8 unbelievable facts about New Zealand

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the home of October's Lighthouse Gin. New Zealand may be renowned for breath-taking scenery, a vast arrays of unique flora and fauna (such as its people’s eponymous kiwi bird) and for being the home of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, but if you look a little closer at this truly spectacular destination, you’ll find that there’s oh-so-much more to discover…

1. It’s not just made up of two islands… but closer to six hundred.

New Zealand island aerial view

Photo: northlandnz.com

New Zealand’s most recognised islands are the North and South Islands, but there are hundreds of outlying islands that make up the country’s territories. Only a handful of these are populated, however, and most New Zealanders reside on the two main islands.

2. Its native name means “Land of the Long White Cloud.”

Maori women of New Zealand

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, who descended from early Polynesian explorers and have inhabited the islands for over a thousand years. Their name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, or ‘land of the long white cloud.’ It’s unclear where this name came from, but it is widely accepted and used.

3. It’s home to the longest place name in the world.

Longest place name in the world

Photo: Te Ara Encyclopedia

Head to Hawke’s Bay to find a hill with the longest place name in the world. It’s a Māori term that roughly translates to ‘the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as the land-eater, played his nose flute to his loved one’. This tongue-twisting title? Taumatawhakatangihangaoauauotameteaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.

4. Only 5% of its population is human.

New Zealand sheep

New Zealand has the highest animal to human ratio in the world. There are about seven sheep for every one person on the island, and three times as many cows. The island is about the same size as Japan, which has more vending machines than New Zealand has people!

5. New Zealand has (almost) no dangerous or poisonous animals.

NZ poisonous insects 640x400.png

Unlike its neighbour Australia, which is infamous for its deadly critters, New Zealand has essentially no dangerous wildlife. The minor exceptions are a couple of species of toxic spiders, which are so incredibly rare that they are usually not even considered.

6. You’ll find more Scottish piping bands per capita in New Zealand than in Scotland itself.

Scottish piping band

About 20% of the original European population that settled in New Zealand was from Scotland, and this cultural identity is still strongly felt across the country. In addition to traditions such as bagpiping and Tartan Day, several places throughout the country have Scottish or Gaelic names.  

7. New Zealand is the only country legally allowed to use Hobbit-related images on its currency.

New Zealand Hobbit hole

The Lord if the Rings films pumped over $200,000,000 into the New Zealand economy – so it’s no surprise that they’ve become a massive part of its culture! During filming, the country appointed a ‘Minister for Lord of the Rings’ to manage financial opportunities from the film and, more recently, in anticipation of the Hobbit films they even released legal tender with images of hobbits on it.

8. No part of the country is more than 128km from the coastline.

New Zealand coastline

Beach bums, rejoice! Whether you want to lounge in the sun or enjoy the country’s ridiculously agreeable ocean waters (between summer and winter the water temperature never changes more than 10 degrees!), you’re never far from sandy shores in New Zealand. And with 14,000km of beautiful coastline to enjoy, adventure awaits…

Creatures You’ll Only Find In New Zealand...

Kiwi bird

Kiwi bird

Photo: Active Adventures

Kea Parrot

Kea Parrot

Tuatara

Tuatara reptile

Photo: A-Z Animals

Kakapo

Kakapo night parrot

Photo: New Zealand Department of Conservation

Something you won’t find?

Snake with tongue out

Snakes!