Things you might not know about New Zealand.
One of the world's better known Polynesians, Samoan Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.
AUCKLAND HAS THE LARGEST POLYNESIAN POPULATION IN THE WORLD
Of New Zealand's five million people, about 260,000 identify themselves as Polynesian, and most live in Auckland.
Most of the Polynesian people living in Auckland come from the South Pacific Islands of Samoa, Tonga, Niue and Cook Islands.
The Haka, a traditional Māori warlike dance, used for a variety of purposes, in this case to scare the living daylights out of an opponent.
RUGBY IS NOT JUST A SPORT IN NEW ZEALAND
The sport of rugby is a way for Kiwis to come together, to feel national pride. And they are extremely good at the game, having won the Rugby World Cup three times. It's a fundamental part of the country's national identity. Unfortunately the country's national psyche also waxes and wanes on the back of the results of their national team called The All Blacks. Visit any café on a Monday morning after a loss, and you'll know what I mean. The mood can be downright depressing.
For a taste of the game of rugby, watch the highlights of this epic match between New Zealand and Australia back in 2000.
THERE'S NOTHING MUCH THAT CAN KILL YOU
You can set off for a bushwalk, (sorry "tramp" is the correct term for hiking in New Zealand), smug in the knowledge that there are literally no predators, like venomous snakes, crocodiles or tigers.
FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY AND SUMMERS ARE SHORT
Kiwis almost faint when the temperature hits 85 degrees Fahrenheit. New Zealand has a mild climate and plenty of rainfall – it's definitely four seasons in one day as the song by New Zealand group Crowded House goes. Summer doesn't officially arrive in the South Island until at least Christmas. Best avoid beach resort areas in winter, they're practically deserted and it's pretty cold.
Napier is full of Art-Deco wonder. Image: Tourism New Zealand
NAPIER HAS THE BIGGEST COLLECTION OF ART DECO BUILDINGS IN THE WORLD, ALONG WITH SOUTH BEACH IN MIAMI
Thanks to a total rebuild after a massive earthquake that levelled the city in 1931, Napier boasts an impressive collection of art deco buildings and was nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nowhere else in the Southern Hemisphere has such a concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and especially Art Deco. The city celebrates its heritage on the third weekend each February when the town turns back the clock and dresses in its deco finest. Nearby is the famous Hawke's Bay Wine region.
KIWIS LOVE THEIR TIP TOP ICE CREAM
Kiwis claim that their Tip Top brand of ice cream is the best in the southern hemisphere, and hokey pokey (it's a flavour) is far and away the biggest seller. They're also partial to chocolate-coated marshmallow fish. You can usually buy these treats at the local dairy (milkbar).
YOU CAN GET FANTASTIC COFFEE
Kiwis are just as obsessed with coffee as Australian's are and will debate the merits of various cafes ad nauseam. A Kiwi from Invercargill in the South Island apparently invented instant coffee, and they also claim to have devised the world's first flat white (Australia argues they did).
A flat white has milk but no froth. The milk is velvety rather than fluffy and therefore stronger, which requires a shorter, ristretto espresso shot to avoid harsh flavors. It's served in a ceramic mug, usually of the same volume (7.0 fl oz) as a latte glass.
Either way, you can get great coffee here – though country areas are still hit and miss, just like Australia.
KIWIS ARE ASTOUNDINGLY FRIENDLY
They'll stop for a chat, help you with directions and tell you about their cousin living in Strathfield. They also want to know why you're visiting New Zealand, where you're going and how long you're staying.
A traditional Māori greeting, the brushing of noses.
FIFTEEN PER CENT OF NEW ZEALAND'S POPULATION ARE MAORI
The indigenous Māori people are prominent in society and in government and Maori is an official language of New Zealand. Traditional Māori customs still play a big part in the lives of many modern Māori in New Zealand and are an intrinsic part of Kiwi culture.
THE SCENERY IS GOBSMACKING, ESPECIALLY ON THE SOUTH ISLAND
Your car will practically pull over to the side of the road of its own accord – at regular intervals. Snow capped mountains, stunning lakes, green rolling hills dotted with sheep (yes there's lots of them). Driving anywhere takes twice as long on account of the awesome vistas out the window.
A view from the Bombay Hills, looking north to Auckland and Hauraki Gulf in the distance.
ONE THIRD OF THE COUNTRY'S POPULATION LIVES NORTH OF THE BOMBAY HILLS
More people live in Auckland than the entire population of the South Island, which goes someway to explaining the city's horrendous traffic problems. And one third of Aucklanders own a boat, hence the City of Sails tag.
The low lying Bombay Hills lie to the south of Auckland and are crossed by Highway 1, the main highway between Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. It's used as a light-hearted derogatory term to describe the people of Auckland who the population outside of Auckland claim "don't know that anything actually exists "south of the Bombay Hills."
IT TAKES A LOT LONGER TO GET PLACES THAN YOU THINK
And not just because of the unscheduled photographic stops. Although Auckland to Otama Beach doesn't look very far on the map, New Zealand roads can be windy, narrow and cover hilly terrain. There are also heaps of one-way bridges. Allow extra time and be realistic.
'Wh..." IS PRONOUNCED 'F' IN MAORI
This makes Whakapapa, a ski field, and Whakatane, interesting to pronounce. The vast majority of place names are indigenous such as Onehunga, Whangamomona, Kahikatea, Waitangi, Nguru and Whangarei (pronounced Fangarei).
DON'T PUT OFF GOING
The people are welcoming, it's staggeringly beautiful, has a unique Maori heritage and culture, incredible food and wine and it's only three hours tops across the ditch.
With thanks to Traveller.com.au.