Top 5 things to do in Te Anau

19 July 2019

Te Anau, a beautiful little town in the deep south, is most commonly known as the gateway to Milford Sound. It’s not only the closest town but is also the starting point of the only road to Milford. Every journey by road to Milford Sound will include a drive through Te Anau, so why not make the most of your stop and check out the best things Te Anau has to offer!

A beautifully calm day on Lake Te Anau.

By foot

Despite being a small town, there are actually a variety of fun and exciting things to do in Te Anau. From exploring glow worm caves to taking advantage of NZ’s second largest lake – it’s a hot spot for the outdoorsy traveller! 

Here are a few of these best ways to enjoy your time in Te Anau!

1. Glow worm caves tour

New Zealand is one of only two countries in the whole world that have glow worms! These little worms are bio-luminescent, meaning they light up like a starry night sky inside a dark cave. Seeing glow worms in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime experience and one you definitely need to have while travelling in New Zealand. 

There are many different places you can see glow worms in NZ, with the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves being the most popular. However, what most people don’t know is that you can actually visit glow worm caves in Te Anau. The caves in Te Anau present a unique opportunity to explore with very few other people due to their isolated location that can only be reached by boat. 

Te Anau glow worm cave tours depart from Te Anau town and include a boat ride to and from the caves. It’ll only take a couple of hours out of your day and your guide will explain all about these incredible little grubs along the way. 

2. Visit Milford Sound!

Going to Milford Sound is without a doubt the best thing to do in Te Anau. Milford Sound is often called the “8th Wonder of the World” because of its dramatic landscape unlike anywhere else. 

Te Anau is the closest town to this ancient fiord, and from Te Anau, Milford Sound is only a short one and a half hour drive away. But if you do plan on driving yourself , you’ll want to allow more time than that! Between Te Anau and Milford Sound, there are many stunning places to stop that turns this journey into an adventure of its own.

Some of the best stops along the road to Milford are Mirror Lakes, Lake Gunn, Eglinton Valley, Pop’s Lookout, Lake Marian Track, Hollyford Valley, the Homer Tunnel, and of course, the Chasm

Mirror Lakes on the Milford Road.

Our Milford coach tours from Te Anau stop at many of these amazing places along Milford Road, and our drivers share plenty of fun facts along the way These tours depart daily, 365 days per year, and once you arrive you can jump on a boat cruise in Milford before heading back to your hotel in Te Anau or Queenstown. 

We offer three different boat cruises to choose from in Milford Sound: Scenic Cruise, Nature Cruise, and Encounter Nature Cruise. Each cruise differs from the next so you’re sure to find one that best suits you! If you want get even more up close and personal with explore Milford, be sure to check out the Milford Underwater Observatory and/or go kayaking!

Milford Sound Encounter Nature Cruise in Harrison Cove, Milford Sound.

There is just one other way to experience Milford Sound that’ll set your holiday apart from the rest – spending the night in Milford Sound! The Milford Lodge is located only five minutes from Milford Sound on foot, and there’s a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Visit the Milford Lodge website for more information or to book your room!

3. Explore lake Te Anau 

The town of Te Anau sits right on the edge of Lake Te Anau – the largest lake in the South Island! Lake Te Anau reaches a depth of 417 metres, and in fact, it’s capacity is so large that it holds more freshwater than any other body of water in all of Australasia. But Lake Te Anau isn’t just impressive in size; the surrounding mountains make for a beautiful panoramic vista.

Go for a scenic walk 

You can explore Lake Te Anau a couple of different ways – the first being with your own feet! Take a walk along the edge of the lake admiring the view and stop to read the interesting facts on the informational signs posted along the waterfront.

Use the lake to your advantage 

For an entirely different adventure, head out on the lake in a boat or kayak. There are various boating and kayaking tours available on Lake Te Anau, which allow you to really get around the lake and explore! 

Catch some dinner! 

If you want to try fishing then there are boat tours for those looking to catch landlocked salmon or trout – the most common fish found in Lake Te Anau. You can also just rent a rod and go fishing without a guide, but just be sure to make yourself familiar with the fishing regulations in Lake Te Anau

Get a birds-eye view 

Helicopter rides are also available from Te Anau town with a floating helipad allowing you to take off and land right on the lake! Views of the mountains and Lake Te Anau from above are nothing short of extraordinary. 

4. Enjoy some of NZ’s great walks 

Te Anau is the closest town to the beginning of a couple of NZ’s Great Walks including the Kepler Track and the Milford Track. 

The Milford Track 

The Milford Track is easily one of the most famous walking trails in New Zealand. 

Milford Track snapshot:

  • Distance: 53.5km one way
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time required: 4-5 days
  • Seasonal restrictions: open between October and May
  • No dogs allowed

The trail starts with a ferry ride from Te Anau Downs and ends in Milford Sound. Be warned though, if you want to tackle the Milford Track for yourself, be sure to book it well in advance as the huts often book up fast! You can book the Milford Track and the huts on the DOC website. 

The Kepler Track 

The Kepler Track is another one of the Great Walks that starts near Te Anau. In fact, the Kepler Track starts only a five-minute drive from the town centre. 

Kepler Track snapshot:

  • Distance: 60km loop
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time required: 3-4 days
  • Seasonal restrictions: open between October and May
  • No dogs allowed

It’s possible to hike up to the Luxmore Hut and back down in only one day. Doing this is a great option if you’re short on time or didn’t book huts or campsites in advance. Many people say this first part of the trail is the most scenic anyway!

If you do want to complete the entire loop of the Kepler track you can also book your huts and campsites on the DOC website. The trail is accessible all year round but is safest and best done during the Great Walks season between late October and early May.

5. Te Anau Bird Sanctuary 

New Zealand is lucky to be home to some very unique and beautiful species of birds. Unfortunately, seeing these rare and somewhat sneaky birds in the wild can be a challenge. This is why a trip to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is a great idea! Here you can see some of these birds for yourself. 

One of the great things about the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is that they only house rescued birds. The birds kept here are either recovering from an injury or are part of the Captive Rearing Programmes. This means they are being bred and raised to better survive in the wild and increase population numbers. 

A takahē and her chick at the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. 

Some of the birds you can expect to see include the takahē, kākā, kereru/New Zealand wood pigeon, tūī, ruru/morepork, paradise shelducks, silvereyes, grey warblers, tomtits, bellbirds, fantails, crested grebe and little shags. Of course, due to the nature of the sanctuary, not all of the birds are always around – but you can expect to see quite a few of them!

The Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is open every day from dawn until dusk. There is also a daily feeding where a guide will show you around the facility and feed some of the birds. These feedings are daily at 9:30am from the beginning of October to the end of March, and at 10:30am for the remainder of the year. All you need to bring with you is a donation to the sanctuary to help fund their efforts. 

If you do head to Te Anau make sure to check out some of these fun activities! And of course, don’t miss the highlight of visiting Milford Sound! Come hang out with the Southern Discoveries team in Milford Sound – we’d love to show you around our favourite place in New Zealand! 

 

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