New Zealand


Learn a little about New Zealand with our "fun facts for kids" - geography, history and a little bit more. It's a very interesting country! Then try some of our downloadable New Zealand activities with the kids...

A Little Geography

  • New Zealand is in the south-western Pacific Ocean and consists of two larger mountainous islands, North Island and South Island, and various smaller islands. 
  • The islands have much unusual wildlife not found anywhere else in the world, including flightless birds such as the endangered kiwi.
  • New Zealand's oldest rocks are over 500 million years old, dating back to when it was once part of a massive super-continent called Gondwanaland.
  • New Zealand is famous for natural hot springs. The country sits on two tectonic plates, the Pacific and the Australian, and these plates are constantly shifting and grinding together causing a large amount of geothermal activity, allowing warm water to bubble up through the earth's crust to form the hot pools.
  • New Zealand has over 15,000 kilometres of beautiful and varied coastline, and the long sandy beaches in the Far North and on the East Coast of North Island are perfect for swimming and surfing.
  • Aoraki Mt Cook in the South Island’s rugged Southern Alps is New Zealand’s highest peak, at 3,724 metres. Scientists have recently discovered that the mountain has shrunk due to the erosion of the summit area, but it remains the highest peak in the country ahead of Mount Tasman at 3,497 metres.

A Little History

  • New Zealand was possibly the last large and habitable place in the world to be discovered. The islands were first inhabited by the Maori people, who came from Polynesia around 1000 AD.
  • The Dutch discovered the islands in the 1600s when Dutch navigator Abel Tasman spotted the islands on 13 December 1642.   His only encounter with Māori ended badly, with four of his crew killed, and the Dutch never settled properly in the country although they did give it a name,  Nieuw Zeeland (named after the Dutch province of Zeeland).
  • The British explorer James Cook was the next European to arrive in Poverty Bay in October 1769. Although Cook had been on a scientific expedition, the British saw an opportunity to expand trade and empire. 
  • Around the same time as Cook arrived, the French explorer Jean François Marie de Surville was only 40 km to the south-west. 
  • The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between the British and Maori, making New Zealand a colony of the British Empire.
  • During 1845-72 the Maori put up resistance to British colonial rule. This period was known as the New Zealand Wars and also referred to as the Land Wars. 
  • New Zealand committed thousands of troops to the British war effort in World War 1 and suffered heavy casualties in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey in 1915.
  • New Zealand gained full independence from Britain in 1947.

And Some Interesting Facts...

  • More people live in the city of Auckland on North Island than in the whole of the South Island!
  • New Zealand has the town with the longest place name in the world: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu. 
  • In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to give women the right to vote.
  • New Zealand won the first ever Rugby World Cup, held in 1987.
  • New Zealand has no snakes and no nuclear power stations!
  • The first person to climb Mount Everest in 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary, was a New Zealander.
  • Although Rugby is popular with spectators, the most played sport in New Zealand is golf. There are more golf courses in New Zealand per capita of population than any other country in the world.
  • Have you ever seen a haka performed by New Zealand’s All Blacks before a rugby match? The haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace.
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New Zealand's National Holiday

New Zealand kiwi and flag
New Zealand's national holiday is celebrated on 6th February and is called Waitangi Day. It's a good excuse for a visit to the beach or a concert, or to have a picnic or party! We've got some ideas here:
Waitangi Day

Maori warrior doing the Haka
A Maori warrior doing the Haka!

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