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North Island NZ Itinerary

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Hey Fodor Friends:

My husband, teenage son and I will be in New Zealand for nine nights in early August. We'll be flying in from Cairns, AU, so will hopefully be over our jet lag by then. We love to just wander around, see pretty beaches and other scenery, etc. Please tell me what you think about this itinerary.

Day one: arrive Auckland at noon, look around the city, hotel near airport (free)
Day two: visit Karekare Beach and other beaches nearby, same hotel
Day three: drive up to Whangarei, or somewhere around there, spend the night
Day four: drive to Cathedral Cove, stay in Whitianga
Day five: same as above
Day six: drive around the East Cape, stay somewhere about half way around
Day eight: Gisbourne
Day nine: Gisbourne
Day ten: Rotorua
Day eleven: Auckland, leave the next morning

I could have free hotels in some of these places (Whangarei, Gisbourne, Rororua, and Nelson), and am on a budget, so that explains some of my thinking. But it's not necessary that we do it this way.

Please critique overall, and then I have the following questions: Should we add Nelson to the trip? How else would you adjust? What am I missing? (I know, A LOT!) This gives us two nights in three different places, which means that we're not packing every night. But we're good at being on the road, so could be somewhere different every night, too. Ideas? Thanks!

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