Te Anau is both a gateway to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park and a destination in its own right. Sitting pretty by the shores of Lake Te Anau, the town makes for a pleasant base for exploring the region, trips on the lake and is the ideal place to recover after doing one of the regions Great Walks. Join me as I take you through the best things to do in Te Anau, including glowworm caves, hikes, lake views and much more.
Lake Te Anau Views
Te Anau township is located right by the lake, meaning if you’re able to splash out you might just get a room with a lake view. The waterfront area in Te Anau is the ideal place for an easy stroll and the views, especially on a nice day (and especially in winter).
Cruising on Lake Te Anau
One of the best things to do in Te Anau is to get out on the lake on a scenic cruise. There are plenty of options, from sunset dinner and drinks cruises to the one that takes you over to the glowworm caves. You can also take a water taxi to Brod Bay, or if you’re doing the Milford Track you’ll have to take a boat to the start of the track. However you do it, make sure to get out on the water!
The tour to the glowworm caves in Te Anau is a highlight, both for the caves themselves and the fact that you get a nice lake cruise as well. I’d highly recommend doing it at night – we did the tour leaving at around 7 pm and were treated to an awesome sunset on the way back. There isn’t much to do in Te Anau at night so I reckon the later tour option is the way to go. Also, you can’t take photos in the caves, hence the lake photo below.
The Great Walks
There are three Great Walks which start (or end) close to Te Anau. You’ve got the Milford Track, which is the most iconic of the lot, but the Kepler Track and the Routeburn Track are great options as well. The Kepler Track starts and ends very close to Te Anau and is by far the easiest (and cheapest to organise).
We’ve done both the Kepler and Routeburn lately and really enjoyed them both, but I’d rate the Routeburn slightly higher in terms of views and variety. We had perfect weather though, so that helped!
Short Walks by the Lake
From Te Anau you could walk to Brod Bay or even up to Luxmore Hut for a long day walk. You could also catch a water taxi to Brod Bay and then walk up to Luxmore Hut. So many options, but you also can’t beat just walking around the waterfront in town.
Te Anau Bird Sanctuary
The bird sanctuary is one of the best things to do in Te Anau with kids, but it’s a good place to check out regardless. The kids will love the little puzzles and bird things, and it’s always interesting to see some of New Zealand’s native birds.
Manapouri is only a 15-minute drive from Te Anau and it’s worth a look if you’re exploring the area. There’s a great beach and a good half-day walk (Circle Track). You’ll visit Manapouri if you’re doing the Doubtful Sound day trip, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty similar to Milford Sound but doesn’t require the long drive to get there.
The tour takes you on a cruise across Lake Manapouri, a bus ride of Wilmot Pass and then a cruise through Doubtful Sound. Such an amazing place and you can only see it on a tour. I reckon if you’re going to splash out on a tour like this in New Zealand this should be a top option.
READ MORE: 6 Fun Things to Do in Manapouri
The Scenic Drive to Milford Sound
It’s common for people to pretty much drive straight through Te Anau on the way to Milford Sound, either on a bus tour or by car. It’s no surprise either, as there is so much to see on this drive, especially the part between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
You could spend days in this area. There are heaps of walks, including some amazing day walks (one of which takes you along a section of the Routeburn Track) and heaps of shorter walks and viewpoints. Highlights include the Mirror Lakes, Key Summit, Gertrude Saddle and Lake Marian.
Milford Sound is about as famous as it gets in New Zealand. It’s one of those iconic destinations that everyone knows about and is keen to visit, and for good reason. It’s an amazing place, and you can get a pretty good view of it from the foreshore and the viewpoint slightly uphill from the car park.
Cruises are big business at Milford Sound and they’re a lot of fun. The scenery is great, and I’ve heard the experience of doing it in rain / after heavy rain, when there are hundreds of waterfalls crashing into the sound, is special.
Hang out in Town
Te Anau is a bit of an oasis in these parts. There isn’t another major town for miles, so if you’re into good food, bars and the general bustling tourist town vibe you’ll want to spend a day or two just hanging out in and around town. If you’re doing a Great Walk definitely build a recovery day in Te Anau into your itinerary!
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