John Key has been appointed as a Knight of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
He just received the honour for services to the state at an investiture ceremony at Auckland's Government House.
MC Hewitt Humphrey rattled off a list of Sir John's achievements as Prime Minister including leading the country through a series of natural disasters, concluding key Treaty settlements and helping to improve relations between New Zealand and the United States.
Dressed in a plain blue suit, the former Prime Minister grinned from ear to ear as he received his honour, before posing for photos with the Governor-General Patsy Reddy.
Sir John was supported by his wife Bronagh, son Max, other members of his family and Prime Minister Bill English.
After the ceremony, the former PM said it was a special day for his family and so many other people who helped him in his role.
"I see it see it as recognition for Bronagh and the kids for the sacrifices they made. I hope everyone can take a bit of joy from it."
Sir John said he considered his leadership through the global financial crisis his greatest achievement as Prime Minister, but added the Christchurch earthquake and the Pike River disaster also stuck in his mind.
"There were so many things that I look back on which were tough times for New Zealand but I hope, in some small part, I could provide leadership to help people through those crises."
When asked if he missed anything about being Prime Minister, he laughed saying he missed the VIP cars because "you can park anywhere and they're very convenient".
But Sir John continued to maintain he'd made the right decision in stepping down.
"I just look back and think I'm really happy with the time I was there, I was proud to be in the roles I was in. I enjoyed it."
He said he met a remarkable number of people from around the world, and thousands of "everyday Kiwis" who were always very kind to him.
"But no regrets in saying goodbye, you've got to know when you're time is up and I kind of had worked that out."