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Help with an itinerary for the South Island of NZ

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Hello all!

My husband and I are planning our first trip to New Zealand! Our plan is to go in January and we are interested in seeing the gorgeous countryside. Originally we considered a cruise, but decided we wanted to see the inland countryside more so than the coast and honestly I don't think cruising is the best way to really experience a new place anyway.

We live in the US and have mainly traveled to Europe. We don't like to rush - I'd rather really get to know a place then to run from one place to the next in a blur. We have driven in foreign countries, but never on the opposite side of the road so I am a little apprehensive of that, but we're adventurous and we're up for the challenge.

I am in a small, manual wheelchair so the beach doesn't really appeal to us - just too difficult to deal with. Also this would mean any type of hiking or "crazy" terrain (rocky, gravel, sand, mud) is out. I know I need to do a lot of my own research, but if you had 2 weeks to spend in NZ what places would you absolutely not want to miss (based on the few bits of info I've shared)? Any suggestions on towns to use as a base?

Thanks so much!

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