Lake Te Anau
Visitors come to Te Anau for many reasons, but it is the lake which provides the mesmerising backdrop for this picturesque town. Some days, the water is so calm it perfectly mirrors the towering lush mountains flanking its western shores. On other days, wild weather whips up the white caps to create a spectacle best watched from indoors.
Lake Te Anau is New Zealand’s second-largest lake and the largest lake in the South Island. Carved by glaciers many thousands of years ago, its fascinating geological remnants reveal an active past. The towering and immense Murchison and Kepler mountain ranges rise from the water’s edge giving way to over one million hectares of protected, pristine wilderness.
Explore more about Lake Te Anau.
In Māori, Te-Ana-au translates to ‘place of swirling water’, a name which references the limestone formations within caves found on the western shores of Lake Te Anau. These underground labyrinths are also home to the famous glow worms of the area.
Ancient glacial action created the series of inland fiords on the lake which provide an endless supply of islands, remote beaches and sheltered spots for private boats and lake cruises to explore. The lake is popular for kayaking, scenic lake cruises and brave swimmers. The water taxis provide a vital link for hikers wanting to access the Milford Track or Kepler Track.
Swimming in Lake Te Anau
Even in the warmer months, a swim in Lake Te Anau is a bracing experience. Water temperatures range from 12 C to 15 C, so don’t forget your wetsuit. Popular spots for swimming in Lake Te Anau are the Yacht Club and the Boat Harbour where shallow sections help warm the water. Take a walk along the Kepler Track to Brod Bay or Dock Bay for picturesque swimming beaches. In Manapouri, Fraser’s Beach is popular for swimming and boating.
Nearby Lake Manapouri is a quieter yet no less stunning glacial lake 20 minutes’ drive from Te Anau. Dotted with bush-clad islands and incredible views to the vast Fiordland mountains in the distance, Manapouri is the gateway to Doubtful Sound. It is worth the short drive to Manapouri to explore what is often referred to as “New Zealand’s loveliest lake”.
Lake Manapouri’s correct name is Moturau. This original Māori name means “many islands” and refers to the 30-plus islands of the lake. It is thought the name Manapouri was mistakenly given to Moturau by an early surveyor who got mixed up with another lake closer to Queenstown.