Guide to Te Anau

You don’t have to be planning an epic multi day walk into the backcountry of Fjordland National Park to plan some time in Te Anau! In fact, while it is the gateway to some amazing places, it’s a great little town to explore in its own right! Consider this: You can take cheap ferry cruises along Te Anau lake, see glow worm caves (great if you aren’t going to the North Island), check out amazing birds in a free sanctuary, learn about the geological and cultural history of Fjordland National Park, AND have great access to nearby Milford Sound without paying the premium of staying in Milford Sound Lodge.

Top things to do in Te Anau:

Te Anau Glow Worm Caves

Experience the twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall topped off with the incredible bio-luminescent world of glow worm lights. The experience lasts just over 2 hours beginning with a sight seeing cruise across Te Anau lake, a walk through underground tunnels, and ending with the capstone of floating in an underground grotto under a canopy of glow worm “stars” before heading back to the light of above ground. The tours are kept to small groups (with a max of 14 people) and cost around 103 NZD ($67) per person. I would consider this a MUST do tour unless you plan on visiting Waitomo on the North Island. *Make advanced reservations here to ensure availability on your date.

Te Anau Bird Sactuary

Rain or shine, this is a great little nature park to walk around hosting several exotic and even endangered species of birds. We saw owls, parrots, parakeets, and the most incredible of all: the almost extinct Takahē, a flightless bird native to only NZ. When we were there, they had a recently hatched Takahē chick as well. It’s an easy place to walk around in 15 minutes or so depending on how long you admire the birds and get to know their personalities. If possible, try to go close to feeding times at 9:30 AM or 4:30 PM. Guided tours are also possible to be arranged through the Fjordland NP Visitor Center.

Directions: It’s an easy 10 minute walk along Te Anau Lakeshore from the Fjordland NP Visitor Center, or an easy 3 minute drive.

Hours: Dawn- Dusk

Cost: Free, but a 1-2 gold coin donations are appreciated

Te Anau lakeside Walk

There’s a trail that extends all around lake Te Anau to the start of the great walks like the Kepler Track. Walk as little or as much as you want to and if you have a full day but couldn’t get reservations for any of the overnight huts- the Luxmore hut is an excellent full day hike beginning in Te Anau. 

Fjordland National Park Visitor Center

A great stop that can be short or long depending on the weather. They had some great exhibits on the discovery and settling of Fjordland National park as well as exhibits on the wildlife that can be found throughout New Zealand.

Fjordland Cinema

Can’t afford a helicopter tour of Fjordland national park? Don’t sweat it! Playing every hour at Fjordland cinema is a documentary Birdseye view in IMAX of Fjordland National Park. Check with your hotel for a discounted ticket.

A Great Walk!

With 3 world famous multi-day treks in the area to choose from, the area is the perfect launch point. Make sure to check the reservation systems for these great walks as the huts book out very quickly when dates are released.

Milford Sound

Read my post specifically for driving the Milford Sound road and taking a Milford Sound Cruise. If there’s anything you do on the South Island, make sure this place is top of the list. From Te Anau, it is a 1.5-2 hours drive to Milford Sound without additional stops for hikes and short walks. Plan your time accordingly.

Where to stay in Te Anau:

Luxury: Fjordland Lakeview Motel & Apartments $265

For a room with a view on the lake, full studio, and adults only retreat- the Fjordland Lakeview is the highest rated hotel in Te Anau and as great amenities.

Midrange: Te Anau lakefront backpackers private rooms 123 NZD/ $80

*Where we stayed

We had a triple room with kitchenette and private bathroom. We loved staying here as the beds were comfortable and came with really soft blankets, the kitchenette in our room was helpful, and it was nice having a private bathroom. Everything was clean and comfortable and best of all- this hotel IS lakefront so walking around the lake, taking a boat tour, and checking out the visitor center are all an easy 5 minute walk away. 

Budget: Te Anau lakefront backpackers/ YHA Te Anau $24 pp

The cheapest options are to book a dorm bed here for $24/bed in a 6 bed mixed room. Both hostels are well rated and in convenient locations.

Where to eat in Te Anau:

The Fat Duck- For fancier fare, we really enjoyed eating at the Fat Duck. They have a nice range of menus for both meals and drinks. Their grilled lamb salad was particularly good.

Redcliff Restaurant &Bar – if you’re in the mood for a good burger or great pasta- this place was also delicious.

See my related articles for nearby action:

Complete Guide to Milford Sound

Complete Guide to Queenstown

Complete Guide to Wanaka

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