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planning for 1st trip to NZ

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Husband & I want to go to NZ in Feb-March for about 3 wks. We want to take an easy pace, 3-4 nights per place as base for day trips. Our $$ level is budget-moderate. Questions:
* 1 island (which one?) or both?
* recommend any such escorted tour or go w/ rental car?
* suggested locations/itinerary with enough to see on day trips?
* we're interested in a mix of museums/architecture (i.e., city-not so interested in night life), Maori culture, nature/outdoors/hiking

Any suggestions and info will be appreciated.

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