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Help with North Island NZ itinerary

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Hey Fodorite Friends:

I've read enough, I think, to have narrowed some things down in terms of what we want to do, but need your help! We're spending nine nights in New Zealand in August. Flying in and out of Auckland (after five days in Cairns, AU). I am thinking that we'll spend two nights in Auckland at the beginning, and one at the end. Which leaves six nights. The places that appeal to me most are the places with the most ocean scenery. So I am wondering about spending two nights up near Russell or Paihia (could spend one day going up to Cape Reinga--is this a beautiful drive? Do you see the ocean a lot on the way?). Then we could drive down to the East Cape, and spend two nights going around it, stopping halfway. Then a night in Gisbourne, a night in Napier, and back to Auckland?

Taking this general idea, what would you suggest? Are there a couple of places that we could spend two nights each instead and still basically see the same things? Or are there other places you would suggest? Am I on the right track in thinking that this would be a good route?

I'm not interested in Rotorua so much (my memories of Yellowstone involve a LOT of "get away from that molten pool, son!'), and while Lake Taupo sounds beautiful, the ocean is my favorite.

Thanks for your advice.

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