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Northbound Tour

Your first stop is a night in the International Dark Sky reserve one of the many natural wonders you'll experience as you travel through both islands. Initially heading south then returning north towards Auckland. This is a trip you'll treasure forever. Explore the detailed itinerary below.



20 days


14 Different Locations

Group size

Maximum 18 guests


Breakfast, 2 lunches & 4 dinners included


Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
Cave rafting on West Coast
Tamaki Maori Village Cultural Experience and dinner
Overnight Cruise, kayaking and dinner
Interislander Ferry
Continental breakfast every day
Top quality YHA hostels
Sky Tower Entry
Rainbow Springs and Kiwi Encounter
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland


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Milky way over Church of the Good Shepherd
Your 20-day New Zealand adventure begins here. You’ll meet up with your fellow friendly voyagers, and together, venture across the vast Canterbury Plains to Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is famous for its vibrant mountain-fed lake and is home to one of New Zealand’s most photographed sights, the lakeside Church of the Good Shepherd. We’ll end the day with a welcome dinner at Our Dog Friday, YHA’s home of damn good burgers and beers. It’s the perfect way to get to know your fellow travellers a little better, under one of the world’s most brilliantly starry skies.

Day Inclusions: Welcome Dinner

Accommodation: YHA Lake Tekapo

Optional Activities: Dark Sky Experience, Tekapo Springs, Air Safaris, Mt John Observatory

View of Lake Tekapo
Today we’ll head through the Mackenzie Country, home to few people, lots of sheep, magnificent lakes and wide-open grasslands. With the Southern Alps watching over us we’ll make our way south alongside hydroelectric canals, stopping along the way to soak in all the scenery, including the otherworldly blue waters of Lake Pukaki. We’ll go through the Lindis Pass and on to Te Anau, where we’ll settle in for the night.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Te Anau

YHA Te Anau traveller taking photo of sounds
Today we’ll take a full day tour and wilderness cruise of Doubtful Sound. This is an experience not to be missed. Enjoy a scenic cruise across Lake Manapouri and travel deep into Fiordland National Park, with the chance of catching glimpses of dolphins, fur seals and penguins along the way. Then it’s on to Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. We’ll arrive in the late evening - but don’t worry, there are more adventures to come…

Day Inclusions: Breakfast & lunch, Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

Accommodation: YHA Queenstown Lakefront

Shotover Jet view from boat
Queenstown is perfect for a free day of adventuring no matter what your budget or preference. Take a steam boat cruise across Lake Wakatipu, or enjoy high speed adrenalin jet boating on the Shotover River. Head to the world-famous Fergburger (worth the queue), or dive head-first into a gorge on a bungy jump.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Queenstown Lakefront

Optional Activities: Sky diving, jet boating, bungy jumping, lake cruise, wine tours, the options are endless!

Skydiving discounts at NZONE with YHA
Didn’t fit all your Queenstown adventures into one day? No problem - we’re staying an extra night. Compare notes with your fellow YHA travellers and make sure you check off all the things you want to experience.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Queenstown Lakefront

Optional Activities: The choices continue, too many to list.

Arrowtown in autumn
We’ll start our journey north with stops in scenic Cromwell and Arrowtown. These historic villages retain their yesteryear charm, so you’ll get a taste of what the goldrush days were like. Then it’s over the hill into the popular lakeside township of Wanaka. Enjoy the views of the lake with a glass of wine, or to keep the mind a little more active, visit Puzzling World with its mind-bending attractions.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Wanaka

Optional Activities: Puzzling World

YHA Franz Josef dawn at lake matheson
After breakfast we will leave Southern Lakes District behind and drive through the majestic Haast Pass to the wild West Coast. In the afternoon we’ll be at the world famous reflection lake, lake Matheson. As the name suggests, on a still day these lakes show an enchanting reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook. Continuing north, we’ll stop at Franz Josef Village for the night, right near the famous glacier.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Franz Josef

Optional Activities: Franz Josef Guided Tours

Underworld Rafting
Our first stop is Hokitika, once a gold mining boomtown, but now known for its local Pounamu (greenstone/jade). Local artists carve the stone by hand into jewellery and much more. We then take a short drive north to Punakaiki, home to the famous Pancake Rocks. Naturally-formed limestone ravines that look like big stacks of pancakes. In the afternoon we include the awesome experience that is Underworld Rafting. Experience the hidden world of these amazing (and easy to navigate) cave systems. A memory you'll treasure!

Day Inclusions: Breakfast, Underworld Rafting

Accommodation: YHA Westport

YHA Westport coastline cape foulwind
We’ll start the day travelling out to Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay, where you’ll meet New Zealand fur seals in their natural environment. From there it’s north through the Buller Gorge and into award-winning wine country before stopping in Nelson, home to coastal views and galleries galore.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Nelson

Yellow able tasman kayak on beachfront
Explore Nelson and its surroundings at your leisure. We recommend a day tour over to Abel Tasman National Park, famous for its golden beaches; or a wine or craft beer tour - Nelson is renowned for both.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Nelson

Optional Activities: Abel Tasman day tour, kayaking, paddle boarding, wine tours

Interislander ferry - Kaitaki
The South Island leg of our adventure ends. We’ll take a short drive over to Picton, before stepping aboard the Interislander Ferry for a scenic cruise across Cook Straight. After marvelling at the bays and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds, we’ll step off in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city (and arguably its cultural capital as well). Arriving in time for a tour up Mount Victoria, where we’ll be treated to 360-degree views of the city and surrounding bays.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast, Interisland Ferry crossing

Accommodation: YHA Wellington

YHA wellington travellers checking out grey gandalf at weta artworks
It’s a day to yourself - and believe us, there’ll be no shortage of things to see and do! Wellington is famous for its cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries and eclectic array of shops and sights, and you’ll be staying right in the heart of it all.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Wellington

Optional Activities: Lord of the Rings Tour, Te Papa Museum, Botanic Gardens, Cable Car

yha new plymouth scenic mountain shot
We’ll travel north along the Kāpiti Coast, overlooking the Tasman Sea. Then after a jaunt through Taranaki’s rich dairy farming lands we’ll arrive in New Plymouth, sitting beneath the iconic shape of Mount Taranaki. We’ll spend a leisurely evening enjoying a classic New Zealand barbeque.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast, evening barbeque

Accommodation: YHA New Plymouth

Mt Ngauruhoe view national park
Today we’ll continue our travels along the North Island’s west coast before heading inland, travelling through lush farmland, the Pureora Forest Park and the Central Plateau. We’ll end the day in Taupo, nestled on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Taupo

YHA Gisborne travelling hiker looking over mountain top lake
The day is yours. Head off on a solo adventure, relax and unwind in a local café, or get a group together for a mission. There's plenty on offer so if you missed your chance to bungy, sky dive or jet boat in Queenstown, you can have a go here. If the weather is fair you could have a day trip to do the Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand's most popular long day walks. (it takes 6 - 8 hours)

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Taupo

Optional Activities: Tongariro Crossing, Sky Diving, Bungy Jumping, Lake Cruise

maori poi dance in tamaki village
Today we’ll head north to Rotorua, an absolute must-visit, full of geothermal wonders and Māori cultural experiences. The central North Island region is known for its geothermal grounds. We’ll start the day seeing them up close at the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, where you’ll be amazed by bubbling mud pools, the Lady Knox Geyser, silica formations and vibrant multi-coloured lakes. That evening, you’ll enjoy a full Māori cultural experience. Welcomed on to tribal lands by warriors, witness a Haka (war dance) and sample Hāngi, a traditional Māori method of food cooked in an underground oven.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast, Wai O Tapu Entry, Tamaki Maori Cultural Experience and Dinner

Accommodation: YHA Rotorua

YHA team member at Canopy Tours Rotorua
People flock from all over the world to explore Rotorua, so that’s what we’ll give the chance to do. The day is yours to explore, relax, or get the adrenalin pumping!

Day Inclusions: Breakfast

Accommodation: YHA Rotorua

Optional Activities: OGO, rafting, Polynesian Spa, Canopy Tours, Skyline Luge

YHA New Zealand - Auckland City from Bayswater Marina

Ending our time in Rotorua, you’ll get up close and personal with the local native flora, fauna and wildlife, including the world’s only living dinosaur (Tuatara) and the famous kiwi bird. After lunch, we’ll head through the mighty Waikato region, home to some of New Zealand’s greenest and most fertile farmland. Then it’s Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. There we’ll head to the top of the tallest freestanding structure in the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower, to admire the most stunning views in the city.

Day Inclusions: Breakfast, Rainbow Springs and Kiwi Encounter, Sky Tower entry

Accommodation: YHA Auckland International

YHA Bay of Islands the Rock youth travelers catching fish
No New Zealand visit is complete unless you visit the Bay of Islands in the Far North. We’ll journey through a kauri forest to meet Tāne Mahuta, the Lord of the Forest, the largest kauri in the world, estimated to be over 1250-years old. The best way to explore the Bay of Islands is from the water… so that’s what we’ll do, cruising the night away aboard The Rock Boat. It's more than a cruise, you get to snorkel, kayak, visit a local island and for those less active you can simply enjoy the onboard bar.

Day Inclusions: Farewell dinner and cruise activities

Accommodation: YHA The Rock Overnight Cruise

YHA Bay of Islands the Rock island

Not many people start the day on the water in a subtropical paradise, but that’s the special experience you’ll enjoy on your last morning with your fellow YHA travellers. Following a morning exploring all the must-see sights of the Bay of Islands, we’ll travel back to Auckland, and celebrate that we made it: 20 amazing days seeing the best Aotearoa, New Zealand has to offer!

Day Inclusions: Breakfast, lunch

Accommodation: YHA Auckland International

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