Everyone want the real deal when it comes to souvenirs. We don’t want to buy the mass produced made-in-China tourist rubbish that the locals wouldn’t even touch. You want to bring home from New Zealand unique pieces of art, clothing, food and jewellery that actually mean something to you, that will remind you of NZ and that your friends and family will love as gifts.
In this article, I’ve found 13 souvenirs that kiwis love. How do I know? I am kiwi and every single recommendation here comes from personal experience or that of friends and family. Wherever possible, I’ve included local businesses supporting local artists. The products they sell are authentic, top quality and they’re worth every cent.
All prices are in NZD. At time of writing $1NZ = USD$0.66/€0.56/£0.50
1 - Pounamu
Pounamu (also known as greenstone) is a highly valued nephrite jade found in southern New Zealand, with huge significance to Māori culture. Considered a taonga (treasure), pounamu is usually gifted and is commonly considered to be bad luck to buy for yourself.
While you can buy green stone at any souvenir shop, Mountain Jade are industry leaders with their elegant and traditional hand finished pieces. Each piece can cost between a couple hundred dollars and a couple thousand, depending on their design intricacy. You can find their stores in Hokitika, Rotorua and Auckland Airport.
2 - Pāua shell
Known outside of New Zealand as abalone, pāua are frequently used to represent the eyes in Māori carvings and are traditionally associated with the stars or whetū, the symbolic eyes of ancestors that gaze down from the night sky.
Highly polished New Zealand pāua shells are extremely popular as souvenirs with their striking blue, green, and purple iridescence and are usually set in sterling silver as bracelets and earrings.
Ariki have the most tastefully designed pieces (some pāua jewellery can look a little cheap and tacky) and can be found at over 180 retailers around New Zealand. Prices vary, but begin at around $50 for sterling silver pāua studs.
If you want the pāua shell as a whole, you can buy easily buy them (for around $10) or you can fish for them yourself, check out my guide here for more info.
3 - A charm for your Pandora or Thomas Sabo bracelet.
We have a wide variety of iconic New Zealand charms available to add to your bracelets. From obvious choices like kiwis and sheep, to Māori matau (fish hooks) and tikis, or modern culture icons like L&P bottles and rugby balls.
Evolve are a local jewellery company that have quite a selection of New Zealand themed charms but you can also buy them through official Pandora outlets with stores in most cities. Charms are usually around $40-50 each.
4 - The One Ring from Lord of the Rings
You’ve seen the movies (of course you have), you’ve visited Hobbiton and now you want to take something home with you. Well, you may want to get your own replica of the One Ring. This 18K gold plated ring retails at $150 and can be bought at the Hobbiton movie set, or at Weta Workshop in Wellington.
Alternatively, if you seek a more precious metal, you can buy the 18K solid gold version for $5002.57. Just putting it out there, you’ve got options.
Clothes and accessories:
5 - Moana Road sunglasses
I have a pair of their aviators and I absolutely love them, best sunnies I’ve ever had. Moana Road designs are unique and have a very ‘kiwi summer’ feel to them. Don’t need sunglasses? No worries, they have a wide range of other products, from tasteful bags to bright tea towels.
Sunglasses sell from $40-60 and can be found all over the country.
6 Possum fur gloves/scarf/nipple warmers
Possums aren’t native to New Zealand, they were introduced from Australia in the 1800s to establish a fur trade. Since then they’ve had a significant negative impact on the native ecosystem, eating the eggs and chicks of indigenous birds, and as a whole, consuming large quantities of native flora. They’re considered a pest in New Zealand, and buying wild brushtail possum fur really benefits our ecosystem, as well as being a unique gift.
Possumdown which uses a blend of wild possum fur and lamb wool, create some of the more fashion forward options for possum knit clothing. Their prices start at around $40-60 for gloves and beanies, and are $400 and up for coats and jackets.
Their products are sold all over the country with retailers listed here.
7 - Merino wool
Expensive, but oh so worth it when you roll those woolly socks up on a cold wintery day. It is especially warm and soft, yet lightweight, so it’s perfect for thermals, socks, or any item worn next to the skin. A favourite for New Zealand hikers and non-hikers alike, Kathmandu (who are already well known as a durable, high quality brand) are the best place to buy merino wool clothing.
Prices vary between $20 for socks and $400 for jackets. You can find Kathmandu branches in any major city.
8 - Kiwiana printed shirts
Nothing says ‘souvineer’ like a tourist t-shirt, yet even the locals like wearing these ones. NZ’s kiwiana t-shirts are a little bit quirky and funky, even a little bit bad taste, but don’t pass up a chance to pick one up.
My favourite brand (which I’ve bought from on a few different occasions) is Global Culture, their designs are much more modern and the quality far superior to the mass produced drivel that lines the tourist shops.
Their t-shirts sell at $99 for 3, with many other clothing options available.
Global Culture have stores in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Queenstown and little Punakaiki.
Food and drinks
9 - New Zealand wine
With vineyards in 12 of New Zealand’s 16 regions, you can tell wine is big business here. You’d be seriously missing out if you don’t visit at least one vineyard here for a wine tasting tour, so why not pick up a bottle to bring home for mum?
While I personally love Oyster Bay Merlot at just $9.99 a bottle, (you can easily buy NZ wine for as little as $7 a bottle) now’s a good chance to splurge on a top shelf brand.
You can buy NZ wine from any supermarket (just bring your passport as ID because they are unbelievably strict on anyone who looks under 30 and foreign driver’s licenses are denied) or Four Square (convenience shop). Look out for any label stating it was made in NZ – although Australia make some quality wines too, and I am partial to Jacob’s Creek.
10 - Whittaker’s chocolate
So much creamier than Cadbury, not as overwhelmingly sweet as Nestle, Whittaker’s chocolate dominates the confectionary shelves in NZ. I recommend starting with either the creamy chocolate or the dark cacao, whichever you prefer, and then trying a few of their more artisan flavours like: Marlborough sea salt and caramel brittle with saffron, or Nelson pear and Manuka honey. Once you’ve found your favourites (after trying every flavour twice over, of course) bring them home for your family.
A 250g block retails for about $5 (but can sometimes be found on special) at any supermarket, Four Square or Dairy (convenience stores). Unfortunately tours of the Whittaker’s chocolate factory are unavailable due to NZ food safety regulations.
Health and beauty products
10 - Manuka honey hand creams and lip balms
Manuka honey is a honey native to New Zealand, created by bees who pollinate the flower on the commonly known Manuka bush. Manuka honey contains antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits when used to aid healing (I’ve used it on a nasty oil burn and found it helped tremendously with pain and healing time). If you want to buy the honey in its natural form, you can buy it in the aisle with regular honey at the supermarket.
However, as a daily use, I love Wild Ferns Manuka honey hand creams, facial scrubs and lip balms. They smell natural and feel silky (not greasy like some creams can be) and make for beautiful gifts for sisters and friends.
Wild fern moisturisers cost between $10 and $25.
11 - Rotorua mud soaps and face masks
Taking a mud bath at Rotorua is a pretty unique experience. The Rotorua mud contains traces of minerals and antioxidants which separate it from pure clay. While I believe the health benefits of the mud are pretty insignificant, the therapeutic qualities of the hot baths can help soothe muscle aches and relax the mind.
So why not take home a piece of Rotorua mud in the form of soaps and facemasks as a reminder of the experience? Puresource have a range of locally sourced products that you can buy online or at the Hell’s Gate giftshop (the name of the mud pools in Rotorua)
Art and décor
12 - Wooden carvings
New Zealand Maori are famous for their complex engravings and with no written language, stories, genealogy and mythology were passed down the generations using intricate wood carvings on everything from the giant canoes (Waka) to weapons, tools and meeting houses.
You can find these carvings for sale at any souvenir shop. Each piece is unique and you may want to shop around a bit to find the one you love. To give you an idea, BoneArt has some beautiful options available at reasonable prices.
At the cheaper end, you’ll probably find a few simpler carvings for around $40, but quality carvings can cost a couple hundred dollars (or even in the thousands).
13 - A map
I have a little thing about maps. I try and collect one from every place I visit, then I pin them up on the wall. New Zealand in particular has such a lovely shape, it would be a shame to return home from a visit without a map.
Here + There Maps are a local business who sell stylised maps of New Zealand, some are the entire map of NZ, others are centred on the Cook Strait, Hauraki Gulf, or the Coromandel Peninsula. Pick one you love the most.
Because I love supporting small kiwi businesses, I’ve written a list of souvenir shops who sell unique, made in NZ pieces by local artists. Check them out if you’re in any of these areas:
Pauanesia in Auckland CBD
From N to Z in Auckland CBD
Woodzone in Clevedon, Auckland
Moko Artspace at hotwater beach, Coromandel
Lava Glass Studio in Taupo
Kina NZ design + artspace in New Plymouth
Kura art and design in Te Aro, Wellington
Gold nugget in Arrowtown
Hapa in Woolston, Christchurch
And don’t forget about Farmers’ markets. Every major city has them each weekend, go taste locally made cheeses, fruits and vegies, and check out what small time artists, craftspeople, and photographers are making in your area.
Click to pin to your New Zealand travel board: