Where in the world is New Zealand located?

Since you’re on this page we’ll assume you’ve heard of New Zealand. You may have seen New Zealand in movies like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Mission: Impossible – Fallout and decided that you have to visit this beautiful country. But for the life of you, you just can’t find New Zealand on the map. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

You see, despite being a country roughly the size of the United Kingdom, on most world maps, we’re rather inconveniently placed in the bottom right hand corner which means we often just fall off. In fact it happens so often that there are pages like this reddit and this Facebook page that are entirely dedicated to showing maps that just didn’t bother to include us.

Even our own government is in on the act as you can see from this screenshot of an error page on the official New Zealand Government website. We should be there, just to the right of Australia but nope, just empty space. Nobody invited us to the party.

NZ Govt page not found

Until a few months ago, the error message simply said “We’re sorry, something’s missing…” – the “like NZ on this map” bit was only added later. Whether this was originally a genuine oversight or simply some government IT geek with a sense of humour, we’ll never know.

In typical kiwi faction, we take this rejection in our stride and respond with humour, blaming Australians, the British and the French for removing us from maps. But mostly those sneaky Australians who want to steal all our tourists. Or perhaps, given that Australians make up a large proportion of our holiday visitors, they want to keep New Zealand all for themselves, the greedy buggers.

Regardless, we’ve had our best people/person on the case and the truth has finally been revealed as these videos show.

So where is New Zealand on the map?

We thought the best way to show you where New Zealand is on the world map is to create our own map with New Zealand conveniently placed near the centre. No countries were excluded in the making of this map although we did have to cut Iceland in half – sorry about that Iceland.

Where is New Zealand world map

Located in the South Pacific, New Zealand is approximately 1,500km (932 miles) east-southeast of Australia. Around 1,400 km (870 miles) to the north of New Zealand are the islands of New Caledonia, a French territory, along with many other Pacific islands including Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga.

New Zealand and Australia are separated by the Tasman Sea, often referred to as ‘the ditch’ as in, “we’re off to see the family across the ditch”. We may be be closely situated but New Zealand is absolutely, definitely not part of Australia, even though we have confusingly similar flags and, to the untrained ear, may even sound the same.

New Zealand facts & figures

  • Land area: 267,710 km² (103,363 miles²)
  • Population: 5,127,200 (Estimated, 21 December 2021. Source: Stats NZ)
  • Official languages: English*, Te Reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language
  • Capital city: Wellington – est. population 217,000 (2021)
  • Largest city: Auckland – est. population 1,71 million (2021)
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
  • International dialling code: +64
  • Time zone (Wellington): GMT+12, New Zealand Daylight Time – GMT+13

*Fun fact: English is actually widely presumed to be an official language given that it’s spoken by over 96% of the population. In fact, according to official statutes, English is not one of New Zealand’s official languages but effectively it is.

Is New Zealand a continent?

Looking at the shape of New Zealand and the shape of Australia’s east coast, it almost looks like they could have been joined at one point. As it turns out, they were until around 60 – 85 million years ago when New Zealand decided it needed some time apart from Australia to think.

In all seriousness though, what we see as New Zealand today is the exposed part of a huge submerged mass of the continental crust that broke away from Australia. In 1995, an American geophysicist and oceanographer, Bruce Luyendyk, proposed the name Zealandia for this land mass and the name stuck. So what continent is New Zealand in? If you accept that Zealandia is a continent in its own right, as suggested by this paper from The Geological Society of America (Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent), then New Zealand is a part of this continent.

If there is a New Zealand, where is Old Zealand?

Old world explorers, settlers and traders had a habit of naming places they discovered after the places they came from. In some cases, they at least tried to be a little original. For example Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island, with its strong Scottish heritage, was named after Edinburgh which in Scottish Gaelic is called Dùn Èideann.

On the other hand, New Plymouth on the lower west coast of the North Island, was named after the English port city of Plymouth as many of the town’s early European settlers came from Devon and Cornwall. To avoid confusion, they simply put the word ‘New’ in front on Plymouth – job done.

The story of how New Zealand got its anglicised the name is somewhat similar. A Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight New Zealand in 1642 and named it Staten Landt, thinking it might be linked to another Staten Landt close to Cape Horn near the southern tip of South America… a mere seven and a half thousand kilometers away. To be fair, he didn’t have the luxury of GPS which would have told him “turn right at the next island and continue on for seven million five hundred thousand metres.”

A few years later, a Dutch cartographer cleared up this minor error and Abel Tasman’s discovery was named Nieuw Zeeland after the Dutch province of Zeeland. Located in the south west of the country, close to the border with Belgium, Zeeland is one of the least populated provinces in the Netherlands.

Made up of a number of islands, peninsulas and sea inlets (hence the name Zeeland, “sea land”), the Dutch map maker must have felt there was some similarity between Zeeland and the land that Tasman had discovered. Plus there was the fact that the Dutch had already named Australia, Nieuw Holland, so we couldn’t have had that name now could we. We would never have heard the end of it from Australia.

With the arrival of the British explorer Captain James Cook in 1769, the name Nieuw Zeeland was anglicised to New Zealand as he mapped the entire country.

Finally, for those of you who like to leave no stone unturned, there is no relation between New Zealand and the Danish island of Zealand or Sjælland. Just in case you were wondering.

Danish Zealand

So there you have it. Based on the fact that the first European to sight New Zealand was the Dutchman Abel Tasman, and since we presume that the Dutch cartographers named the land Nieuw Zeeland after the province of Zeeland, ‘Old Zealand’ would have to be Zeeland in the Netherlands.

Dutch Zeeland

Now that you know exactly where we are on the world map, isn’t it time you came and visited New Zealand?