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How's this itinerary for New Zealand in November/December?

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Hi Fodorites
I'm back for your help with the last bit of planning for our Great Adventure. (I've posted previously about taking this trip to celebrate our retirement, and you have given some great advice.) We'll have 24 days total in New Zealand.

I've read guide books and TRs and posts till I'm dizzy, and we have a pretty clear idea of where we want to go. I realize we can't see it all, so we have eliminated some spots to avoid too much churning round the countryside. We're supposed to enjoy this, not make it a race from Cape Reinga to Bluff!

About us: we love to travel, enjoy beautiful scenery, visit vineyards, drink good wine and eat good food. We like art galleries, history, music, and lazy beach days. Stay at nice-but-not-over-the-top hotels and B&Bs, or self-catering apartments or cottages. We like to walk, not hike -- Mr SB's knees not up to that. We will mostly travel independently, taking occasional day tours here and there. We'll rent a car as the most practical way to get around.

The plan so far: fly from Melbourne to Auckland at the end of our Australia trip and spend one (or two) nights in Auckland.
- Drive to the far north, visit Bay of Islands area and take flightseeing trip to Cape Reinga. (Love the sound of the Cavalli Beach House, which is over our budget but looks fantastic for a couple of nights.) Would that be a good place to stay?

- Drive right to Rotorua for a couple of nights to experience Maori history and culture, then drive to Wellington for 2 nights (really want to see Te Papa).

- Take ferry to Picton, and stay 3 nights in Nelson area -- do a winery tour and water taxi to Abel Tasman. Is Nelson a good central spot to locate for the north coast area of SI?

- Drive to Christchurch for 3 nights -- visit Akaroa. Maybe we can work in a sheep station stay here?

- Drive to Dunedin/Otago peninsula area for 2-3 nights. Must see albatross!

- Final driving spurt through the Catlins to Te Anau, and visit the fjords. I think we really want to see both Doubtful and Milford sounds -- maybe do the overnight cruise on one or the other? That is still TBD.

Lastly, drive to Queenstown for a flight back to Auckland, then the next day take our flight back to the US (LAX).
Phew! ;-)

So -- are we crazy? I know it's a busy schedule, but it does take in the places we most want to see. It may be our only chance, after all.

Your thoughts/alerts/advice are all very welcome. And thanks for all the great ideas I've gotten here already!

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