There are many unforgettable things to do in New Zealand. You’ll likely fail if you try to explore all the country’s adventures in one vacation. There’s a load of culture and folklore to learn, an abundance of natural beauty to marvel at, and outstanding national parks to visit. And we haven’t even mentioned wine-tasting, whale-watching, skydiving, hiking, kayaking, and oodles of other fun activities yet.
Wherever you choose to start and stop, you can seal the memories you make in a souvenir that can double as a unique gift for whoever is waiting for you back at home. You’ll find that you’re surrounded by timeless tokens everywhere in the country. However, you may need a little guidance in knowing what to look for, understanding each item’s cultural meaning, and finding the best deals.
So, we’re going to be answering questions such as “What are the most famous New Zealand souvenirs?” and “What is the best souvenir from New Zealand?”
Whether you’re getting a product as evidence of your trip or as a gift for a loved one, you’ll find the information you need in this article.
Should one buy souvenirs in NZ?
Sometimes, people get skeptical about buying things when travelling due to complex hand luggage restrictions. However, you can absolutely buy souvenirs from New Zealand as many items are not restricted.
All you have to do is go over your airline’s restrictions so that you can pick a memento that will make the trip in your carry-on.
Even if you find yourself attached to something you can’t take back with you, there are shipping arrangements that you can explore.
What are the most famous New Zealand souvenirs?
New Zealanders take pride in many products because of their historical meanings and inspiring backgrounds. Getting an item with known kiwi roots is one of the best ways to get your friends and family to connect with your journey.
We’ve included the most coveted New Zealand products in the list below. Obviously, you can’t buy them all. So, go through the items and carefully pick those you fancy the most.
1. Pounamu (Jade)
Also called greenstone, Pounamu is one of New Zealand’s national treasures. It’s a distinct type of jade that you’ll hardly find anywhere else. You don’t want to buy this stone as a keepsake for yourself, as local lore considers that to be bad luck. If you want to respect the culture, make sure you’re strictly buying it as a gift for a loved one, even if you’re not superstitious.
The stone’s usage stretches far back in time and has roots in Māori culture, where it was applied in different ways, from making knives, fishing hooks and other tools to producing cloak pins and pendants. Pounamu is traditionally regarded as a talisman in the country, and it carries a great deal of spiritual significance. It can symbolize strength, harmony, love, and prosperity or represent ancestors and a connection to the world.
You can easily find whatever Pounamu souvenir you are looking for in the country, be it a kiwi sculpture, pendant, or block of greenstone itself. Do well to get something that suits whoever you’re getting it for.
You can head to Mountain Jade in Rotorua to learn about gravestone carvings and get unique pounamu gifts for your friends and family. You’ll get a free tour where a guide will tell you stories of the revered ornament. If you’re headed to Auckland, go to the Auckland Museum to admire different greenstone artefacts and make your pick from the store. Other outlets include Greenstone Shop in Christchurch, Waewae Pounamu in Hokitika, and Lazule in Wellington, among others.
2. Shy kiwi souvenir
You can buy a souvenir in the shape of the country’s national bird. Shy kiwis are an endangered species, which makes tourists look forward to seeing them. They are wholeheartedly endeared and embraced in New Zealand. In case you’re wondering, New Zealanders call themselves “kiwis” because of the cool attributes of this particular bird, even though the nickname stuck when it was used to identify New Zealand soldiers in the First World War.
Kiwis are flightless birds that evolved in New Zealand’s small island environment. Their feathers hang loose – since they don’t fly – and serve as a sophisticated camouflage. These feathers were used by the Māori people to make valuable cloaks known as “kahu kiwi”, which were reserved for highly respected tribal chiefs. The cloaks still have a high heritage value in present Māori culture.
You’ll find images of the national icon on everything from jewelry to key chains. There are different types of kiwi arts to choose from, but the most noticeable are wooden carvings. These carvings come in many forms and shapes and can be found in just about any souvenir or art shop. Stores that deal in wooden homeware products will also have wooden kiwi artefacts.
Head to the Auckland Zoo to see the unique nocturnal creature for yourself, then buy a kiwi souvenir on your way out. Other regions also have stores that specialize in kiwi-themed souvenirs such as soft toys and ceramics.
3. Māori art
To get a true piece of New Zealand’s culture, explore different Māori arts and crafts as possible gifts for those at home. You have a wide variety of items to choose from. Māori art designs include carvings, paintings, tattooing, and weaving.
The primary purpose of traditional Māori art was to convey culturally important facts, such as information on ancestry, the land, and other important topics.
You’ll find beautiful stone, wood, and bone carvings that make exceptional decorative pieces. Jewelry, such as the “hei-tiki” neck pendant (used to symbolize fertility), is made out of stone and bone. Other bone and stone applications, including fish hooks, are now decorative, thanks to the introduction of metal tools.
Wood carvings were used to decorate fences, poles, containers, and houses, among others.
Weaving remains one of the most versatile traditional Māori arts. It was used to create items like wall panels for important buildings, such as meeting houses. Clothes and bags were also products of early Māori weaving. These items were true works of art, even though they mostly served functional purposes. Flax was the main medium for weaving, but wool, cotton and other textiles have since been integrated into the craft.
Māori didn’t consider painting a significant form of art. It was the least significant aspect of decoration for meeting houses. However, when the Europeans introduced the indigenous people to their figurative art style, they began to transition from their stylized depictions to the masterpieces we have today.
4. Swamp kauri clocks
Swamped kauri is one of the most symbolic trees of New Zealand. Sadly, it is near extinct. Large portions of the New Zealand native kauri forest were cleared during the early 1900s to make way for farming. But that did not completely bury the tree, and its beauty continues to boost interest.
You’ll find natural and uniquely shaped clocks made from swamped kauri. Each clock has a distinct feature, which means you can recognize yours anywhere in the world. Adding the clock to your luggage shouldn’t be an issue, but you should still check your airline’s restrictions as the wood is typically heavily lacquered to highlight and improve its natural beauty.
You can find these clocks in any duty-free store around the country. That said, you’ll want to make a trip to the Natural Wood Creations factory if you want to choose from the largest range of swamp kauri clocks in the country.
5. Sheepskin rugs
New Zealand has a tremendous farming industry. Sheep are among the most common livestock in the country. You’ll find premium-quality sheepskin products in NZ. Don’t pass up the opportunity of getting one for yourself while you’re there.
Sheepskin rugs are one of the most iconic sheepskin products that you can get in New Zealand. They have clear distinctions from those produced in other countries. New Zealand’s rugs are completely natural and undyed. You’ll feel the softness and warmth that don’t exist in artificially manufactured products.
There are numerous outlets in the country where you can get sheepskin rugs. They come in different shapes, designs, and sizes. So, you’ll have a wealth of options to choose from. You also don’t necessarily have to worry about luggage size, as most shops package their products in vacuum packs, making them compact enough for travel.
Depending on size, sheepskin rugs will set you back anywhere from NZD80 to NZD700.
6. Pāua shell jewelry
Also known as abalone shell, Mother-of-Pearl, Sea ear, Nacrae, and Aulon, to name but a few, this ear-shaped shell has deep cultural meanings in New Zealand. Pāua’s colourful inner shells make them valuable ornaments for jewelry. It might surprise you to know that the shell is considered more of a New Zealand gem than even the famous Kauri Tree and Pounamu.
This unique species lives around New Zealand’s rocky coast. Due to their applications in jewelry, these molluscs are now an endangered species. To save them from extinction, there are strict regulations surrounding Pāua’s harvesting. While Pāua are now farmed, most of those used for jewelry are wild-caught, and this must be done under license without exceeding quota restrictions.
You can’t find Pāua as beautiful as they are in New Zealand in other parts of the world. Their unique complexion and mixture of beautiful colours come from their diet. The ancient molluscs rely on red and brown algae and bladder kelp for food.
Pāua have a significant spiritual place in Māori folklore. They represent the eyes in most Māori carvings and are associated with the stars of whetū, which are the eyes of the ancestors.
The shells go for different prices. On one side of the market, you get to see jewelry items fashioned out of these shells and mixed with other gems. These are expensive. On the other side – in souvenir shops, for example – you can get original shells that go for way less. Whatever you choose, you’ll never be disappointed with the result.
Make sure you remind whoever you give this beautiful ornament to that it was once part of a unique organism, so they have to wear it often.
7. Lord of the Rings memorabilia
Kiwis are revelling in the fact that the famous movie franchise and its three-episode prequel were shot in their land, and nothing seems to show that they’ll ever stop. In fact, there’s a whole industry of Lord of the Rings memorabilia, and there’s a whole culture around the franchise, too. These items and activities could easily get you longing to see the entire film series again.
No doubt you can get Lord of the Rings memorabilia around the world, but they won’t compare with those you find in New Zealand. And you can’t deny the feeling of excitement when buying them where the movies were filmed.
Weta Cave in Wellington is a great place to purchase your memorabilia. You have the opportunity to see original movie props and take a tour of the Weta Workshop. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata is another notable place where you can feed your eyes and purchase unique Lord of the Rings merchandise.
Tasty New Zealand souvenirs to buy
Follow the list below to find the best kiwi delicacies to take home to your loved ones.
New Zealand wine
New Zealand wine can hold its own even against the big names in the west. Wine-tasting is, in fact, a tradition in the country. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are examples of great products with a high reputation across the world. Take a bottle or two with you so that one day, in the distant future, you can raise a glass to commemorate your journey.
Whittaker’s is one of New Zealand’s inspiring success stories. The chocolate makers started their brand in 1896 and have gone on to record expansions, fending off giant brands like Cadbury.
You’ll definitely be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which flavour or brand of chocolate to go for. While picking anything you see won’t necessarily end up badly, let’s guide you on what to go for.
If you’re a fan of sponge candy, go for Hokey Pokey. If you’re trying to remember what sponge candy is, think of the British bars known as Crunchie to jog your memory. Other Whittaker’s chocolates worth going for include L&P (these can be hard to find), Tweats, and “Oh it was!”.
This special kind of honey only exists in New Zealand. The country is known for it. So, it’s an absolute must-buy if you’re traveling to New Zealand and you can afford it.
The honey is exclusive to New Zealand because it’s a product of bees pollinating the Manuka bush, which is native to New Zealand. It is famous for its numerous medicinal applications due to its ability to combat bacteria.
Before you buy, you have to know that Manuka honey differs depending on its antibacterial properties. There’s a rating system that tells you the antibacterial level of the honey you’re buying. It’s known as the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). A UMF rating of 10 is the least level of medical potency you can find in Manuka honey.
But don’t get distracted by all the science. Apart from its health benefits, Manuka honey is absolutely delicious. So, take it home for a treat for your taste buds.
There you have it! You no longer have to ask, “What are the most popular New Zealand souvenirs?” Make sure you go through the list twice to pick what suits you best. Don't forget, you can get these items shipped to you without travelling to New Zealand with the help of our forwarders!