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New Zealand's Superlatives

New Zealand's Superlatives

What's the highest mountain in New Zealand? Do you know the country's longest river and longest highway? What's the oldest European building or the tallest geyser? Where is the nation's oldest botanical garden? What's the biggest lake in Aotearoa? Who has scored the most tries and the most points for the All Blacks? Which player has scored the most runs and taken the most wickets for the Zealand test team? Find out here in our list of New Zealand's superlatives.

Mount Cook/Aoraki
Aoraki (Mount Cook) is the tallest mountain in New Zealand

Aoraki / Mount Cook

Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3,724 metres. It is considerably taller than the highest mountain in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko, which is 2,228 metres. An icon of the country, it lies in the Southern Alps region in the South Island within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. It was first climbed in 1894. Around 80 people have lost their lives attempting the ascent. The huge peak can be seen from distances of over 100 km away.

Waikato River
The Waikato is the longest river in New Zealand

Waikato River

The Waikato River in the North Island is 435 km long and is New Zealand's longest river. It means "flowing water" in Maori and gives its name to the region south of Auckland, centred on Hamilton, through which it flows. 

The river originates in glaciers on Mount Ruapehu then flows into Lake Taupo then north through Whakamaru, Cambridge and Hamilton before reaching the sea on the west coast. 

The stretch from Mount Ruapehu to Lake Taupo has been called the Tongariro River since 1945. The Waikato River was very important for the Maori as a transportation route. In fact, the 19th-century scientist, Ferdinand Hochstetter, described its role as 'the Mississippi of the Maori'.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand

Lake Taupo

The largest lake in New Zealand is Lake Taupo and, at 623 square km, it is twice the size of the next largest lake, Lake Te Anau. In fact, it is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. Located in the North Island of New Zealand, the lake lies in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano. The waters are home to several species of fish including trout, crayfish and many types of birds. A good way to explore the lake is by kayak or on a boat tour. Parasailing is also popular on the lake. Lake Houroko, in southwestern South Island, is the deepest lake in the country. It reaches a depth of 462 metres ahead of Lake Manapouri at 444 metres.

Sky Tower Auckland
Sky Tower Auckland

Sky Tower

The Sky Tower in Auckland is the tallest structure in New Zealand. Indeed, it is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 328 metres (1,076 feet). 

A telecommunications and observation tower in Auckland's Central Business District, the tower opened in 1997. The Sky Tower is constructed of reinforced concrete, steel, aluminium and glass. Needless to say, the views over the city and harbour from the observation deck are amazing.

Five Largest Cities in New Zealand
Auckland is New Zealand's largest city by some margin


With a population of about 1,470,500, Auckland, in the North Island, is the country's largest city by far - many, many times bigger than New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. In fact, around 35% of the entire New Zealand population lives there. 

Auckland also has the country's highest population density at 2,422 people per square kilometre. (But compare that with London in the UK with a population density of 5,700 people per square kilometre.) Auckland Airport is also the largest airport in New Zealand, so the chances are that your stay in the country will begin and conclude in Auckland.

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Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls at 580 meters is the highest waterfall in the country. Located in the Fiordland National Park in the South Island, the falls drop in three cascades from Lake Quill. (However, there are claims that Both Terror Falls, in the nearby Poseidon Valley and Browne Falls may actually be higher.)

Fiordland National Park

On the southwest tip of South Island, Fiordland National Park is the largest of New Zealand's national parks. It occupies most of the southwest corner of the South Island and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The natural landscape here is one of beautiful forests, fiords, glaciers, mountains and valleys. Walking trails crisscross the area allowing access to some of the most striking natural scenery in the country.

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

Dunedin Botanic Garden

Dunedin Botanic Garden in Dunedin is the oldest botanic garden in New Zealand. It was first laid out in 1863. Dunedin Botanic Garden, the Chinese Garden, and the garden at Larnach Castle are other great gardens in and around the city.

State Highway 1
State Highway 1 (SH 1) is the longest road in New Zealand at over 2,000 km

State Highway 1

State Highway 1 (SH 1) is the longest road in New Zealand at 2,033 km. It runs the whole length of both main islands. It is designated SH 1N in the North Island and SH 1S in the South Island.

SH 1 is 2,033 kilometres (1,263 miles) in length. 1,081 km (672 miles) in the North Island and 952 km (592 miles) in the South Island.

The Mission House (aka Kemp House) in Kerikeri
The Mission House (aka Kemp House) in Kerikeri

Oldest Building

The oldest European building in New Zealand is The Mission House (aka Kemp House) in Kerikeri. It dates from 1822 and is part of the Church Missionary Society's Kerikeri Mission Station. The Old Stone Store on the property is the oldest stone building in New Zealand. It dates from 1836 and was used to sell produce from local farms and other goods. Later the building was used as a library and a school. The gardens which have been in continuous cultivation for over 200 years are New Zealand's oldest European garden.

Pohutu is the largest geyser in New Zealand.
Pohutu is the largest geyser in New Zealand

Largest Geyser

Pohutu in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, Rotorua, North Island is the largest geyser in New Zealand. It erupts up to 20 times a day sending hot water 30 metres into the sky. The name translates as "big splash" or "explosion" in Maori.

Last Execution

The last execution in New Zealand took place on 18 February 1957. Walter Bolton was convicted of poisoning his wife Beatrice. He was hanged for her murder at Mount Eden prison In Auckland. The prison closed in 2011.

Prime Minister

The longest-serving prime minister in New Zealand to date is Keith Holyoake (1904-1983). He first held the position for two months in 1957 (when Sid Holland stepped down), and later from 1960 to 1972. From 1977 to 1980 he was governor-general.

All Blacks

Flanker Richie McCaw is the most-capped All Black with 148. Fly half Dan Carter has scored the most points with 1,598. Doug Howlett is the leading try scorer with 49 tries in 62 matches.

Cricket in New Zealand
Hagley Oval, Christchurch


In cricket, Richard Hadlee is the leading wicket-taker in Test matches with 431. The leading runs scorers are Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson both with over 7,000. Williamson is the younger man and should one day have the overall record.


Wellington is the southernmost national capital in the world.


Dunedin Railway Station has the longest platform of any station in New Zealand at nearly 500 metres. Wingatui Viaduct, on the former Otago Central Railway, is the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand, built in 1887. Arthur's Pass Railway Station in Arthur's Pass National Park is the highest working railway station in New Zealand.

Harwood's Hole

The deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand (176 metres) in Abel Tasman National Park.

Books on New Zealand

Books about New Zealand

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