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NZ - Trip of a lifetime. Help!

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We've been planning this for a few years now and have put it off. Now we have decided to bite the bullet and do NZ in March'14. DW and I. Without kids. We're both 37. We may be joined by my brother and SIL.

The plan is to do both islands. Maybe 6 nights in NI, 12 nights in SI. 3rd week of March into April. We will rent a car and drive around. Interests are around experiencing NZ this being our first trip, natural beauty, doing rather than seeing, outdoors, culture, etc.

Questions for NI:
We want to do Rotorua and Wellington for sure. Maybe 2 nights each. The other 2 nights juggling between Bay of Islands/Reinga or elsewhere. Does Auckland warrant a stay? Heard both sides of the argument. Suggestions?

The other question is if we take a bus point to point for the entire NI portion of the trip, does it work out more economical than if I were to rent a car?

SI - Pretty straightforward. Taking west coast route from Picton.
2 nights in wine country in Blenheim/Renwick
1 in Nelson. Then straight shot to FZ. Is this a long drive?
1 in FZ
2 in Wanaka
3 in QT
2 in Te Anau and onto Milford
1 night spare to fit in somewhere inbetween.

We plan to fly out of QT.

Thanks a lot in advance.

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