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New Zealand South Island Car Trip

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I am planning an itinerary for a 4 week car trip around the South Island in March/April/May or Sept/Oct/Nov 2014 outside of school holidays. I prefer to travel in a shoulder season rather than high season and would like some input on which months would be the best, (we can be flexible), taking into consideration we plan on doing some medium level hiking.

So far my unfinished itinerary includes flying into Christchurch and heading north to Kaikoura, Picton (Queen Charlotte Track), then down the west coast to Hokitika and Franz Joseph and here I need some advice. When we leave Franz Joseph I would like to drive the Haast Pass to Wanaka/Mount Cook/Twizel area and am unsure where is the best place to stay. I'm thinking perhaps we could stay in one of these places and do day trips to the others. Maybe this is not practical as it seems there is a lot to see and do. When leaving this area we would head to Queenstown, then Te Anau.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers
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