New Zealand is a dream destination. This island country in the South Pacific has made a lot of headlines throughout 2020 and 2021 with its stellar management of the pandemic. Perhaps in 2022, we’ll be able to visit it again. While we can’t travel to New Zealand quite yet, we can dream about the land of The Hobbits. This is one popular country to visit, in fact, tourists spent more than 115 million dollars per day in New Zealand in 2019. We have more fun facts about New Zealand to entice the traveler in you. Once you read this you’ll want to visit New Zealand as soon as the borders open.
Interesting Facts About New Zealand
What are some natural sites you should know about? What do Wellington and Christchurch have to offer? What exactly is a kiwi anyway? And where did Gandalf film his scenes? To answer read on for 14 fun facts about New Zealand.
Interested in traveling to New Zealand? Read our guides to help with planning:
1. There Is More Than One Type Of Kiwi
When you hear the word, “kiwi,” you probably think of the little green fruit. But there are actually three different meanings for the word, including the fruit.
A “kiwi” can refer to a native of New Zealand. Many New Zealanders like to call themselves Kiwis, but tourists can call residents Kiwis as well.
A “kiwi” is also a type of flightless bird. You can find them all over the country, and large plots of land are delegated as their habitats. The bird is what inspired the nickname for New Zealanders, not the fruit. And here is a fun fact you probably didn’t know, The kiwi fruit does not come from New Zealand, but China.
2. National Reserves Make Up 30 Percent of the Country
New Zealanders value natural landscapes. Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain, and it and the surrounding woods are a protected refuge. You can go for a day trip, but avoid littering as much as possible.
If you prefer a water getaway, you can go to the fjord at Milford Sound. A boat trip will let you see native whales, dolphins, and penguins.
3. New Zealand Has a Hill With the World’s Longest Name
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is located near Poranghau along the southeast coast of New Zealand. The hill is just over 1,000 feet tall, and it offers a lovely view of the countryside. But it is best known for its name, running 85 characters long.
The name is a Maori word. The English translation reads, “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, and climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travels around, played his flute to his loved one.” If you don’t feel like pronouncing the entire thing, you can call the hill, “Taumata.”
4. Wellington Is the Most Southerly Capital in the World
Wellington is located at 41.2924° S, 174.7787° E. This makes it the southernmost capital of an independent country, though it is ironically located on North Island.
Despite its location, Wellington has a mild climate. Average temperatures never drop below freezing, and summer highs can reach into the 60s and 70s.
5. There Are Five Sheep for Every Resident in New Zealand
Livestock is one of New Zealand’s leading industries. In 2019 alone, there was 37.8 million livestock in New Zealand. That number includes 26.8 million sheep. Less than five million people lived in New Zealand at the time, meaning there are roughly five sheep for every New Zealander.
Sheep are not the only animal denizens of New Zealand. The country is home to many bats and birds, including the aforementioned kiwi. There are so many animals that only five percent of the New Zealand population is human.
6. New Zealand Pioneered Women’s Suffrage
Throughout the 19th century, New Zealand women organized to gain the right to vote. During the 1890s, they sent petitions through Parliament demanding that lawmakers grant them the ballot box. On September 19, 1893, the Electoral Act was signed into law, granting women the ability to vote in parliamentary elections. New Zealand was the first in the world to do so, beating the United States by more than 20 years.
Women have played an important role in politics ever since. In 2006, all of the country’s highest positions were simultaneously held by women. This was the first and only time in world history where this was the case. And the current prime minister of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern. She has been serving since 2017.
7. Dunedin Has the World’s Steepest Residential Street
Dunedin is a residential city home to more than 100,000 people. Only a few of them live on Baldwin Street, which has a slope of 19 degrees. The street runs for more than 1,000 feet, which makes it very hard to drive on. But residents and tourists have braved the steep incline. One resident raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity by ascending the street on his pogo stick.
8. The Jedi Worship Across the Country
In 2001, an email campaign took place across the world. It encouraged people to write “Jedi” or “Jediism” as their answer to what religion they were on censuses. In New Zealand alone, more than 53,000 residents identified themselves as Jedis. That number meant that Jediism was more popular than Buddhism and Hinduism.
The number dropped to just over 20,000 in 2018. What constitutes Jediism depends on who you ask, but some people have tried to launch their own churches.
9. New Zealand Is Home to Tolkien Tourism
All but one scene in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films were filmed in New Zealand. This leads many book and film enthusiasts to fly down to the country. Tourism related to the movies creates 33 million dollars of revenue every year. Tourists can travel to Hobbiton, where the sets for the Shire scenes remain to this day.
The government found Tolkien tourism so important that it created the world’s first Minister of the Rings. Parliament member Pete Hodgson was tasked with coordinating efforts to invite tourists to come to New Zealand.
10. There Are Three National Languages
New Zealand recognizes English, Maori, and Sign Language as its three official languages. Nearly 150,000 New Zealanders can hold everyday conversations in Maori, including a majority of Maori adults. The language has become increasingly popular in recent years. Several bands have released songs in Maori that have gained national airplay.
More than 20,000 residents know New Zealand Sign Language. It is very similar to British Sign Language, and it shares many signs with American Sign Language. It became a national language in 2006 after years of activism.
11. Antarctica Is Next Door
New Zealand is the third-closest country in the world to Antarctica. It has deep roots in the continent. Alexander Von Tunzelmann was a New Zealander who was one of the first people to step foot on its mainland. New Zealand has direct control over a small part of the continent. It also is the home of many tourist organizations that plan trips to Antarctica. You can book flights or boat trips to see penguins and glaciers.
If you don’t want to get cold, you can find things to do in Christchurch. Their Antarctic Centre provides information about explorers and lets you experience a simulated cruise. The Centre is a great place where you can learn fun facts about New Zealand.
12. Volcanoes Are Everywhere
Auckland alone is surrounded by 50 different volcanoes. But you can find others scattered throughout the islands. Most of the volcanoes are now extinct, and the ones that are active pose no major threat. Mount Rangitoto lies on an island that is more than three miles wide. It extends nearly 1,000 feet in the air, and you can go for walks on it.
13. The Blue Lake Has the Clearest Water In the World
The Blue Lake is located in Nelson Lake National Park in the Southern Alps. Government studies have found that its water is the clearest of any fresh body water in the world. You can see several hundred feet down when you look into the water.
The lake is a sacred site for the Maori. They used to cleanse the bones of their relatives and release their spirits to the underworld. This means you cannot swim in it, but you can stand to the side and gaze into the depths.
14. You Can Eat a Lot of Butter and Cheese
New Zealand will produce 22 million metric tons of milk in 2021. This will allow them to make 360,000 metric tons of cheese and 520,000 metric tons of butter. You can sample a wide range of dairy products across the country. You can find many forms of locally grown cheddar, or you can sample brie and camembert.
We hope these fun facts about New Zealand helped you learn about a few more things about the country and New Zealand culture. You can visit natural reserves, volcanoes, and glaciers across a number of islands. You can walk alongside kiwi birds, sheep, and penguins.
Talk to some Maori in their native language, or try out New Zealand Sign Language. Worship alongside the Jedi community, thousands strong. Sample some delicious cheddar cheese near crystal clear waters.
Learn more unique facts about New Zealand so you can make memories that will last a lifetime. We have you covered. Read our New Zealand travel guide.