From jade to rugby jerseys, here’s everything you need to buy when you’re in the land of Kiwis.
No matter where you go when you’re in New Zealand, you’ll be sure to find priceless items that are specific to your experience. But if you’re looking for some all-time classic souvenirs to bring home, here’s a good starter list.
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In New Zealand, the art of wood-carving is called whakairo rakau, and it’s considered an ancient and respected Māori skill. From airports to specialty stores, you’ll see Māori carved wood for sale in a variety of different forms. The tool the wood-carvers use to carve is called greenstone, and the timbers are from the great forests of the country. It is a widely respected craft, and each carver takes great care to put intricate details into each piece. Bring one home, learn about the design behind what you have purchased, and share the story.
Also known as greenstone or jade, this is the national gem of New Zealand. Local lore says that if you buy pounamu for yourself it is considered bad luck, so be sure to only purchase it as a gift if you’re superstitious. It is mostly made into ornamental pieces or as jewelry, but it is also sometimes carved into different symbols, which all have specific stories and meanings. The highest quality pounamu can be a bit pricey, so if you find some that seems inexpensive, know it just may be a tacky tchotchke.
Also known as mother of pearl, abalone comes from the shell of a paua shell, a sea snail found throughout New Zealand’s coasts. It comes in hues of green, blue, purple, white, and pink, and all of those colors combined. It is mostly used in jewelry pieces, and makes a stunning gift. Pieces of the shell are also used as decoration on anything from glasses and boxes to pens and purses. You can also purchase a shell by itself, which can be a great jewelry box or key holder.
There are sheep all over New Zealand. Farmers regularly shuck their sheep and keep them healthy so they can keep shucking them to produce more wool. Because Kiwis are big on being outdoors, merino wool clothing and products are sold everywhere and are especially popular in the winter months. Merino is especially warm, and it’s not only made in bulky sweaters. You can find it as all sorts of products from leggings, long underwear, to sneakers. For supreme warmth, a hat, scarf, and gloves are great to bring home to help withstand tough winters.
Whittaker’s Chocolate is a brand native to New Zealand, and it’s the second leading chocolate company in the country after Cadbury. The Whittaker family has been making chocolate for more than 120 years, and you can find their headquarters in Porirua. Although you’ve most likely seen the Whittaker’s brand name before, nothing beats picking up a sweet as close to the real source as you can get.
A Bottle of Wine or Craft Beer
Whether you prefer to sip on a glass of wine at the end of your day or throw back a glass of craft beer, New Zealand has a healthy selection of options for imbibing. If you’re able to visit a brewery or winery during your stay, you’ll gain lots of new information that will help you shop for a nice New Zealand wine or beer to take back with you (or to help you shop at liquor stores at home). It’s always good to try a new drink each place you go, and any region you visit is bound to have a wide array to choose from.
Kete products are woven out of New Zealand flax leaves, and are traditionally made by the Māori. They usually come in the form of backpacks or handbags in various sizes. They can also be woven into wallets or small clutches. The weaving process is called raranga, which is the same process used to weave floor mats and belts.
Wild Fern’s Bee Venom
Bee venom is not the most alluring item to purchase when you first hear of it, but Wild Fern is a popular brand name that uses it in skincare products. Widely accessible, Wild Fern Bee Venom products can be purchased online, but is 100% New Zealand produced. The company’s mantra is to use ethical and sustainable sources to uphold the integrity of the environment. A few of the products are eye cream, face masks, moisturizer, and lip plumper.
The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team is world’s leading rugby union team, which makes sense because it’s also the country’s national sport. Having won the last two world cups, the team is widely worshipped throughout the country. Rugby league is just as popular, and if you are a rugby buff, you’re in the right country. Try to go to a game at a stadium, and feel the buzz of the country’s home pride. When you come home with a jersey, scarf, or hat with the New Zealand All Blacks logo on it, fellow rugby lovers will know exactly where you went.
Another Māori tradition, bone carving is an art just as special as jade or wood carving. If you’re lucky, you might find a piece in a gift shop, although these are rarer than other carved Māori items. If you go off-the-beaten-track, stay somewhere for a while, and befriend some of the locals; you may get to know a few in the trade of carving, and you can ask for a commissioned piece. Symbolism is big with the Kiwis and Māori, so each piece has a unique and deep meaning. The carvers pour their soul and creativity into their technique, so be sure to cherish their creations.