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New Zealand self drive

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We are planning a trip to New Zealand North and South Island from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, 2013.
We want to spend most of our time on the South Island (about 6 days on the North Island). Can we rent a car in Auckland and take it by ferry to the South Island dropping off in Christ Church?
We hope to do a lot of hiking and basically spending time outside of cities.
Please write itineraries that would work in this time frame. If you have hotel suggestions, please add as well.
Thanks.

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