Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour

Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour

  • Christchurch or Queenstown
  • Auckland
  • 14 or 15 days
  • 4.7 / 5.0 (92 reviews)
  • from NZD$2,171.00

Main Highlights

  • 3 nights in the Abel Tasman National Park
  • 2 nights in the Bay of Islands
  • Cycle sections of the New Zealand Cycle trail
  • Franz Josef Glacier
  • Camp out by beaches & lakes
  • Explore the Wild West coast
  • Scenic sailing through the Marlborough Sounds
  • Explore the rugged West Coast
  • Visit UNESCO World Heritage site


The Reverse Traverse trip soaks up the best of Kiwiana on this great journey from the bottom of the South to the top of the North. This trip takes in some of the most diverse scenery in the world in 15 days; visit the county's best National Parks, explore glaciers, fiords, golden sand beaches, rugged coastlines, lush subtropical forests and dramatic mountain formations.

This trip offers great flexibility with start options in Christchurch or Queenstown. Find out more in the trip options section.

This is one of our top rated tours for those with around 2 weeks in New Zealand - highlights include:

- OUR TOP 4 NATIONAL PARKS: Spend time in NZs only coastal national park, Abel Tasman and view some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Westland and Egmont national parks.

- ENJOY MULTI NIGHT STOPS:  This tour is perfectly paced to spend more time in the best spots.  With extra nights in Abel Tasman and the Bay of Islands you can relax, unwind and enjoy some of the best beach scenery in the World!

- LONELY PLANET'S BEST DRIVE IN THE WORLD:  This tour covers some spectacular scenery but of particular note is the wild west coast of the south island.

- UNIQUE ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES:  This tour is packed with adventure options - choose from skydiving, canyoning, black water rafting, glacier hiking, sailing, diving, sandboarding and paddleboarding to name a few

- OPTIONS GALORE FOR CYCLISTS AND HIKERS:  This section of the country offers some of the most diverse landscapes and exploring them by foot or bike is ideal.  We get to hidden spots off the beaten track where you can enjoy awesome vistas away from the crowds.

visting the amazing abel tasman on tour

Abel Tasman hike by Brian Guest


We know the best of New Zealand which is why we have included the following in the Reverse Traverse tour:

- Accommodation: Pitch your tent beside beaches, lakes, mountains and forests. A spacious, shared tent is included in the tour price (sharing with one other person of a similar age/same sex). There is the option to upgrade to a single tent if you prefer for a small cost.

Food: Our portable kitchen turns into a restaurant under the stars! Most meals are included (our detailed itinerary outlines exactly what is included on a day-to-day basis). We can also cater for a broad range of dietary requirements.

- Wine Tasting: The Sauvignon Blanc wines of Marlborough are internationally recognised for their beautiful crisp flavour and distinctive summer citrus aromas. The tastings are on us in our specially arranged wine tasting experience.

- Cook Strait Ferry Crossing: The most scenic way to get from one island to the other is the Cook Strait ferry. You can sit back and relax on the 3 hour scenic crossing between the South and North islands through the stunning Marlborough Sounds - keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins on the way.

- Sports Equipment: What a great way to spend time around camp, make use of sports equipment we’ve put on board for you, such as bodyboards, frisbee and more depending upon the bus.- 

- Hikes: Marvel at the reflection on Mt Cook as you walk around Lake Matheson mirror lake, free walks are enjoyed every day and vary from 10mins to a few hours in length. Our bike rides page and the hiking pages give you lots more detail into the rides and hikes our guides will show you along the way.

A few more of our free inclusions are Abel Tasman, Paparoa, Westland Tai Poutini, Te Papa museum, Wellington Botanical Gardens, Hokitika greenstone factory, Punakaiki Pancake rocks and blowholes and of course amazing sunrises and sunsets at beautiful beachside campsites!

lake matheson views on tour

Lake Matheson views by Brian Guest


You can start this trip in Queenstown or Christchurch. The bus service from Christchurch to Queenstown runs daily (apart from Christmas day) so if you would like to have a few days to explore Queenstown before the tour departs contact us. The standard trip price and dates are for departures from Queenstown.

Customise Your Trip: It is possible to only do part of the route - maybe you want to start in Queenstown and finish in Wellington. Talk to our crew in the office about how we can create you the perfect trip.


If you have a few days after your trip why not extend it with this great option:

Northern Light Tour - You can discover New Zealand's hot spots and the remarkable contrasting northern landscapes on this quick thermal blast! It's a short trip from Auckland to Wellington and is packed with some of the best parts of New Zealand.


Campsites and Upgrades:  It's the places we stay that make the trip so memorable for many of our clients.  Nothing matches opening your tent to views of the Pacific ocean or dozing off to the sound of the waves.  We use a mixture of department of conservation and commercial (DOC) camps. All have great facilities but the DOC camps are a little more basic (but in the most scenic spots).  There are cabin upgrades most nights if you fancy a break from the canvas - no need to book in advance but this is subject to availability at peak times.

Hostels:  There are two nights where camping isn’t feasible and we stay in hostels (at your own cost). Hostel nights are in Wellington and Auckland. Your guide will make a booking for you and we have dorm beds reserved for everyone. If you would like a private room (subject to availability) please contact us to book this in advance. Payment for the Auckland hostel is made to Flying Kiwi prior to travel and the Wellington hostel is paid direct to the hostel on check-in.

For more useful information visit our How it works page here.

  1. Our final morning in Queenstown and your last chance to indulge in the Queenstown’s action before we farewell those finishing their tour and welcome new travellers joining us here. 

    Leaving at 2:30pm, after the thrills and spills of Queenstown we travel through more mountains and on towards more stunning glacial lakes. On the final stretch to camp we start getting views of Mt Aspiring National Park in the distance. Lake Wanaka is just over the next ridge and it’s on the edge of this glacial lake that we find our next wilderness camp. Enjoy great views of Lake Wanaka and the mountains beyond as we absorb the beauty of the area.

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: You can make the most of the Queenstown bike trails before we leave at 2.30pm and you can ride into Lake Hawea village from camp
    • Walks and Hikes: Lakefront walks or other walks you may have missed yesterday when doing activities.
    • Optional Activities: Bungy jumping, canyon swing, skydiving, boat cruise plus much more!
    • Available Upgrades: Yes limited options
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 2 hours
  2. Today is a substantial drive but the scenery we'll be travelling through is quite dramatic plus we'll be making stops along the way for walks, views, waterfalls, coastline and a couple of bike options! We start the day tracing the northern edge of Mt Aspiring National park crossing the Haast pass and the gateway to the Westland region before meeting the Tasman Sea. Tonight, we will be staying beside the beautiful Lake Paringa enjoying a true West Coast wilderness experience. 

    The wild "West Coast" refers to the beautiful and diverse area lodged between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. This area is home to arguably the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand and the the least number of people - a perfect combination for our tours. The region is dotted with towering mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, thundering rivers and rain forest. The national parks in this region have been designated as World Heritage Areas to help keep this area of supreme natural beauty intact. Residents of the region are known as "coasters" and known for their genuine friendliness. 

    • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Later in the day you have an option of a long ride into camp from Knights Point lookout to Lake Paringa
    • Walks and Hikes: There are quite a number of short walks today as we make frequent stops on this epic journey to the West Coast
    • Available Upgrades: Yes limited options
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 3 hours
  3. Today is your chance to explore one of NZ’s most unique and spectacular natural wonders – Franz Josef Glacier. This staggering beautiful work of nature is 12 kilometres and descends from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level. To get on the ice you must go up by helicopter but it’s possible to view the glacier with a stunning walk through the main valley up to the terminal face.

    Before arriving at Franz Josef, we take a highly recommended walk around Lake Matheson where crystal clear reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman make the perfect photo opportunity.

    Late afternoon, we have a short drive up the coast to our beautiful beachside campsite next to the Okarito lagoon – one of the very few places where there are still rare sightings of our native kiwi bird and the home to NZ’s only colony of the White Heron (kotuku). Enjoy a fire down on the beach taking in the rugged coast and epic mountain views.   

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Ride along the walk/cycleway to the Glacier viewpoint. There is also a beautiful ride on the quiet road that leads to Okarito
    • Walks and Hikes: In the morning a walk around Lake Matheson is a must do! In the afternoon if you're not hiking on the ice then definitely head up to the terminal face viewpoint
    • Optional Activities: Guided heli-hike, skydiving, kayaking, West Coast wildlife centre
    • Available Upgrades: Yes limited options
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 2.5 hours
  4. If you're feeling up to it then you can head out on an early morning walk to watch the sunrise before we continue up this spectacular coastal stretch to Hokitika – home to the Greenstone factories where you can see these skilled craftsmen at work and a great place for a traditional souvenir of your visit. We travel on through pristine native forest to Paparoa National Park where giant columns of water shoot skywards at Pancake Rocks! This beach camp has great sunsets, a beautiful river and incredible views of Paparoa National Park. The pancake rocks and blowholes are the main attraction in Punakaiki where limestones rocks are stacked on top of each other and ocean swells are forced through gaps in the rock creating a whale’s blowhole effect. In the evening we can relax at the local tavern and explore a cavern with some glow worms hanging out in the dark.

    Hokitika and the surrounding area is a traditional source of greenstone (pounamu) - several stores and outlets offer a variety of jewellery and other items in this thriving arts and crafts scene. Paparoa National Park is home to a plethora of luxuriant coastal forests, limestone cliffs, canyons, caves and underground streams, and an absolutely spectacular coastline, all packed into one national park.

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Road ride on a stretch of highway that has been voted one of the most scenic roads in the world! Expect some hills but extensive views of coastline, totally rewarding!
    • Walks and Hikes: If you're up for an early start then head out to the okarito trig for fantastic views of the Southern Alps as the sun comes up. Once we reach Punakaiki there are a number of different trails you can explore to get the best out of our visit to Paparoa Nati
    • Optional Activities: Punakaiki pancake rocks & blow holes (free!), Paddleboarding, River canoeing
    • Available Upgrades: Yes (limited)
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 3.5 hours
  5. Leaving Punakaiki mid-morning we make our way inland through the majestic Buller Gorge to one of our favourite National Parks, Abel Tasman. In one of the sunniest areas of the country you will discover beautiful secluded bays and stunning golden sands. There are all kinds of options to experience the park but on the day we arrive it's all about getting a birds eye view by skydiving over the area. If you're not keen for this adrenaline activity we'll take you to camp and you can explore from there. Our campsite is located near the entrance to the park and we will be staying here for 3 nights to give you every chance to explore all corners of the park.

    New Zealand has a range of fantastic national parks but this is our favourite - maybe it's because this little gem lies on the doorstep of Flying Kiwi HQ but mainly it's due to the the golden sandy beaches, twisting rocky outcrops, turquoise clear waters and beautiful hidden bays. The park is also home to a range of life from dolphins and orcas to tuis and bellbirds. Whether from the ground, water or air the Abel Tasman never fails to disappoint aspiring photographers looking for the perfect beach shot!

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Trail, biking past a local beer brewer, local fruit and vegetable roadside stands, a hill to get those legs pumping, a brilliant mountain bike park and views of golden sand and invitingly warm waters, what more can you ask for?!
    • Walks and Hikes: Enjoy an afternoon or evening walk into Abel Tasman National Park from camp (yes that rights, it’s on your backdoor step).
    • Optional Activities: Skydiving
    • Available Upgrades: Yes
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 5 hours
  6. Free day to explore the National Park by kayaking or sailing the crystal-clear waters, or multiple walking options.

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Kaiteriteri mountain bike park, cycle rides from camp if not on activities
    • Walks and Hikes: Exploring the Abel Tasman National Park - single & multi day walk options
    • Optional Activities: Multi day & single day kayaking options, canyoning, sailing, water taxi / walk, conservation projects (free), conservation tour
    • Available Upgrades: Yes
    • Drive Distance: No driving today
  7. We spend another full day at the doorstep to New Zealand’s smallest but most visited national park and our personal favourite, the Abel Tasman. 

    Tonight, we’ll be eating at a local hang out, The Fat Tui (own cost).

    • Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
    • Bike Rides: Kaiteriteri mountain bike park, rides from camp
    • Walks and Hikes: Exploring Abel Tasman National Park
    • Optional Activities: Kayaking, canyoning, sailing, water taxi / walk, conservation projects (free), conservation tour
    • Available Upgrades: Yes
    • Drive Distance: No driving today
  8. Today we head to sunny Nelson – the headquarters for Flying Kiwi and you will soon find out why. In addition to being one of the sunniest areas of NZ its home to more than 350 working artists and craftspeople creating traditional, contemporary and Maori arts + it's a wonderful place to live! Relax and enjoy the sunshine and café culture of our hometown. We leave Nelson for wine country – Marlborough, home to some of the World’s best known grapes and we will be treating you to a free tasting in one of their best vineyards. Finish this fantastic day with a scenic ferry (cost included) through the Marlborough sounds to Wellington - our base for the evening. Camping isn’t feasible in the heart of the nation’s capital so we will be staying a great hostel with various room options giving you the best access to explore. This is payable locally and we have dorm beds reserved for everyone on board (prices from $31).

    • Meals: Breakfast
    • Bike Rides: Hit another section of the Great Taste Trail this morning enroute to sunshine capital, Nelson. Ride over well established boardwalks through the Tasman Estuary, keep an eye out for local birdlife, this is a really easy and relaxing ride to finish your las
    • Walks and Hikes: Walking around Nelson town in the morning before jumping back on the bus and continuing towards Picton for the ferry that will take you to the North Island.
    • Drive Distance: 3.5 hours plus ferry crossing
  9. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast by the waterfront (own cost) and check out the sights of beautiful Wellington before we hit the road for our 11am departure. We travel up the scenic Kapiti Coast to the Taranaki region – home to wonderful beaches, crashing waves and spectacular Mount Taranaki – a perfectly formed snow-capped peak.

    Wellington is the nation's capital and from Maori legend its earliest name is Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, meaning ‘the head of Maui's fish’. This relates to the legend when a giant fish was pulled to the surface by Maui, the fish became the North Island. Half way between Wellington and Auckland we find Taranaki.

    • Meals: Dinner
    • Bike Rides: A leisurely coastal ride following the New Plymouth Walkway. Plenty of local artwork and sculptures along the ride to keep an eye out for. If it’s a clear evening, don’t miss this ride as all going well you’ll get to experience an amazing sunset.
    • Walks and Hikes: Walk some of the New Plymouth walkway in the evening from camp to capture some of the best sunsets!
    • Available Upgrades: Yes
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 6 hours
  10. Early departure to the limestone wonderland of Waitomo Caves. The glow-worm (Arachnocampa luminosa) is unique to our shores and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light through this network of caves. The black water rafting is a totally unique experience – sitting in your rubber ring, your experienced and knowledgeable guides will take you through a maze of underground caves and streams whose ceilings are coated in glow-worms that produce a radiant light to lead you through. There are a range of options to explore the caves, from walks to rafting, dependent upon your adrenalin levels. We take time to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking farmland before heading to Auckland and a taste of big city life “kiwi style”. Auckland nightlife is second to none and it’s a great chance to join your group for a taste of the harbour bars and restaurants. Camping isn’t feasible in the heart of the country’s largest city, so we will be staying in a great hostel giving you the best access to explore the city. We have dorm beds reserved for everyone on board and private rooms can be booked subject to availability. Payment is to be made to Flying Kiwi prior to arrival into Auckland.

    Auckland is bordered by 2 harbours, Waitemata and Manukau and lies at the southern end of the Auckland Peninsula. Auckland is NZs largest city and the main gateway for all elements of commerce, tourism and industry. Although this is the largest urban area its also has great beaches, excellent shopping and the buzzing nightlife and culture you'd hope for in a large city. Auckland is also known as the City of Sails and this has been added to with the America’s Cup event regularly held here.

    • Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
    • Bike Rides: If you’re not doing any Waitomo activities, jump on a bike and enjoy a countryside road ride into Waitomo. You’ll be riding through the Waikato District, home to many four legged wooly friends, sheep!
    • Walks and Hikes: Enjoy a trail walk taking you through forest in Waitomo to caves and a lookout overlooking the Waitomo district.
    • Optional Activities: Blackwater rafting, glowworm cave tour
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 4-5 hours
  11. We leave the City of Sails (Auckland) at 10am heading north to the golden beaches and warm waters of the Bay of Islands. On route we take time for a break, and a quick swim for those that are keen, at beautiful Uretiti beach. It’s a great place to relax and make use of the Frisbee, football and rugby ball on board. We then head to the historically significant town of Paihia, the main gateway for the Bay of Islands before doing a highly recommend mangrove walk from the thundering Haruru waterfalls. Our campsite is nestled next to the estuary and we will be spending 2 nights here giving you time to explore the best of the Bay.

    • Meals: Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Forest trail rides that will give you views of the Bay of Islands, good exercise and go past the Haruru Waterfalls.
    • Walks and Hikes: A great afternoon walk taking you past mangroves, over boardwalks, through forest before ending at the Haruru Waterfalls. A beautiful walk and highly recommended!
    • Optional Activities: Waitangi Treaty House (Maori culture), twilight kayaking
    • Available Upgrades: Yes (limited options)
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 4 hours
  12. Experience a full day exploring the Bay of Islands and its turquoise waters. This subtropical region is the perfect playground for water lovers and a great place to soak up the sunshine. With a staggering 144 islands, the Bay of Islands offers swimming, sailing, dolphin viewing, kayaking plus much more along with some excellent walks in the native forests. This region is also home to some of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand.

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: If not doing an activity hop on a bike to explore Paihia
    • Walks and Hikes: If not doing an activity walk into Paihia or take a trip over to the historic town of Russell
    • Optional Activities: Sailing, fishing, diving, kayaking, Maori Culture
    • Available Upgrades: Yes (limited options)
    • Drive Distance: No driving today
  13. Today we cross the top of the north to the giant sand dunes of Opononi for beach fun and optional sand boarding. After time on the dunes we head to Waipoua Forest, home to the giant Kauri trees and a variety of scenic short walks and bike rides. We end the day heading down the Hibiscus Coast to our beachside camp at Orewa. Enjoy a tasty evening meal with a sea view before a spot of star gazing in the crystal-clear skies.

    The roads around this region pass through forest dominated by huge kauri trees. These tower above you at heights of up to 60 metres with a trunk five or more in diameter. These trees are slow growing and some are over 2000 years old. Beautiful Opononi is an excellent stop with its endless dunes lined by beautiful pohutakawa trees (the New Zealand Christmas tree).

    • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
    • Bike Rides: Ride through the Waipoua forest and the historic settlement of Donnelleys crossing and later on in the day there's a short casual ride around quiet estuary walkway
    • Walks and Hikes: Enjoy getting up close and personal as you walk through one of New Zealand’s largest remaining protected Kauri tree forests.
    • Optional Activities: Sand boarding
    • Available Upgrades: Yes
    • Drive Distance: Approx. 3-4 hours
  14. Orewa is often blessed with a beautiful sunrise over the sea which is well worth an early start before we travel the short distance to Auckland arriving by 9:30am where we say our final farewells.

    • Meals: Breakfast
    • Bike Rides: 8km – Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway
    • Optional Activities: Sand boarding, hot pools
    • Drive Distance: Approx 50 minutes


Book with Confidence! Snap up a great deal today and save 25% when travelling between October 2020 to April 2021. If needed, you can also change your start date, free of charge for travel up until April 2022!

Tour price departing Queenstown (14 days) $2895

$2,171 NZD (14 days)
$2,355 NZD (15 days)

Tour price departing Christchurch (15 days) $3140
Bike hire $300
Bring your own bike $145
Single tent upgrade $150
Sleeping bag hire $80


Please note: Due to Covid-19 we have a reduced number of departures for our 2020-2021 season. 

MonthDeparture Dates
December '20 8th  
January '21 4th 31st
February '21   27th
March '21   26th


Please note: Due to Covid-19 we have a reduced number of departures for our 2020-2021 season. 

MonthDeparture Dates
December '20         7th   
January '21 3rd 30th
February '21   26th
March '21   25th
Show nearby:

Trip Reviews

  • We had a positive experience with our trip. Camping in a beautiful country is a lot of fun.

    , travelled Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour on 23/10/2019

  • Welcomed by smiling, proud Kiwis in a land of stunning beauty. Forming friendships with like minded travelers through exciting activities. Thank you for such an amazing experience in your gorgeous country.

    , travelled Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour on 01/03/2019

  • This is a really unique trip, much better than anything I would have been able to plan on my own.

    , travelled Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour on 01/03/2019

  • Flying Kiwi is an unique experience to explore New Zealand. Travelling by coach brings you inside the hearts of mountains and valleys as well as bringing you closer to your fellow companions. Sleeping in tents gives you the sense of being close to nature and the beauty of NZ. The various activities allow anyone to customize their trip to their liking.

    , travelled Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour on 01/02/2019

  • Exceptional crew and fellow travelers. Amazing locations to visit that I would not have stumbled on otherwise.

    , travelled Reverse Traverse - North and South Island Tour on 01/01/2019