World-famous New Zealand – Fun facts & figures about Aotearoa

Welcome to New Zealand, a land of remarkable records and astonishing natural wonders.

From the historic streets of Reefton, the first to shine under electric lights, to the breathtaking heights of the Nevis Bungy (which is also the tallest bungy in the Southern Hemisphere), New Zealand is a treasure trove of world records and marvels.

Each record tells a story of innovation, conservation, and adventure, inviting you to explore the diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage that makes our beautiful country unique.

Join us as we journey through the record-breaking highlights of New Zealand, where every corner holds a new discovery.

Did you know? Our members helped us with many of the ideas in this post. Check out even more in our Facebook group.

Map of New Zealand.

Table of contents

World records in Aotearoa New Zealand

Looking back in history

The first self-governing country in the world to allow women to vote

In 1893, New Zealand made history by becoming the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the right to vote.

This landmark decision marked a significant step forward in the global fight for gender equality. It wasn’t just a victory for New Zealand women but set a precedent that echoed around the world, inspiring other nations to follow suit.

This achievement, which came about thanks to Kate Sheppard and the suffragette movement, reflects New Zealand’s pioneering spirit and our commitment to fairness, equality and social justice.

While in Christchurch, we recommend paying a visit to the Kate Sheppard National Memorial on Oxford Terrace and Kate Sheppard House, along with the original Women’s Suffrage petition at the National Library in Wellington.

Record-setting activities and places to visit

The steepest street in the world – Baldwin Street, Dunedin

Tucked away in Dunedin, Baldwin Street is the world’s steepest residential street.

Walking up its sharp incline is like battling gravity itself – and it’s sure to make your calves burn!

We think it’s a must-do in Dunedin though, offering not just a physical challenge but also a unique photo opportunity.

The steepest street in the world, showing how steep it is with a white house behind it.
Photo: DunedinNZ.

The world’s coolest McDonalds – Lake Taupō

Visit Taupō’s McDonald’s, named one of the ‘world’s coolest McDonalds‘, where you can dine in a real decommissioned DC3 plane!

This unique feature offers a memorable (and affordable) dining experience that is a real hit with families, while also sharing a piece of our aviation history right.

The plane is clearly visible from the road, so even if you don’t want to munch a Big Mac on board, it’s worth swinging by.

The biggest canyon swing – Nevis Swing, Queenstown

Experience the thrill of the Nevis Swing, the largest canyon swing in the world, located just outside of Queenstown.

Plunge into a 300-metre arc across the Nevis Valley, where adrenaline meets awe.

And if you’re a little worried about swinging solo (and we wouldn’t blame you), you can take on the challenge with a companion on a tandem swing.

Having great fun while riding a swing with a friend.

The world’s highest cliff jump – Shotover Canyon Swing, Queenstown

Also in Queenstown, you’ll find the Shotover Canyon Swing – the world’s highest cliff jump.

This breathtaking swing sends you soaring across the Shotover River from a staggering height… and how you choose to jump off is totally up to you. Run, slide, ride a trike, swing backwards off a chair, jump with a rubbish bin over your head – not only is this the world’s highest cliff jump, it’s got to be the most creative too!

If unparalleled thrills are your cup of tea, this is your call to jump into the record books.

The first-ever commercial bungy jump – Kawarau Bridge, Queenstown

Step onto the scenic Kawarau Bridge, where commercial bungy jumping leapt into history in 1988.

This Queenstown landmark, spanning the Kawarau River, introduced the world to the thrill of bungy jumping, with a 43-metre jump that still captivates daredevils today.

Ready to be part of the legacy? Your adventure starts here.

A long bridge where people bungy jump to a river beneath it in Kawaru Bridge Bungy.
Watch people jump from the home of bungy jumping in New Zealand! Photo credit:

Take on the tallest commercially rafted waterfall – Tutea Falls, Rotorua

Navigate the Tutea Falls, the world’s tallest commercially rafted waterfall, for an unmatched white-water adventure.

Located on the Kaituna River, just outside of Rotorua, this 7-metre drop offers thrill-seekers a heart-pounding experience.

Worried you can’t raft this giant waterfall as a first-timer?

This was our first-ever rafting experience. So as long as you’re feeling brave, there’s no reason inexperienced rafters can’t take on the Kaituna!

White water rafting in Kaituna River.

The longest place name – Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu, Hawke’s Bay

Discover the hill with the longest name in the world, located in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.

Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu boasts 85 letters and tells a tale of Tamatea’s exploration.

It offers a unique glimpse into Māori culture and history, and makes for an interesting photo-stop too.

Ready to try saying it out loud?

This video should help…

The clearest lake in the world – Blue Lake/Lake Rotomairewhenua, Nelson Lakes National Park

Venture to Nelson Lakes National Park to witness the Blue Lake/Lake Rotomairewhenua, renowned as the clearest lake in the world.

Its visibility extends up to 80 meters, rivalling distilled water which is seriously impressive!

This natural wonder, sacred to Māori culture, invites you to marvel at its purity.

But relatively few people ever get to see it because this stunning lake is only accessible but foot.

The shortest route to the lake includes backcountry tramping and takes two days to access… but we’re sure you’ll agree, if you’re up to the challenge, it’s totally worth the effort getting there.

The most Southerly Capital in the World – Wellington

Explore Wellington, the southernmost capital city on the globe, found down the bottom of the North Island.

This vibrant city holds the unique distinction of being closer to the South Pole than any other capital.

Widely considered our cultural hub, it is a great place to head for music, performing arts, museums, great food and all things cool…

There’s a reason it’s known as ‘the coolest little capital’, after all.

The Beehive, a Category I heritage building of New Zealand.
The Beehive – our parliament building.

One of the first places to see the sunrise in the world – East Cape

East Cape, the easternmost point of New Zealand, is one of the first places in the world to greet the sun each day.

This serene location offers unparalleled sunrise views, where the sky and ocean merge in a symphony of colours.

Standing on its shores, you’re at the forefront of a new day, witnessing the dawn before anyone else in the world.

And we think there’s something magical about that.

Did you know? Exactly who is first to see the sun each day is a bit contentious – that’s why we’ve named the East Cape one of the first.

the highest concentration of art deco buildings in the world – Napier

Discover Napier, the city boasting the world’s highest concentration of Art Deco buildings.

Rebuilt in the 1930s after a devastating earthquake, Napier is a time capsule of this architectural style… the best in the world, in fact.

Stroll its streets to witness a unique urban landscape, painted in pastel colours, just begging to be photographed.

Tourists sitting on the green grass during the Napier Event.

The largest Pasifika city in the world – Auckland

Auckland is proudly known as the largest Pasifika city in the world. It is a vibrant melting pot of Pacific Island cultures.

Its diverse communities bring a rich tapestry of traditions, languages, and arts to the urban landscape, celebrating heritage through festivals, music and cuisine.

This cultural richness makes Auckland a unique and lively city where the spirit of the Pacific thrives, inviting you to experience its warmth and diversity… and you don’t even have to hop on a plane!

A family sitting outside at a concern, enjoying a meal at a table with the stand in the background.

Record-setting flora and fauna in Aotearoa NZ

The smallest penguin in the world – Little penguin

The little penguin/kororā, also known as the little blue penguin, is famous for being the smallest penguin species anywhere in the world.

Standing just 25-30 cm tall, these little guys are a sight to behold.

Their petite size and unique blue hue make them unforgettable – and a popular penguin to spot along New Zealand’s coastlines.

Blue penguins marching on the sands near the grasslands.

The World’s most endangered penguin – hoiho

New Zealand is home to another famous penguin – the hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin. Sadly though, they’re recognised as the world’s most endangered penguin species.

Native to our country, their population is critically low – though substantial efforts are being made to protect them.

If you’re lucky though, you might spot on near the bottom of the South Island, in places like Dunedin and the Catlins.

Three yellow-eyed penguins walking on the beach with its pink feet, white underbelly, yellow band around their eyes, and brown to black head.
Yellow eyed penguins walking along the beach. Photo: travelwayoflife.

The most endangered sea lion – NZ sea lion/pakake

The New Zealand sea lion is the world’s most endangered sea lion.

With a population dwindling to just a few thousand, these marine mammals face threats from fishing, disease, and habitat loss.

Found primarily on our southern shores, these native marine mammals are a real taonga (treasure).

A sea lion opening its mouth while on the sandy shores.
A NZ sea lion/pakake in Dunedin. Photo: DunedinNZ.

The smallest and rarest dolphin in the world – Hector’s Dolphin

The Hector’s Dolphin is the world’s smallest and most endangered dolphin – and it’s found exclusively in New Zealand’s waters.

Measuring up to 1.5 metres, their population is under threat, numbering around 10,000.

With their distinctive grey, white, and black markings, they captivate those lucky enough to see them.

The most intelligent bird in the world – Kea

Meet the kea, hailed as the world’s most intelligent bird.

Native to New Zealand’s South Island, this parrot is known for its curiosity and problem-solving skills. They’re known to pull the rubber off of cars and to move road cones… they really are the cheekiest birds around.

With their striking green plumage and playful nature, kea are a testament to the wonders of wildlife.

The intelligent bird Kea with its green and brown feathers standing on a pavement.

A glimpse into the past – Tuatara

The tuatara, a remarkable creature found only in New Zealand, is the only surviving member of the Rhynchocephalia family – a group of reptiles that thrived when dinosaurs walked the earth.

Surviving for over 200 million years, these reptiles (which surprisingly aren’t classified as lizards) are a living window into the distant past.

With their unique biological features, such as a third “parietal” eye, tuatara fascinate scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Walking amongst them is like stepping back in time, offering a rare glimpse into an ancient world.

A lizard in front of its house, which is under a log.

The heaviest insect in the world – Wētā

The wētā, native to New Zealand, holds the title for the world’s heaviest insect.. whether that’s cool or creepy, we’ll leave you to decide.

Some species, like the giant wētā, can weigh more than a sparrow, tipping the scales at around 70 grams (2.5 oz)!

These nocturnal creatures are a testament to our unique biodiversity, created and preserved thanks to our geographic isolation.

A tree weta climbing on a trunk.

The southernmost palm in the world – Nīkau palm

Native to New Zealand, the nīkau palm is the southernmost palm in the world.

Thriving up to latitudes of 44° south, these trees defy the typical tropical habitat of other palms.

With their vibrant fronds and distinctively bulbous trunk, the nīkau adds a touch of the exotic to New Zealand’s landscapes.

Find them as far south as Ōkārito on the West Coast and Banks Peninsula in Canterbury – both in the South Island.

Nikau palm trees on the West Coast of New Zealand.
Punakaiki on the West Coast is a great place to see nīkau palm trees. Photo: Katja Schulz.

The biggest kauri tree in the world – Tāne Mahuta

Tāne Mahuta is the largest known kauri tree in New Zealand – and because kauri are native to us, it’s also the biggest anywhere in the world.

This amazing tree is also recognoised as the Māori god of forest.

Standing in Waipoua Forest, Northland, he giant is estimated to be up to 2,500 years old.

With a trunk girth of over 13 metres and a height of over 50 metres, Tāne Mahuta is a living testament to nature’s grandeur, and a beautiful connection to pūrākau (Māori myths and legends).

Two visitors standing close by the biggest kauri tree, the Tane Mahuta, marvelling at its huge trunks which is surrounded by trees and bushes.
Photo: Miles Holden.

New Zealand records

Record-breaking Spots to visit

Our tallest mountain – Aoraki/Mount Cook

Discover Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain, standing proudly in the Southern Alps at 3,724 metres tall.

The te reo Māori name for Mount Cook is Aoraki. This is made up of the words ‘ao’ (meaning world, daytime, cloud etc.) and raki (day, sky, weather etc.). Some say this translates to ‘Cloud Piercer’.

Whatever you call it, Aoraki Mount Cook is a beacon for climbers and adventurers from around the world.

With glaciers and snow-capped peaks, it also offers breathtaking views to hikers and visitors on scenic flights.

Looking over the icebergs in Mount Cook.
The Hooker Valley Track (at Aoraki/Mount Cook) is stunning at all times of year, but particularly in the winter season.

New Zealand’s Largest lake – Lake Taupō

Lake Taupō was formed by a volcanic eruption over 26,000 years ago.

It spans an impressive 616 square kilometres, making it the largest lake in New Zealand (which is impressive in a country known for its lakes).

A haven for fishing, water sports, and stunning vistas (like the trip to the Māori Carvings and the western bays), Lake Taupō is a popular location in the North Island.

A blue sail boat close to the Māori carvings on Lake Taupō.
Lake Taupō is a beautiful place to spend some time – and it’s close to Rotorua. Photo: Love Taupō.

The deepest lake in NZ – Lake Hauroko, Fiordland

While we’re talking about lakes, here’s one you probably haven’t heard of…

Lake Hauroko is the deepest lake in Aotearoa NZ, plunging to depths of 462 metres.

Hidden away in Fiordland’s remote wilderness, this lake’s dark waters hold secrets of natural history and Māori legend.

Did you know? Lake Manapouri is the second deepest lake in New Zealand – and one that you’ve likely heard of if you know a little about the trip to Doubtful Sound.

Our Longest river – Waikato River

Journey along the Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand, stretching an impressive 425 kilometres.

Flowing from the slopes of Mount Ruapehu (as the Tongariro River), and travelling through Lake Taupō and over the Huka Falls, the river flows out to the Tasman Sea to the south of Auckland, this river is the lifeblood of the Waikato region.

People crossing the Waikato River on bikes, with green trees either side.

The most powerful waterfall in New Zealand (based on water-flow) – and the most-visited natural attraction – Huka Falls, Taupō

Huka Falls stand as New Zealand’s most powerful waterfall, with an astonishing 220,000 liters of water thundering over the cliff face every second!

Located in Taupō, it’s not only a marvel of natural power but also the our most-visited natural attraction.

The roar of the falls and the sheer volume of crystal-clear water cascading into the Waikato River below make it a must-see. Plus, it’s an easy (and flat) 5 minute walk from the car park, ensuring it’s accessible to most travellers.

Whether you’re witnessing its majesty from the viewing platforms or feeling the spray on a jet boat, Huka Falls promises an unforgettable experience.

Turquoise waters of the turbulent Huka Falls surrounded by trees.

NZ’s longest swing bridge – Buller Gorge Swingbridge

Cross the Buller Swingbridge, the longest swingbridge in New Zealand.

This bridge is open to the public (at a small cost), allowing visitors to cross the 110 metre span over the Buller Gorge.

You’ll find it near the top of the South Island, connecting Abel Tasman and Hokitika.

NZ’s smallest town – Arthur’s Pass

Arthur’s Pass, nestled in the heart of the Southern Alps, is recognised as the smallest town in New Zealand.

Established in 1866 during the gold rush, it now serves as a gateway to Arthur’s Pass National Park.

With only a handful of residents, this tiny settlement is surrounded by majestic landscapes. It offers a serene retreat for nature lovers, trampers and adventurers alike.

Just don’t expect to bump into too many locals when visiting!

Four people crossing the street in the town.

The first place in New Zealand (and the Southern Hemisphere) get electricity – Reefton

Reefton, a pioneering town on the West Coast, made history as the first place in New Zealand to receive electricity.

In 1888, this small mining community lit up its streets with electric power, marking a momentous step into the modern era.

Incredibly, Reefton got public electricity before most major cities in the world!

Today, Reefton proudly remembers its electrifying past, inviting visitors to explore its rich heritage and innovative spirit.

Our oldest surviving building – Kemp House, Kerikeri

Kemp House stands as New Zealand’s oldest surviving building, and a significant testament to our early colonial history.

Constructed in 1821 and 1822 in Kerikeri, this mission house has witnessed more than any other building in Aotearoa.

Today, it offers a glimpse into the lives of those who shaped the nation’s early European settlement, inviting visitors to step back in time and walk through history.

A family walks in front of a white house with a small flower garden and ducks walking on the grass.
Kemp House in Kerikeri. Photo by Russell Street

New Zealand’s oldest prison – Napier prison

Napier Prison, with its walls steeped in history, holds the title of New Zealand’s oldest prison.

After opening its doors in 1862, it has been a silent witness to the country’s penal evolution.

Now decommissioned, it serves as a historical site, offering tours that share tales of intrigue and endurance from our past.

The huge door and high walls with razor wires of Napier Prison.

The Highest bungy jump in NZ (also the highest in the Southern Hemisphere) – Nevis, Queenstown

The Nevis Bungy, soaring at an exhilarating height, claims the title of New Zealand’s highest bungy jump.

That’s right… dangling adventurers 134 metres above the Nevis River, it promises an adrenaline rush like no other.

This iconic jump is a must-do for serious dare devils!

A man on a bungy jump near the mountains and a river below.

NZ’s only narrow gauge mountain train – Driving Creek railway, Coromandel

People of all ages enjoy Driving Creek Railway – New Zealand’s only narrow gauge mountain railway.

Engineered by Barry Brickell in 1975, this engineering marvel on the Coromandel Peninsula offers a one-of-a-kind ride through native forest, ascending to breathtaking views.

Two green rail cars of Driving Creek Railway running on different tracks in the middle of the forest.

Memorable flora and fauna in New Zealand

Our smallest native bird – Rifleman/tītiti pounamu

Meet the rifleman/tītiti pounamu, New Zealand’s tiniest native bird. This featherweight champion weighs in at approxiamtely 6 grams – and it’s about the size of a ping-pong ball.

With its vibrant green plumage, this diminutive creature flits through the forests, playing a crucial role in our ecosystem pollinating and controlling insects.

A tiny, olive-green Rifleman bird standing on the ground with a pointed beak, round dark eyes, and short tail feathers, white underbelly, and bright green head and back.
The tiny rifleman. Photo credit: Ben.

A bird brought back from the brink of extinction – Takahē

The takahē is our most successful survival story.

Once thought completely extinct, it was rediscovered in 1948 in the remote Murchison Mountains.

This large, flightless bird is known for its striking blue and green plumage.

Conservation efforts have helped its numbers slowly increase, showcasing the resilience and beauty of New Zealand’s wildlife.

Witnessing a takahē in the wild (or in a pest-free sanctuary) is a rare and special experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

The flightless Takahē bird having red beak, navy blue feathers on its head, neck and underside, teal green colours on its back, and brownish to peacock blue on its wings.
Photo: Auckland Zoo.

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