Explore Te Anau New Zealand - A Gateway to Fiordland's Natural Beauty, Southland

Te Anau is a charming town on the shores of Lake Te Anau, in the Southland Region of New Zealand, and is often referred to as the "Gateway to Fiordland."

Lake Te Anau, Southland
Lake Te Anau Docks and Cruise Boat, Fiordland, Southland, South Island, New Zealand

This is an idyllic destination and a haven for nature lovers and outdoor adventure seekers alike. Te Anau is offering an array of activities, stunning landscapes, and a relaxing atmosphere.

Situated in the South Island of New Zealand, Te Anau is the perfect starting point for exploring the breathtaking Fiordland National Park and the world-famous Milford Sound.

This guide will give you a taster of the wonders of Te Anau you can expect to find as you journey through the southern region of New Zealand.

See Map Below

Natural Landscape around Te Anau New Zealand

Te Anau is surrounded by a naturally beautiful landscape that will leave you awestruck. Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island, provides a picturesque backdrop for the town.

Take a leisurely stroll along the lake-front, rent a kayak, or simply sit by the shore and soak in the tranquillity. The stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Te Anau make for perfect views and photographic opportunities all year round in any type of weather.

Examples of Te Anau Attractions

  • Lake Te Anau - Largest Lake in the South Island
  • Te Anau Caves - Glow worms
  • Scenic Cruises
  • Jetboating
  • Kayaking
  • Tours
  • Wildlife Park
  • Fiordland Cinema

20 Things to do in Te Anau

Fiordland National Park Access from Te Anau

Te Anau is the ideal base for exploring Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its dramatic landscapes, pristine wilderness, and unique flora and fauna. Fiordland has a network of walks and hiking trails that cater to all levels of hikers.

River, Te Anau to Milford, Fiordland, Southland New Zealand
Photo by Patrick McGregor

The Kepler Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks, starts and finishes in Te Anau. This 60-kilometer loop track takes you through lush beech forests, along the shores of Lake Te Anau, and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

For the more adventurous, both the Routeburn Track and Milford Track can be easily accessed from Te Anau. These are multi-day hikes that lead you deep into the heart of Fiordland National Park, passing through mystical ancient forests, alpine meadows, and the park's incredible native biodiversity. To avoid disappointment, don’t forget to book your huts or campsites well in advance, as these tracks are extremely popular.

Fiordland National Park Tracks

From Te Anau to Milford Sound Trip

No trip to Te Anau is complete without visiting Milford Sound, often referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World."

Te Anau to Milford Sound Drive along Milford Road, Fiordland, Southland New Zealand

The iconic Milford Sound is a scenic two-hour drive from Te Anau and is renowned for its towering waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and abundant wildlife. You can explore Milford Sound on a cruise, kayak adventure, or even a scenic flight. Keep an eye out for seals, dolphins, and birds, including the elusive Fiordland Crested Penguin.

While the drive to Milford Sound is an exciting attraction in itself, including a famous tunnel, the destination is truly the highlight of the journey. Milford Road, (Te Anau to Milford Sound), has plenty of viewpoints and short walks where you can stretch your legs and take in the breathtaking scenery of forests, rivers, valleys, and mountains! 

Try out the BBQ Bus instead of driving

Don't miss the Mirror Lakes, where on a calm day, you can witness perfect reflections of the Earl Mountains.

Here is a list of things to see on the Milford Road - Te Anau to Milford Sound Route.

  • Eglinton Valley
  • Mirror Lakes
  • The Divide
  • Hollyford Valley
  • Gunns Camp Museum
  • Homer Tunnel
  • The Chasm
  • Milford Sound

Milford Road Highway SH94 Te Anau to Milford Sound

Te Anau Driving Route, Fiordland, Southland, South Island, New Zealand
Photo by Casey Horne

Doubtful Sound from Te Anau

For a quieter, less crowded experience, head to Doubtful Sound, just a short boat ride and bus journey from Te Anau. This hidden gem is known for its serenity and untouched wilderness. As you cruise through the sound, you will be surrounded by steep cliffs, lush rainforests, and waterfalls cascading from the cliffs above. Doubtful Sound also entices a more intimate encounter with nature and native birds and wildlife.

The journey to Doubtful Sound is an adventure in itself. Firstly, get yourself to Manapouri either by vehicle or bus, that is the furthest you will be able to do on a road. Next, the real journey begins with a boat ride across Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus journey over the Wilmot Pass. Built in the 1960s, there’s a 21km of road that connects West Arm with Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound.

Manapouri has accommodation and attractions of it's own as you pass through or stay over. Lake Manapouri is the Second Deepest Lake in New Zealand for example, and you can get Scenic Cruises on the lake.

This unique combination of travel modes adds to the sense of remoteness and isolation, making your visit to Doubtful Sound an unforgettable experience.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Venture underground and discover the magical Te Anau Glow-worm Caves. There are limestone caves that provide a home to thousands of tiny, bioluminescent glow-worms that create a stunning celestial-like display. Guided tours take you through Te Anau caves, sharing the history and science behind these fascinating creatures as you glide silently through. The boat ride on the underground lake beneath a starry ceiling of glow-worms is a truly enchanting experience.

The caves are easy to get to from Te Anau. Glowworm tours operate year-round. I would advise you to book your tour in advance, especially during the peak tourist season or on public holiday days and weekends.

Te Anau Accommodation and Dining

Te Anau offers a range of accommodation options, from cosy B&Bs to luxury lodges, ensuring there's something for every traveller's taste and budget.

Enjoy local cuisine at the town's restaurants and cafes, where fresh seafood and lamb dishes are among the highlights. Don't forget to try the New Zealand classic, fish and chips, while taking in the scenic views of Lake Te Anau.

A Final Word on Te Anau New Zealand

20 Things to do in Te Anau

Te Anau is a destination that captures the heart of every traveller that makes the journey to this corner of the world. Whether you're an adventure enthusiast, a nature and wildlife lover, a photographer, a hiker, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Te Anau town has something to offer you.

With its proximity to Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, and the enchanting Glowworm Caves, Te Anau is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the beauty of New Zealand's Southland Region on the South Island. Experience the natural wonders and warm hospitality of Te Anau – a place where memories are made. Your journey into the heart of Fiordland begins in the captivating town of Te Anau.

To find Lord of the Rings locations, visit my Southland Region page.

Te Anau Map of Location and Routes

This map shows where Te Anau is located in relation to Southland, Fiordland, the South Island, and wider New Zealand. Zoom in to view local places and zoom out to see the wider region and road network.

Te Anau New Zealand