Aotearoa is New Zealand’s Maori name, meaning the land of the long white cloud. It is likely that early Maori ocean explorers searching for new lands to settle gave the islands this name as cloud signified the presence of land in the distance.

Here are some things Aotearoa is famous for, and where in the country to find them, including some more interesting facts about New Zealand.

1. Manuka Honey

Manuka flowers and native bees in New Zealand

Manuka honey is produced by bees foraging on the flowers of the Manuka tree, a very special tree that only grows in New Zealand. Researchers and doctors a have found that Manuka honey has bioactive healing properties. It has been found to be effective at boosting the body’s immune system, healing wounds, treating skin infections, sore throats and digestive problems among other things. Some celebrities attribute their great complexions to manuka honey.

You can stock up on Manuka honey anywhere in New Zealand, it can be found in supermarkets, health stores and tourist shops.

In the North Island, three honey farms offering tours and education. These are in Tauranga, Taupo and Warkworth (1 hour or less drive from Auckland).

Related: Check out our 5-day Winterless North Explorer Private NZ Tour and add a stop off at the Warkworth Honey Centre.

2. Sheep

Merino sheep in New Zealand pastures

An interesting fact about New Zealand is that it’s home to 29 million sheep (according to 2015 statistics) and around 4.6 million people. That’s 6 sheep per person (and it used to be more), and the reason for the many sheep jokes made about New Zealanders.

Sheep farms are all over New Zealand, but the South Island, with its drier, more rugged landscapes, high-country stations is rich sheep farming history. Especially the Mackenzie Basin. Named after a rogue Scottish Shepard who herded stolen sheep in the 1850’s, Mackenzie Country is known for its merino sheep and wool industry.

Several sheep farms in the area welcome tourists to enjoy an authentic farming experience amid in this spectacular setting.

Related: See our 11-day South Island Adventure Private NZ Tour.

3. Wine

Vineyard in the Marlborough district of New Zealand at sunset

New Zealand boasts over 10 wine regions and various sub-regions spread mostly around the eastern coastlines of both the North and South Islands. Each region has its distinct soils and climatic conditions which create a diverse range of New Zealand wines for tasters to sample.

New Zealand is most famous for it’s Sauvignon Blanc and more recently it’s Pinot Noir. New Zealand wines are world renowned, and almost 90% of wine produced in New Zealand is exported.

Marlborough, Martinborough and Hawks Bay are perhaps the most famous wine regions in the country, other prominent wine producing regions include Northland, Auckland, Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Wairarapa, Nelson, Canterbury/Waipara and Central Otago.

Related: Check our out New Zealand Wine Tours.

4. Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings Hobbiton tour

New Zealand has become known as “Middle Earth” since the release of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movie trilogies. The diverse and spectacular scenery that provided the backdrop for these epic films attracts visitors from across the globe to take in the sites for themselves.

Hobbiton in Matamata (pictured) is a highlight and is the only movie set that is still intact, but there is scenery from the films all over the country. See our post on a New Zealand itinerary for movie fans to discover more of the filming locations.

Related: Check out our Lord of the Rings Tours.

5. Kiwifruit


Another fact about New Zealand is that if you tell a New Zealander that you like to eat kiwi you are saying that you eat the endangered flightless bird that is the country’s icon. This will not be taken well as New Zealanders (also known as Kiwis) are protective of their national bird.

New Zealanders call the fruit “kiwifruit”, and in fact, kiwi birds and kiwifruit are similar in appearance; roundish, brown and fuzzy.

The kiwifruit is one of New Zealand’s major horticultural exports. The kiwifruit originated from China and was developed into a commercial product by New Zealand orchardists who began exporting the fruit to the world in the 1950’s.

The Bay of Plenty is Kiwi fruit country and is the best place to take a tour of a Kiwifruit farm.

Related: Check out our 9 Day North Island Highlights Private NZ Tour.

6. Rugby

Rugby World Cup - New Zealand vs Canada

The All Blacks have made New Zealand famous for Rugby and Kiwi’s are passionate about the game. Rugby is a fact of New Zealand life and is played at all levels, from primary school to international.

The best way to get a taste of the New Zealand rugby spirit while you’re in Aotearoa is to go to a rugby game and experience the exciting atmosphere of the grandstand. You’ll need to visit the websites of the All Blacks, the New Zealand Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby League to check out game dates.

If you can’t make it to a stadium to watch a game head to a pub or sports bar showing a game, there is bound to be a great atmosphere, and it’s a great way to soak up some Kiwi culture.

Another way to absorb some New Zealand rugby spirit is by walking on the turf of one of New Zealand’s iconic stadiums. Tours can be organised by contacting stadiums directly.

Also, check out the Rugby Museum in Palmerston North.

Related: Include a stadium tour or catch a rugby game on our 18 Day New Zealand Private Guided Tour.

7. Haka

All Blacks performing a Haka dance before a rugby match

If you’ve ever watched an All Blacks game, you’ll know what haka looks like. Haka is a traditional war dance or challenge that is an integral part of Maori culture. Haka was originally performed before a battle to intimidate the enemy and is also used as part of welcome ceremonies and other special events.

Haka is performed by New Zealand and other Pacific nations’ rugby teams at the beginning of matches.

The best place to experience Haka is in Rotorua, the Maori cultural centre of New Zealand. Rotorua is New Zealand’s first bilingual city, with many residents speaking both New Zealand’s official languages (English and Te Reo Maori). Here you can attend a cultural show, and even learn the basics of Maori performing arts.

Related: Include an All black experiance visit on our 18 Day North Island Private Guided Tour.

Kapa Haka traditional dance

Related: See our Classic North Island | The Road Trip New Zealand

At The Road Trip, we love showing travellers the best New Zealand has to offer. Get in touch with us for more inspiration for your trip, we can help you plan your ideal adventure in “The Land of the Long White Cloud”. Call us at +64  668 1234, email us at [email protected] or use our contact form.

Featured by Twinkl in their New Zealand Resources blog