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New Zealand Hotel, Train & Travel assistance needed for Nov 2012

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We are a healthy retired couple in our 60's visiting Australia and NZ for the first time. Considerable research has been done on the forums and in a number of travel guides. We have already organized 12 days in Australia and are now planning for 9 days in NZ.

Our high level plan is to fly into Auckland and immediately fly to Christchurch and spend 3 nights there, travel to Wellington and spend 3 nights there and then back to Auckland for another 3 nights then off to Hawaii on our way back to North America. Our travel in NZ has not been arranged yet (except the flight to Christchurch) but we were considering a 7 day Scenic Rail Pass which would let us take the TransAlpine day trip out of Christchurch to Greymouth, the Coastal Pacific trip to Picton and Interislander ferry to Wellington and then the Overlander to Auckland. This is 3 days of train travel but we feel it would let us see a decent part of NZ. Comments? Suggestions? One of the things I'm a little concerned about is the ferry crossing of Cook Straight as many have said it can be quite rough. Any input on this? Maybe train to Picton and then fly to Wellington? Fly to Auckland? We have taken ferries in the Greek Islands so it's just the rough weather that's a concern.

Hotel/apartments suggestions in the Central areas of Christchurch/Wellington and Auckland in the moderate+ range would also be appreciated. I've looked at Tripadvisor and the guides so personal recommendations are what I'm after.

After the TransAlpine train trip we have one day left in Christchurch (how's the earthquake repair going? Many things closed like museums?). Suggestions about things to do for the day would be appreciated. Also, the train station is in Addington...is this far from downtown?

In Wellington we plan to visit Te Papa museum, downtown attractions, cable car...any other must do's?

In Auckland we plan to visit the Museum, Sky Tower, Art Gallery, Viaduct basin....other must do's? Is a harbour ferry trip to Devonport something worth doing considering we just have 2 full days here?

Looking forward to our trip and any assistance you can provide!

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