i am heading to new zealand for around 4 weeks and want to do a fun tour but not too much of a prty bus. i am also really into the outdoors and my sports stuff so would like plenty of activity options.
so far i haev found flying kiwi , stray and haka tours but would love other peoples opinions on them and any tips when travelling around ... i am a keen surfer too so any expriences on trying to take surf boards on these buses would be great
I'm personally really not a fan of organized tours; I'd much prefer to do everything myself, especially as I've often discovered that there's very little that tour companies can offer me which I couldn't do cheaper myself. This especially holds true in New Zealand, where pretty much everywhere is very accessible by public transport.
As for the companies you mentioned, I can't recommend any of them. I used to have a good impression of flying kiwi, until it was noticed that they were heavily astroturfing here on the forums (someone masquerading as a satisfied customer was in fact working for flying kiwi, and bringing them up every chance he got), which for me totally destroyed any goodwill they had. Stray is (in my mind) on the one hand too much of a magic bus / kiwi experience clone, and on the other hand I've talked with people who travelled with them, and who were very negative about their unique "off the beaten track" locations (I remember Barrytown in particular, which is two houses and half a sheep, and utterly devoid of interest). Haka Tours I've never heard of. Are they new?
An 'active' tour I do on occasion point people to is Hiking New Zealand, which has a number of ten day "hiking safaris", transporting you from hiking route to hiking route. (Which connect to each other, too, so you could cover the entire country doing them.) Doesn't give you the option to go surfing (though it should be noted there's surprisingly few good surfing spots in New Zealand; for example, pretty much the entire west coast is off limits due to the murderous rip currents), but lots of activities and being outdoors.
You might like to try Active New Zealand. They run hiking/adventure tours in both the North and South Islands. Activities often included are cycling, kayaking, caving and obviously lots of hiking. They are not at all a "party bus" kinda thing - way too much exertion during the day for that lol Theres also nice little inclusions in the itineraries that give you a break from all the exercise every so often, such as visiting vineyards or local artists
I would check out Contiki. I went on a tour with them in July 07 to Europe and I am going on another one with them to Australia in July 08. I really like it because you get all the advantages of a tour, but with heaps of free time and optional activities. I know when I was in Europe, I got the chance to go White water rafting and mountain biking, which was awesome, and seems right up your alley. They have a few different itineraries in NZ. If I were you, I would spend the first or last week on your own, seeing the things you don't get to on the tour and surfing, then spend 2-3 weeks on the tour.
Here is a link to a trip that might interest you. http://contiki.com/tours/85-grand-explorer
Let me know if you have any questions about the trip I went on with Contiki.
Also, I think a tour is a good idea as opposed to doing everything on your own. That takes alot of research and headaches, whereas a tour takes care of everything for you, so you can spend your time enjoying the country you are in...but that's just my opinion.
just to say thanks for the tips and really helped. in the end it was between hiking nz and flying kiwi but as flying kiwi were much cheaper i stuck with them. i would have to rate it as one of the best trips i have ever done and would happily recommend it to anyone. also if you are thinking of doing it then let me know as if i refer someone they get 15% off and i get amazon tokens .... sweet.
ages were quite mixed up to about 40 and youngest was 17/18, also had good mix of nationalities (mainly european) but seemed to work well. i did heaps of cycling though bike hire is probably better in the south island than the north.
i also got a great flight deal from uk with emirates and would recommend them when checking out deals. next planned stop is south america....bring it on