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I've been given my assignment: Fiji and...?

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This year (as I do in alternate years in one form or another) I had my geography class choose my 2016 trip location. Today they voted, and Fiji came out the winner. (There were seven choices all told, including the likes of Estonia.) I haven't done much research, of course, but have just ordered some guidebooks and been looking at possibilities. I am thinking that I might want to combine Fiji with another location, such as New Zealand (perhaps just one Island?) so I'm looking for some real-world advice. :)

I will have about 17 days in late June/early July for the trip. I do not drive, and will probably be making this trip solo, but my (adult) niece or nieces may choose to accompany me. However, I do not want to count on having a driver. I will be coming from the East Coast of the US. I am accustomed to traveling alone (i.e. solo in China, India, South America...) and like a combination of culture/history/nature but not "relaxing on the beach" or nightlife, necessarily. My questions,then, are these:

1. Would the Fiji/NZ combo make sense considering the small amount of time that I have and the season? It's not likely I'll be in this part of the world again too soon, and would like to see (I'm anticipating some shudders, my apologies) particularly some LOTR sites.

2. Should I consider instead just various islands of Fiji (or perhaps other islands, like the Solomons or Vanuatu?)

3. How easy/difficult is it to get around without driving?

4. Any lovely quirky places that are on the low budget side? Airfare will be a bit of a joy-killer, of course, and I've been perfectly happy in guesthouses and the like, no need for swanky. Although that's got its place,too.

Thanks for any help/random info/even rants! This board has been my go-to for a long time now, and my trip to Australia a few years ago was terrific in large part due to contributions from Fodorites.

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