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7 Unique Things Only Found in New Zealand

7 Unique Things Only Found in New Zealand

Many things make New Zealand, or Aotearoa, unique! Ranging from wildlife that you can find only in New Zealand to activities you can do only in New Zealand, there are many unique things about New Zealand.

Here are the top 7 things that are the most unique things about New Zealand!

1. The Maori Culture

The Maori Culture

The Maori Culture

Maori people were the first residents of New Zealand, Polynesian explorers whose origin is not 100% confirmed. The Maori have nurtured an exclusive culture of New Zealand where every landmark you see revolves around a myth or legend.

Māori came here more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Today, one in seven New Zealanders identify as Māori. Their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity.

Experience Māori culture by visiting a marae, watching a carving or weaving demonstration or learning about fascinating myths and legends from passionate Māori guides.  You can experience the Maori culture in New Zealand only through their cultural show with song and dance known as kapa haka, or join in for a hangi meal.

Tikanga, or Māori customs, are also important in daily life. Manaakitanga is all about welcoming guests and providing great hospitality, something which all Kiwis pride themselves on.  Kaitiakitanga embodies the sense of respect and guardianship Māori feel toward the natural world. This philosophy is central to the love and care many New Zealanders have for the environment.

The best place to observe Māori culture is on a marae, which is a sacred communal meeting space.

In regions such as Northland, Auckland or Rotorua, you can visit a marae to experience a traditional Māori welcome. During a marae visit, you’ll also hear Māori speeches and singing, see carved meeting houses, greet the locals with a hongi (pressing of the noses) and enjoy a hāngī feast cooked in earth ovens.

2. The Cuisine

The Cuisine

The Cuisine

Along with delicious Hangi, a slowly cooked food in an earth oven, there are plenty of foods that New Zealand boasts of its own. Take L&P, Lemon & Paeroa are a soft drink which is readily available in New Zealand in the form of Coke and Sprite. You also can get a bit of the delicious Whittaker’s Chocolate blocks available in several different flavors. You can also try a pavlova from the country which has invented it. Some of the other foods that Kiwis love are:

CrayFish: Crayfish, also known as lobster, is a Kiwi favourite mostly because it something many fishermen and divers pride on catching themselves. Known to cost NZ$80 for a full crayfish, it’s not exactly the most affordable food, but it’s definitely worth a try when the opportunity presents itself! Then you’ll understand why Kiwis go cray for crayfish!

Hokey Pokey Ice Cream: Kiwis prefer Hokey Pokey ice cream (that’s caramelised honeycomb) over pretty much anything. If there’s only one ice cream flavour you’re going to try in New Zealand, make it Hokey Pokey! While you can find Hokey Pokey ice cream wherever ice cream is served,  Giapo in Auckland city for the best hokey pokey ice cream in New Zealand.

Kina: Kina is the local name for a type of sea urchin with a hard spiky outer shell and thin fleshy (and edible) insides. It has been a New Zealand delicacy for centuries! The best place to try kina is out on a boating trip in the Bay of Islands.

Kiwi Burger: What makes a “Kiwi burger” Kiwi is the fact it has beetroot and a fried egg along with your standard burger patties and whatever else between two burger buns.

Jaffas: Rolling onto the sweet stuff, Jaffas are a confectionery favourite among New Zealanders. So much so that they race them! Jaffas are small sugar-coated chocolate balls with an orange flavour to them. Once a year, you can enter a “Jaffa Race” in Dunedin where the candy is rolled down the steepest residential street in the world, Baldwin Street. Otherwise, you can pick up Jaffas at any supermarket or dairy (convenience store).

Pavlova: Pavlova is a much-loved dessert in New Zealand made with meringue, whipped cream and fruit.

Whitebait Fritters: Whitebait is a collective term for immature fish, usually around one to two inches long. You’ll see heaps of keen “whitebaiters” setting up temporary shacks and jetties along the river mouths of the West Coast, catching fish for the local eateries to make whitebait fritters.

Manuka Honey: The purer the manuka component of the honey is, the healthy (and more expensive) it is. There are plenty of opportunities to try this sweet treat around New Zealand, from supermarkets to dedicated honey shops.

Kumara: Kumara was brought to New Zealand by the early Maori settlers and still remain a favourite vegetable in New Zealand. The best way to try kumara is in a hangi.

Paua: Paua is the local name for a large sea snail. You can eat paua in a variety of ways from plain old raw to curries to paua fritters.

3. The Filming Locations

The Filming Locations

The Filming Locations

New Zealand has opted as the backdrop to many movies, most popularly The Lord of the Rings. Several other movies were shot in New Zealand. You can visit these film locations which are only found in New Zealand. Below are some of the best filming locations:

Cathedral Cove: The set for the ruins of the castle Cair Paravel, in the Chronicles of Narnia- Prince Caspian, was built on the nearby Hereherataura Peninsula, overlooking iconic Cathedral Cove. From beautiful Hahei Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula you can walk to Cathedral Cove.

Hobbiton Movie Set – in the lush rural Waikato region – continues to attract international visitors looking to experience their own slice of Middle‑earth™ in New Zealand. This set was used for filming Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Mount Taranki: Most of the filming of The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, took place near New Plymouth in Taranaki. A Japanese village was constructed for filming on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley, with Mount Taranaki standing in for ‘Mount Fuji‘.

Paradise : This is a real place at the end of the Queenstown – Glenorchy road in New Zealand’s Southern Lakes region – set the scene for Beorn’s House in The Hobbit Trilogy. Scenes from Wolverine were also shot at this picturesque location.

Vertical Limit: Vertical Limit, the thriller about climbing and falling from mountains was directed by New Zealander Martin Campbell. Filming took place on New Zealand’s highest mountain (3,754m), Aoraki, Mt Cook.

Flock Hill: New Zealand director Andrew Adamson chose Flock Hill Station, near Arthur’s Pass in Canterbury, as the setting for the climactic final battle between Aslan’s forces and the powerful army of the White Witch, in the Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.

Kaitoke Regional Park: North of Wellington lies the Kaitoke Regional Park, the location used for Rivendell, the home of the elves, in Middle‑earth Trilogies. Although film sets have been dismantled and the park returned to its natural state, the area where Rivendell was set is a beautiful picnic spot with river swimming and bush walks.

Karekare beach: The breathtaking Karekare beach in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges was made famous in the 1993 movie The Piano, directed by New Zealander Jane Campion. It also landed Anna Paquin an Oscar and launched her international acting career.

Oreti Beach: Oreti Beach, just a few kilometres from the city of Invercargill, offers a vast expanse of sand, surf and sunshine. It was here Burt Munro, subject of the film The World’s Fastest Indian, created speed records on his modified Indian Scout motorcycle.

Lyall Bay: Wellington has produced some of Hollywood’s biggest movies in recent years. King Kong.”Skull Island” was located in a large-scale set built above Shelly Bay, on the Miramar peninsula and the dinosaur run scene in the movie took place at surfing beach Lyall Bay.

4. The Accommodation

The Accommodation

The Accommodation

You can find many pretty unique and amazing accommodation options all over the country which are an experience in itself. You may get an opportunity to stay at Maraes or Maori meeting grounds or how about staying in a train carriage, Hobbit Hole, or a giant shoe?

According to New Zealand website whether you’re travelling solo and fancy the warm welcome of a hostel, or have the whole family in tow and covet a holiday park with a playground, you can find accommodation to suit your budget.  Holiday parks and campgrounds offer fabulously scenic locations for a great price. Meanwhile, hotels and motels are typically centrally-located and ideal mid-range options.

For a real Kiwi experience, stay in a holiday house (‘bach’ in local slang). Baches are typically small homes tucked away in quiet coastal towns or other scenic spots, with a back-to-basics approach and retro feel.

For deeper insight into local culture as well as the cosiness of a real home, you can enjoy the hospitality of farmstay or homestay hosts.

Below are the websites to check for the best accommodations in New Zealand:

Airbnb

Bachcare

Bookabach 

Holiday Houses

5. The Untouched Landscape

The Untouched Landscape

The Untouched Landscape

You might have found countries with mountains, beaches, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, etc. But New Zealand has landscapes which are the most modern example of Gondwanaland, particularly in the Fiordland National Park. This World Heritage Area will take you back into the Jurassic Park, which is an experience you cannot find elsewhere.

6. The First City to See the Sun

The First City to See the Sun

The First City to See the Sun

Being located on the International Date Line, New Zealand holds the distinction of being the first city in the world to see the sunrise of a new day. Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island becomes the first city to welcome the new day. It also hosts the New Year’s Eve festival, Rhythm & Vines, to celebrate and welcome the New Year.

If you have a strong interest in Māori culture – and you love food, wine and surf beaches – Gisborne is a city you won’t want to miss.

As the unofficial ‘Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand’, Gisborne has a comprehensive wine trail leading to boutique wineries. Several operators offer custom tours tailored for individuals or groups, to spare you the problem of driving.

Kaiti Beach is the site of Captain Cook’s first landing in New Zealand (9 October 1769); nearby is picturesque Te Poho O Rawiri Marae. If you’re interested in Māori culture, Gisborne is an essential port of call on your itinerary – old traditions are still evident in many parts of the city. Oral history records Titirangi (Kaiti) Hill as the point of arrival for the migratory waka (canoe), Horouta, which brought the first Māori to the area.

7. The Night Skies

The Night Skies

The Night Skies

The largest International Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern part is also here in New Zealand. This is the ideal place in the world to see the southern night skies. You may also happen to see Southern Lights or Aurora Australis.

As the unofficial ‘Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand’, Gisborne has a comprehensive wine trail leading to boutique wineries. Several operators offer custom tours tailored for individuals or groups, to spare you the problem of driving.

Kaiti Beach is the site of Captain Cook’s first landing in New Zealand (9 October 1769); nearby is picturesque Te Poho O Rawiri Marae. If you’re interested in Māori culture, Gisborne is an essential port of call on your itinerary – old traditions are still evident in many parts of the city. Oral history records Titirangi (Kaiti) Hill as the point of arrival for the migratory waka (canoe), Horouta, which brought the first Māori to the area.

If you travel New Zealand in winter, you might be lucky enough to catch the symphony of colour that is the Aurora Australis.

Identical to the Northern Lights, this phenomenon is caused by the collision of atoms and energy-charged particles above the North and South Poles. These collisions are brought to life by spectacular sheets of purple, green, yellow and blue that dance silently across the night sky.

The Southern Lights are seen mainly in the southern half of the South Island, in and around Lake Tekapo, Dunedin, Queenstown, Southland and Stewart Island. To maximise your chances, aim for a clear winter’s night sky close to a new moon in either July or August.

These are the most amazing and unique things that you can only find in New Zealand. So plan out your next trip to visit this unique country with plenty of surprises that you cannot find elsewhere.