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Towns to use as a base in New Zealand

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My husband and I are thinking of a trip to New Zealand end of this year, early next year.

We might start with a 10 day Nat Geo trip beginning in Auckland and ending in Queenstown.

It is possible that my sister-in-law would join us after the Nat Geo trip was finished, and the 3 of us would rent a car and work our way back to Auckland over a period of 2 weeks. None of us have ever been to New Zealand. We love nature, great scenic drives, history, walks & easy hikes. Not interested in swimming, snorkeling, bungee jumping etc.

We love staying in rentals for 3-4 days and using them as a base to explore areas.

Can you throw out some ideas on towns I should start considering that would work to explore areas of interest?

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