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Pahilia: Bay of Islands is a great place to visit.  Its relaxing, calming, and there's still alot to do. Pahilia is a great place to start your adventures.  It allows easy access to the North and West to do Cape Reinga, Sand surfing and glow worm caves to the South.  Not to mention in Pahilia itself you have scuba, dolphins, skydiving, boating, and golfing.
Taupo: Taupo is great for its hiking (Tongarino) thermal pool, skydiving and night life.  It has a good bar scene and some cool hostels to hang out at.  Within a couple hours you have Rotorua, Waitomo Caves, and River Valley to the South.  That takes care of the glow worm caves, caving, thermal pools, and the Maori experience. 

Nelson: There's not a whole lot to do in Nelson itself, but its location is great.  To the north you have Abel Tasman, which you can kayak, hanglide, hike, and skydive. To the southeast there's Marlborough, which is known for its awesome wineries.  Its also near the coast and has the best weather of the south island.
Queenstown:  The big daddy.  Don't miss it.  I only got 3 days there, but if you can do like 5.  Leave 1 activity a day, and leave some room for some drinking.  That wallet is gonna hurt, but its worth it.  If you wanna relax, go to Wananka.  Super bonus is its close to Milford Sound, which is amazing. 
Raglan: This is a must see.  Its location is remote, just west of Hamilton.  About 2 hours outside of Auckland, its the perfect beach town away from everything.  It is the perfect place to unwind, forget everything, and grab a surfboard.  If you wanna relax, go here.  Each day will be better than the next.

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Comment by Ed Wetschler on June 16, 2011 at 9:32pm
Paul, I'll be going to New Zealand in November, and my schedule won't allow me to do any real backpacking, but I sure enjoyed reading this -- it's a nice warm-up for me.

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