I'm thinking about taking a trip to New Zealand and want to know what the best city would be to visit for a first time visitor? Ideally I would like a place that has both a mix of a small city life but where I can hike in surrounding areas.
I did a short road trip a couple of years ago starting in Christchurch, we drove Arthur's Pass to Hokitika for 1 night. Hokitika Gorge then to Franz Josef for 1 night. West coast drive to Wanaka 1 night. Crown range to Queenstown for 2 nights. Drove straight back to Christchurch due to time contraints but could have incorporated a night at Mount Cook National Park. Chch to Hanmer Springs 1 night, Kaikoura 1 night.
At this point we went back to Chch but given more time we'd have added Nelson and surrounding area for 4 or 5 nights.
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Rotorua really has some great sights! Some say it can be a bit touristy but you have a good mix of seeing some tourist stuff such as Maori shows but also a lot of geothermal activity and there are some good hikes nearby. If you're going, make sure to head to :Kerosene Creek which is a hot creek you can bathe in, even in winter! And its free.