Kiwi Experience has been running for 26 years, providing travellers who wish to explore New Zealand with efficient and fun routes around the country. I joined the big green bus in Auckland for three weeks discovering the best of the North and South islands.
There are numerous routes to suit all requirements. I took the Sheepdog tour from Auckland to Christchurch with a day trip to world-famous Milford Sound added on. Kiwi Experience encourages you to create your own journey, providing amazing flexibility with their hop-on and hop-off service, so you can spend one night or one month in a destination, and after starting your trip the pass will be valid for 12 months, to use as you please. The buses have a sociable feel and are particularly good for solo travellers hoping to find some like-minded comrades. Often on longer driving stints the bus will stop off for scenic group walks and important photo opportunities. It is a stress-free way of ticking off all the must-see tourist sights and natural wonders of New Zealand.
The bus drivers seem to have an impossible job, juggling a long list of responsibilities each day whilst also ensuring the 55 people on the bus are well looked after. At times it did feel like a school trip! I was lucky to spend most of my trip on Dallas’ bus, an experienced Kiwi Experience driver who was knowledgeable, fun and organised. We also had fun with new driver Marcanui – a keen, enthusiastic and passionate Kiwi, who shared ancient stories and tales about his country.
Over the years Kiwi Experience has built relationships with some of the most exciting and unique businesses across the country. Many of these companies will offer exclusive discounts on activities to Kiwi Experience visitors. Most of my bus seemed keen on extreme sports such as black water rafting, sky-diving and bungy jumping. I preferred the less daunting options like glow worm caves in Waitomo and Greenstone carving at Lake Mahinapua Hotel. Often though, there is no need for adrenaline activities, as the natural scenery provides plenty to explore for free. I loved walking around Lake Tekapo and cycling around the city of Queenstown.
Discounted rates at hostels are always available through Kiwi Experience though travellers are also free to organise accommodation independently, just using the buses for transport between destinations. Of the hostels I tried I was impressed with the standard of cleanliness and most were quiet and cheap. Often in the smaller towns there is limited choice with Base and Nomad being the hostel chains you are most likely to come across. But my favourite accommodations were the family-run, characterful River Valley Lodge, the scenic Lake Tekapo Lakefront Lodge and the lovely Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, where you can opt to stay in a private cabin.
The most memorable experience for me was visiting the Tamaki Maori Village – where guests are able to fully immerse in the Maori culture, learning about their traditions and customs. Kiwi Experience visitors are also offered the exclusive opportunity to stay overnight at the Marae village. I would also recommend spending a few extra days in each of the cities, so you have enough time to visit the museums and sample the best New Zealand cuisine.
The Kiwi Experience is best suited and most popular with 18-25s, but welcomes guests of all ages and interests. Though I often wished for more independence I cannot deny that it was the most efficient and easy way to explore this beautiful country.
More information about Kiwi Experience and book a trip here.