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New Zealand trip, Nov 2014

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We are planning a trip to New Zealand for about 3 weeks in November 2014. Both in our early 60's. Interests mainly beautiful scenery and photo ops, walks, to see whales, penguins, birds etc. We don't want to be rushing around from 1 place to another and would like to be able to get a sense of the areas we visit. I have read, with gratitude, several wonderful suggestions to others on this forum and would like your thoughts on this itinerary. Melnq8 suggested the trip from Christchurch on one response but I can't find that again. This is the area (CC to Mt. Cook) where I don't have a good sense of how many days to allow.

Day 1 - flying from San Francisco to Auckland (should be able to sleep) and then drive/fly to Rotorua staying there 3 nights
Day 4 - drive to Wellington via Lake Taupo - stay there 3 nights
Day 7 - Here is a question - one option is to take the ferry to Picton and then drive to Kaikoura for whale watching and the Peninsula Walkway and then on to Christchurch area taking probably 2 days to do this, OR should we fly from Wellington to Christchurch (rent car there) and possibly take a day trip to Kaikoura if we cannot get in whale watching etc elsewhere?

Christchurch - I was thinking of staying somewhere in or around CC and do a few 1 day trips: Banks Peninsula and Akaroa one day and the Arthur Pass another day (how far would you recommend we go to see and experience the main sights of the Pass - all the way or part-ways?)

Then according to Melnq8's suggestion fr wonderful scenery we would drive via Geraldine to Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook - how long should we allow?
Then to Wanaka for 2 nights
To Te Anau and Milford Sound for 2 nights
To Queenstown/Arrowtown/Glenorchy - probably stay in Arrowtown for 2 or 3 nights
To Oamaru to see the penguins and the Moreaki Boulders - 2 nights
(in other itineraries some of you recommended 3 nights in a few of these places - what do you think?)

Finally drive to airport in Christchurch stopping at the Trevor Griffith Gardens in Timaru

I appreciate any help/comments. Hopefully we are not too late to book hotels/ B&Bs etc.

Mary

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