while the TravelPass is a set route around the country typical of other coach tours in New Zealand. Find out more about how they work in What’s the Difference Between InterCity Backpacker Bus Passes?
Inclusions with InterCity
Travelling with InterCity is a much more independent travel option in comparison to other coach tours, so accommodation and activities are not typically included in your coach ticket. However, some TravelPass bus passes have activities included, such as a Milford Sound day trip and cruise, Hobbiton Movie Set and a Bay of Islands cruise. The ferry between the North Island and the South Island, as well as the TranzAlpine train journey, is also included in the national TravelPass. You will need to book other activities and accommodations and buy food independently.
Typical Passengers on InterCity
InterCity has the broadest range of passengers out of all the New Zealand coach tours on this list due to the fact that it is the largest (and only) national coach network in New Zealand. There will be a mix of travellers from all over the world and New Zealanders.
Destinations Visited with InterCity
With InterCity, you can travel almost anywhere in New Zealand with more than 140 daily departures. With the FlexiPass, you decide the destinations. With the TravelPass, you choose one of the set routes on offer. It’s best to browse the InterCity website to see the vastness of their network.
Typical InterCity Prices
A full national TravelPass with activities included is NZ$550, while a 60-hour FlexiPass costs around NZ$520 (which will get you to around 13 destinations from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and back again).
Travelmarvel‘s national tour packs plenty of fun yet easy-going activities in a 15-day national tour, perfect for those aged 50+ years old. Passengers get to enjoy all the major highlights that most travellers have on their New Zealand bucket list. Plus, the price is not too hard on the wallet.
Inclusions with Travelmarvel
In this all-inclusive coach tour, accommodation is provided in the form of hotels with brands such as Rydges and Copthorne. 14 breakfasts, one lunch and seven dinners are included in the 15-day national tour. Airport transfers are available on your first and last day of the tour, as is the North Island-South Island ferry. There is a great deal of paid activities included in the price of the tour, such as a Milford Sound cruise, a Maori hangi feast and show in Rotorua and a ride on the TranzAlpine train. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at an added cost.
Typical Passengers on Travelmarvel
Travelmarvel passengers are typically 55+ years old, travelling either solo, as couples or as a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 20-48 passengers per coach. Again, more tours for mature crowds can be found in The 5 Best New Zealand Tours for Seniors (Over 40s, 50s & 60s).
Destinations Visited with Travelmarvel
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Travelmarvels full national coach tour has a travel time of 15 days taking you to the following locations:
- Bay of Islands
- Franz Josef
- Te Anau
- Lake Tekapo
Typical Travelmarvel Tour Prices
A full national tour with Travelmarvel is around NZ$6,900 if staying in a twin/double room, but the pass is very often on sale. You can usually pick up a national pass for around NZ$6,500. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$2,000 to the prices stated.
Flying Kiwi is an all-inclusive hop-on-hop-off bus tour, mainly travelled as a set coach tour taking one set route around the country. Food (mainly breakfast and dinner) is included as well as camping accommodation. However, there is the option to hop off the bus anywhere along the route and then hop on another bus at an arranged time and date. For more information on how Flying Kiwi works, see this guide to Flying Kiwi.
Inclusions with Flying Kiwi
Paid activities are on an optional pay-as-you-go scheme where the coach driver will book activities and transport you to those activities. There are a few paid activities included in the tour, such as Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, Queenstown Gondola and Marlborough wine tasting. There are always free options such as hikes and stopping at free attractions along the way. Hiring a bike is a popular option with Flying Kiwi, where the team will have your hired bike on board and stop at plenty of bike trails along the way. Accommodation and food are already arranged, with the accommodation being in two-man tents, with upgrades available in some campsites.
Typical Passengers on Flying Kiwi
Although Flying Kiwi claims to have passengers of 16-60 years old, they mostly have passengers aged between 20 years old to 40 years old with an average being the mid-20s. The trips are popular with UK and European travellers, however, you will still find the odd mix of travellers from the Americas. Group sizes are around 10-20 people per coach.
Destinations Visited with Flying Kiwi
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Flying Kiwi’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 23 days hitting the following locations:
- Kapiti Coast
- Geraldine (Rangitata)
- Lake Tekapo
- Milford Sound
- Te Anau
- Fox Glacier
- New Plymouth
For more tours from Auckland, check out The 5 Best New Zealand Tours Starting from Auckland.
Typical Flying Kiwi Tour Prices
The full price for a national pass with Flying Kiwi is approximately NZ$5,500.
For a 17-day experience touring New Zealand, Trafalgar offers a national coach tour for those who have a little less time in the country. Their tours are open to everyone, from families to seniors, and hit the main destinations across New Zealand. Tours include accommodation in hotels and resorts, all breakfasts, one lunch, most dinners and some paid activities.
Inclusions with Trafalgar
There are paid and free activities included in Trafalgar’s tour, many of which are optional and can be booked as you go. There are a few paid activities included, such as city tours of Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch, the TranzAlpine train through Arthur’s Pass, Te Puia geothermal and cultural centre in Rotorua, a Milford Sound cruise and much more. There are some free attractions along the way. Accommodations and most meals are already arranged, with accommodations being in three to five-star hotels. Other inclusions are airport transfers, a driver guide, free WiFi on the coach and VIP entry into some attractions.
Typical Passengers on Trafalgar
While Trafalgar is open to all types of travellers, including families with children, the most typical passengers are seniors. Travellers are from Australia, the US, Canada and Europe. There is a maximum of 50 passengers per coach.
Destinations Visited with Trafalgar
There are several tours with Trafalgar to suit a range of travel times and preferred islands. Tours only operate in summer and range from three to 17 days long. Destinations on the full national tour include:
- Te Anau
- Franz Josef
Typical Trafalgar Tour Prices
The full price for a complete national tour with Trafalgar is around NZ$9,000 but is easily found on sale for around NZ$8,200. Note that upgrading to private rooms in accommodations adds an additional NZ$2,000 to the tour price.
Topdeck offers an all-inclusive coach tour for 18-39-year-olds following a set route around the country. Breakfasts and some dinners are included, as well as accommodation in shared hotel rooms, lodges and more. Some activities are included but there are plenty of opportunities to add your own optional paid activity to cater your itinerary to you. The ferry between the North Island and South Island is also included.
Inclusions with Topdeck
Accommodation is included in Topdeck coach tours in the form of hotels, lodges, cabins, hostels and a Maori marae. You may share a room with 1-4 other passengers or upgrade to get a private room. Some activities are included in your bus pass, such as a wine tasting, Maori cultural performance and more. Other optional paid activities are booked with the driver as you travel. Food is also included in Topdeck tours; all breakfasts and a couple of dinners if you are taking the full national pass.
Typical Passengers on Topdeck
Topdeck tours are aimed at 18-39-year-olds with the majority of passengers usually 18-25 years old. There is usually an even ratio of males and females. There can be a mix of nationalities, however, most passengers are from the Americas and Australia. Group sizes are usually a full large coach (36 people) in the peak season and about half a large coach in the shoulder seasons.
Destinations Visited with Topdeck
There are a limited number of passes with Topdeck: a North Island tour, a South Island tour and a national tour. Topdeck’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 17 days hitting the following locations:
Typical Topdeck Tour Prices
A full national pass with Topdeck is around NZ$3,800, but the pass is very often on sale. You can usually pick up a national pass for around NZ$3,000.
This all-inclusive coach tour does all the planning and activity choices for you so you can relax and enjoy the holiday. Kirra Tours takes passengers to the main highlights of New Zealand with a jam-packed itinerary and high-quality meals and accommodation. This is a real “treat yourself” tour.
Inclusions with Kirra Tours
On their all-inclusive coach tours, accommodation is provided in the form of 3.5-4-star hotel and lodge accommodation. 15 breakfasts, four lunches, and four dinners are included in the 16-day national tour. Airport transfers are available at the beginning and end of the tour. Paid activities are included, including (but not limited to) a Maori cultural experience and hangi, a rainforest tour, the Pacific Coast train, an Abel Tasman cruise, a Doubtful Sound cruise, entry to Larnach Castle and short walks to free attractions. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at an added cost. Other transport options included are the North Island-South Island ferry.
Typical Passengers on Kirra Tours
Kirra Tours passengers are typically 50+ years old, travelling either solo, as couples or as a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 10-24 passengers per coach. For more tours for mature travellers, check out The 5 Best New Zealand Tours for Seniors (Over 40s, 50s & 60s).
Destinations Visited with Kirra Tours
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Kirra Tours’ full national New Zealand coach tour has a travel time of 16 days taking you to the following locations:
- Lake Aniwhenua
- Abel Tasman
- Te Anau
- Franz Josef
Typical Kirra Tours Prices
A full national tour with Kirra Tours is around NZ$8,300 if staying in a twin/double room. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$1,700 to the prices stated.
Grand Pacific Tours
With an impressive number of activity inclusions, 3.5-star accommodations and included meals, Grand Pacific Tours provides a great value-for-money national coach tour for older solo travellers, couples or groups of friends. Everything is organised for you in this all-inclusive coach tour, so just enjoy! The tours can be compared to The 5 Best New Zealand Tours for Seniors (Over 40s, 50s & 60s).
Inclusions with Grand Pacific Tours
In their all-inclusive coach tours, accommodation is provided in the form of 3.5-star hotels and lodges. 18 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 16 dinners are included in the 19-day national tour. Airport transfers are available at the beginning and end of the tour. Paid activities are included, including (but certainly not limited to) the Lake District Museum, Skyline Rotorua & Luge, Agrodome, Milford Sound cruise, the Christchurch Tram, Larnach Castle high tea, Bay of Islands cruise, short walks to free attractions and much more.
There are options to add activities to your itinerary at an added cost. Other transport options included are the North Island-South Island ferry and the TranzAlpine railway journey. If travelling from Australia, there is also the option for Grand Pacific Tours to organise your flight and add it to your tour price.
Typical Passengers on Grand Pacific Tours
Grand Pacific Tours passengers are typically 50+ years old, travelling either solo, as couples or as a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 10-48 passengers per coach. Nationalities range from New Zealander and Australian to British, European and North American. Note that they also have tours especially catered to solo travellers.
Destinations Visited with Grand Pacific Tours
There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Grand Pacific Tours’ full national coach tour has a travel time of 19 days taking you to the following locations:
- Bay of Islands
- Fox Glacier
- Te Anau
- Mt Cook
Note that many of their tours depart from Christchurch on the South Island, along with The 5 Best New Zealand Tours Starting from Christchurch.
Typical Grand Pacific Tour Prices
A full national tour with Grand Pacific Tours is around NZ$10,100 if staying in a twin/double room. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$2,000 to the prices stated.
[SUSPENDED] Skip Bus
Skip Bus have yet to announce its reopening dates post the COVID pandemic. We will update this page once their trips become available again.
If your main focus is budget, then your best bet for coach travel around the North Island is Skip Bus. Covering the most popular cities, Skip Bus is a low-cost service that brands itself as Cheaper, Faster, Funner. Skip Bus is cheaper because they stick to the basics and only take direct bookings, they are faster because they cut on pit stops and go from point A to point B as efficiently as possible and they are Funner because their drivers are super friendly and the crowd onboard is often jovial.
Skip Bus is a low-cost experience, meaning that to keep prices as low as possible they only offer the basics. However they have decent free WiFi onboard which let’s be honest, can be a lifesaver on a long journey. The Skip Bus luggage policy allows you to bring a 20kg (44lbs) bag with you as well as your regular daypack/handbag up to 5kg (11lbs).
Skip Bus has quite a wide range of passengers on board. You will find Savvy backpackers that found out about this new company on our site, but also locals that are used to do the same route and are keen to save along the way. Overall it is quite a nice atmosphere onboard without being too social or an all-out party bus.
Skip Bus covers most of the North Island’s popular destinations. The main stops are:
But that’s not all, the bus stops at an extra 10 stops along the way from several pick-up points in Auckland to Te Puke the kiwi fruit capital of New Zealand and pit stops in Taupo, Turangi, Taihape, etc.
Prices are per ticket with Skip. Expect its longest route (Auckland to Wellington) to be under NZ$30 and most prices to be around NZ$20 for other destinations which makes it the cheapest bus company to go from A to B on this list.
More About Coach Tours in New Zealand
That’s it for the best coach tours in New Zealand. For alternative coach tours, perhaps for a shorter duration, take a look at the following comparisons:
- The 10 Best 5-Day Tours of New Zealand
- The 10 Best 7-Day Tours of New Zealand
- The 10 Best 10-12-Day Tours of New Zealand
- The Best 20+ Days (3-4 Weeks) Tours of New Zealand
Finally, don’t miss a thing about planning the perfect New Zealand coach trip by checking out our Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide.