Forget hotels unless you want to go from city to city and New Zealand has way more to offer than its cities. Camping is the way to go.
If you are two people the best way to explore New Zealand is in one of the many varieties of campervan we see scouring the country. You can park up just about anywhere as long as you are “self-contained”. The coolest we saw were the wicked campervans and the escape campervans. These come decorated in graffiti and are everywhere.
The reality is we brought tents and we are 6 people. Because of this we are quite limited. Our salvation, however, were the DOC campgrounds. These are much cheaper than the private campgrounds and well, a lot more interesting. Normal, private campgrounds remind me way too much of suburbia and seem far too tame. Not to mention the fact that they price is rediculous for a family of 6. You can download the PDF of locations of DOC campground or get a brochure once you get here from any place that says “i-site”.
Many of the DOC campgrounds are in amazing places. Interesting little islands that you can only get to with a water taxi. We saw one that was in an old mining town and had 53 river crossings.
If you like hiking then New Zealand has a special treat for you. They call it tramping (hiking) here. They have dotted the whole country with “backcountry huts”. You see, when you are tramping they would prefer you not to tent on the trail so they provide these huts. I have even heard there are “firebaths” on some of the trails.