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January-March When to visit NZ

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Plan to take a 3 week tour with OAT sometime between January and March. Will start in Wellington, then the south island, finishing in Auckland. Thinking of doing a week on my own somewhere on north island--maybe Bay of Islands, but open to suggestions.

Does anyone feel one of those months is better than the others? Swimming isn't major factor. Heard that Chinese New Year is crowded in early February and January has a lot of families traveling. Would late February to early March be good?

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