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otorohanga-kiwi-icons | Helen Brahms | Have2Travel | Have2GoNewZealand

I’m a kiwi gal, born and raised in New Zealand and moved to the USA in 1998. I have never forgotten where I have come from nor do I hesitate in promoting New Zealand to anyone who asks about it, mentions it, or wants to talk about it.
New Zealand is an amazing place. If you haven’t been there then you are missing out on one of the hidden treasures of the world. To give you an idea on how much we can pack into a small country like New Zealand, take all 50 states and squish them into the state of Colorado and add 4.5 million people and about 60 million sheep and you would be close to what we have in New Zealand. Remember New Zealand is made up of three main islands, North Island, South Island and Stewart Island surrounded by two oceans. On the east we have the Pacific Ocean and on the west we have the Tasman Sea.

I like to refer to New Zealand as being “down under and over a bit”. When you mention down under most people automatically think of Australia and forget that New Zealand is down there too. So I get people thinking when I add the “and over a bit”! 🙂

Kiwi – A nocturnal bird native to New Zealand

Now the hard thing to decide is where to begin with things that are Uniquely Kiwi…we like to call those things Kiwiana. The first one I need to talk about is: Kiwi. When I first arrived in the States and people found out I was from New Zealand they would say to me, “Oh, I love eating kiwi!” I was horrified! See in New Zealand a Kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird that is our national bird and some species are on the endangered list. A Kiwi is also a person from New Zealand. So when someone tells me they love eating kiwi, my first thoughts were, they were eating an endangered species or they were a cannibal! It took me a bit to figure out they were talking about kiwifruit!

Kiwifruit – notice it is on word and not two.

Speaking of Kiwifruit, here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you…the kiwifruit was originally the Chinese Gooseberry, somewhere along the way NZ started growing and exporting them and at some meeting they were named Kiwifruit as the was small brown and furry like the Kiwi (bird). So next time you want to tell a New Zealander that you like eating Kiwi, you might want to think twice and change it to kiwifruit so we don’t get confused.


Silver Fern Symbol as seen on New Zealand Athlete’s uniforms


Another symbol associated with New Zealand is the Silver Fern. Whenever you see any NZ sportsperson in action you will see the silver fern on their uniform. The silver fern is actually a tree fern known as Ponga. it’s trunk is extremely hard and made of thousands of fibers instead of solid wood. My dad broke many saw blades trying to cut the Ponga. The top of the leaf is dark green but the underside of the leaf is silver.

Prince William with the Prince and Princess of Wales playing with his Buzzy Bee

When talking about NZ I can’t forget the Buzzy Bee. Many children in NZ grew up walking their Buzzy Bee. The Buzzy Bee was brightly colored wooden toy that as you pulled it would make a clack-clack sound and its wings would spin. A Buzzy Bee was even presented to Prince William when he came to New Zealand with his parents in April 1983.



Many Australians are going to balk at the next kiwiana item. It has been an ongoing controversy between Australia and New Zealand since 1925! Now don’t get me wrong we love our neighbors and yes, we have a great friendly rivalry. You are probably wondering what I’m talking about. One of New Zealand’s best culinary delights is our national desert, the Pavlova. The Pavlova was inspired by the Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova. A New Zealand baker wanted to create something that represented her dancing. He came up with a meringue-based sweet concoction made of egg whites, vinegar, vanilla essence, caster sugar, and cornflour; topped with whipped cream, sliced kiwifruit and drizzles of passionfruit. The meringue is light and represents the lightness of her dancing; the whipped cream the tutu and the kiwi fruit and passionfruit the decorations of the tutu. The controversy comes in where the Australians say they are the ones who first came up with the desert. Sorry to tell my Aussie friends this, but in Anna Pavlova’s biography and in other sources it is stated that it was New Zealand who was the first to make this dish.

L&P World Famous in New Zealand

Thirsty? Then you have to try some Lemon and Paeroa, otherwise known as L&P. Its slogan is “World Famous in New Zealand”. L&P is a wonderful refreshing combination of mineral water and lemon extract. The water first used in L&P was from a spring in Paeroa and they would add a wedge of lemon to the water. Paeroa is a little town in the heart of Thames Valley that I’m familiar with as my great grandparents used to lived there. In town you will find a monument of a giant bottle of L&P as a reminder of where L&P originated.


Bungy Jumping from the Historic Kawarau Bridge

Okay now for the adrenalin junkies! We head way down south to the Queenstown – the Adventure Capital of the World. If you want an adrenalin rush then you need to visit Queenstown. Here you will find two kiwi icons…Jetboating (invented in NZ by Sir William Hamilton) and Bungy Jumping. Now we must pause here for a bit of history on the bungy jumping. This is from the book Strictly Kiwi by Graham Hutchins; “Bungy jumping was based on the hair-raising practice of the Pentecost Islanders of Vanuatu, who were in the habit of tying vines around their ankles before diving off high wooden towers, secure in the knowledge that their plummet to certain death would be thwarted by the supporting vines.” So AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch developed the idea into bungy jumping that has become a huge tourist attraction in New Zealand. Now I know that there are bungy jumps available around the world, but if I am every “stupid” enough to jump off a structure with a piece of elastic tied to my ankles there is only one place in the world I would do it and that would be at AJ Hackett’s off the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand. If you don’t want to jump they have viewing platforms and watching people jump can be extremely entertaining!

Kawarau River Jets

Now onto the other kiwiana item was just mentioned…jetboating! You can race along the Shotover River with a company called Shotover Jet or you can race up the Kawarau River on the Kawarau Jets. I have done the Kawarau Jet and LOVED IT!! We left the pier in Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu and went across the lake and up the Kawarau River. It was a blast!! Sir William Hamilton invented the jetboats to go up shallow rivers against the currents. This way you wouldn’t have to worry about the propellors on regular boats being damaged by rocks. I can tell you when I was on the Kawarau river we were going through waters about 4 inches deep. So much fun!!

New Zealand has so much to offer that it is very hard to put it all in one blog, so I guess that means that I will have to write more blogs about New Zealand. I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into New Zealand and a few of the unique things New Zealand has. I will be bringing you more about New Zealand so stay tuned!

If you would like to know more about New Zealand please go and set up a FREE 1-hour no obligation planning session. If have been to New Zealand then please let us know in your questions and/or thoughts in the comments.

Helen Brahms

World globetrotter, Helen Brahms, is your Luxury Travel Concierge. She specializes in creating unique once-in-a-lifetime travel memories and charity fundraising trips. Whether your travel dreams include exotic locations or time with your family, you can have it all. Helen loves to help people cross destinations off their travel bucket list before they take a dirt nap!

Helen is the host of the Have2Travel Radio Show ( and is the author of the book "Congratulations, You're Going On a Cruise! Now What?" and the co-author of the book "Passionistas Talk!: The Best of the Passion Point Interviews (Vol. 1)"


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