New Zealand is known for its breathtaking landscapes above all else. As the filming site for Lord of the Rings saga, it’s sometimes thought of as an almost otherworldly destination; hikers and backpackers come from all over the world simply to explore the country and marvel at its natural beauty.

new zealand lupinsWith as much focus as there is on the general quality of New Zealand’s scenery, however, there are also a lot of fascinating things about the country that visitors may not know about that I’ve learned from living there for 6 months.

Here, we’ll cover just a few of these things, so as to help any prospective travellers get a better feel for the nation.

1. There Are Plenty of Small Islands

Hawea Lake, New ZealandWhile some may picture New Zealand as a chunk of land in the middle of the ocean, it is actually comprised of many small islands – 600 to be exact! Naturally you can’t visit them all (in all probability no one ever has), but many of the smaller islands in close proximity to the main ones are worth checking out if you get the chance.

waiheke new zealand wine tasting

Wine tasting on Waiheke Island

For instance, you might see some fascinating wildlife on Kapiti Island northwest of Wellington, or enjoy stunning fjords at Resolution Island. Close to Auckland, there is Devonport and Waiheke Island that I visited and enjoyed.

sunrise fox glacier chop ice, new zealand

I camped on a glacier to wake up to this sunrise! <3

If you do visit New Zealand, ask the locals about some good options for island hopping or overnight camping.

2. You Can Gamble With Kiwis

Gambling has become a popular activity in New Zealand, and might even be on its way to becoming a highlight tourist draw. A variety of games have become available, and not just in brick-and-mortar casinos.

Entire collections of online pokie games (what you might call slots) now exist on a host of local gaming platforms that make it fun and easy to simply gamble online. It’s a fun way to pass the time, particularly if you’re not accustomed to such games being legal where you come from.

3. There Are No Snakes

tartare tunnels franz josef, new zealandIt’s true! Kiwis don’t have to worry about snakes, because there aren’t any.

Evidently, it’s something about the country’s isolation that has led to a sort of natural eradication of snakes there over time. This may also have contributed to the development of the country’s unique wildlife (given that animals that might ordinarily be endangered by snakes are not).

Now, there are even policies preventing people from bringing snakes to New Zealand, lest they multiply and spoil the fun.

4. It Might Be Part Of The Australian Continent

girl omarama autumn fall new zealand

In Omarama during autumn

Some geologists argue that because billions of years ago the islands actually broke off from a land mass that included Australia, New Zealand should be part of the Australian continent.

cyclone road damage, new zealand

Did someone say broken..? Road damage from a cyclone at Fox Glacier. :/

Today, the Kiwis are still pretty close to the Australians, so these arguments aren’t always controversial. The question of continental association may not matter to you much as a traveller, and it’s not as if New Zealand is about to be declared officially part of Australia.

But the idea does serve to highlight the connection between the two places, which leads us to suggest that if you’re in this part of the world, you might want to consider taking a short flight to Australia. It will make the trip that much more interesting, if you have the time!

5. Sign Language Is An Official Language

breast hill lookout summit, new zealand

Who can get enough of these hiking views?

New Zealand was one of the first countries to make sign language an official language. The idea was signed into law back in 2006, meaning that Kiwis now have three official languages: English, Maori, and the New Zealand Sign Language.

It’s an admirable detail about the country, but also a crucial one for any deaf or mute travellers who might be considering making the trip.

cow sunset fox glacier new zealandHopefully this list of interesting things about New Zealand has given you a more complete grasp of what the country’s like. While it’s perfectly understandable that its scenery generates most of the headlines on travel sites, there’s more to know and enjoy about New Zealand than just the pretty views which I’ve come to know about after living there for 6 months.

If you’re considering a trip, you can continue to do some digging well beyond this list and learn all sorts of interesting things about this wonderful country.

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on