Te Anau is a small town nestled alongside Te Anau Lake that serves as the gateway to Fiordland National Park. It’s a great base to do all the amazing outdoor activities such as the beautiful hikes, serene lake cruises, or going on an epic helicopter flight. There are plenty of things to do in Te Anau for nature lovers to keep you entertained for days. Find in our complete guide the 20 best things to do in Te Anau, best places to stay, and much more!
20 BEST THINGS TO DO IN TE ANAU
Check here all Te Anau tours
Hike the Kepler track
The Kepler Track is one of the Great Walks in New Zealand. It starts just a few minutes outside of Te Anau. Although the Kepler Track is a 60-kilometer-long (37 miles) multi-day loop track, hiking even a small part of the Kepler Track is one of the best things to do in Te Anau and possibly in different ways.
You can either walk from the Kepler Track car park to the Luxmore Hut and stay there for the night. This is approximately 13.8 kilometers (8.6 miles) each way and will take about 6 hours to complete.
But you can even shorten this option by taking the Kepler Track water taxi from Te Anau to Brod Bay. In this way you can hike up to the hut and come back down the same day.
Another option is to book this awesome Kepler Track boat and hike tour from Te Anau. This tour begins with an incredibly scenic and thrilling jet boat journey across Lake Manapouri. You will then hop off at the designated starting point where you’ll begin hiking a part of the Kepler Track with your guide while learning more about the floor and fauna of this area. The tour ends at a suspension bridge where transport is awaiting you to bring you back to town.
The most fancy and all encompassing tour is this heli hike to Luxmore Hut. You will depart with a helicopter from Te Anau to Luxmore Hut, hike down along the Kepler track with your guide and then hop in a water taxi that brings you back to Te Anau. A perfect day trip that saves you the incline to Luxmore Hut but still gives you incredible views and an unforgettable scenic flight!
Go on a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau
This cruise is the perfect way to explore the largest lake of New Zealand’s South Island. From Lake Te Anau you can enjoy the majestic views of Fiordland National Park during one of these two cruise options. The afternoon tea cruise or champagne sunset cruise are both amazing options. They vary not only in departing time, but also in duration and things you will see.
With the afternoon cruise you will depart at 9 AM to board the 1930s sailing yacht and enjoy the views of the towering Southern Alps from the lake. Then you will hop off the boat to stretch your legs with a short walk to the Hidden Lakes with your guide. During this 45-minute walk, you will learn more about the history of the boat as well as the native flora and fauna in the area.
The sunset cruise departs at 6 PM and will take about 1.5 hours. You’ll have the freedom to choose where and how to sail on the lake as you go. The walk to Hidden Lakes is not included during this tour. This is because you will be enjoying the sunset from the lake including champagne and canapés. Both tours are equally good, it just depends on your other plans for the day.
Hike Lake Marian track
Lake Marian track is a stunning day hike through ancient native forest that brings you to a magical alpine reflection lake. During the hike you will encounter a variety of things such as a swing bridge, a roaring river and a stunning reflection lake in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks and waterfalls. It is truly mesmerizing and some of the best day hikes you can do in Fiordland National Park. The variety that Lake Marian track has to offer is super interesting and well worth the 10 km out and back hike. From Te Anau it is a 70-minute drive to the trailhead of Lake Marian, but it is definitely worth the drive as you can see many other things along the way.
No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen.
A slip during hiking is made before you realize it, and the consequences can be bigger than you want to think of.
We are very happy with SafetyWing and highly recommend getting an insurance with them!
Go on a Jet boat journey through Fiordland National Park
Jet boating over Lake Te Anau is a thrill-seeking activity. It’s one of the adventure activities in Te Anau you have to do! The jet boat reaches speeds of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour and will let your adrenaline rush! With the powerful Fiordland Jet boat, you will cruise down the mighty Waiau River on this roughly two-hour adventure into the heart of Fiordland National Park. You will pass some famous landmarks and Lord of the Rings filming locations along the way.
At Lake Manapouri you will hop off the boat for a guided walk. The whole trip will take about 2-3 hours. This tour is not suitable for people with back or neck problems as your driver will do 180-degree speed spins, and at some point, the journey can be bumpy. Departure is from Lake Te Anau with morning, afternoon and evening trips.
Wander through the Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Glow worms are unique to New Zealand so therefore it’s one of the must things to see when you visit New Zealand. The glow worms are technically larvae bugs that light up at night through bioluminescence. This magical natural phenomenon can be seen in the caves of Te Anau during a 2.5-hour guided tour that includes a boat ride across Lake Te Anau.
Explore the mysterious underground world during this guided tour and marvel at the shimmering illumination of thousands of glowworms. Together with your tour guide, you will walk through the 12,000-year-old caves before hopping in a smaller boat to cruise further through the caves.
It’s important to wear appropriate shoes with grip during this tour as the ground can be slippery due to the wet cave. Therefore you should also bring a waterproof jacket and a warm sweater.
Book a heli hike to Luxmore Hut
If you want to include some of the most epic activities into one tour, then this heli hike tour is the one for you! This full-day tour from Te Anau includes a helicopter ride, downhill hiking with your guide on the Kepler Track, and a boat cruise across Lake Te Anau. First you will go up by helicopter from Te Anau to the Luxmore Hut. During this scenic flight you will fly over Lake Te Anau, Te Anau basin and Mount Luxmore before landing at Luxmore Hut. Here you will enjoy a wilderness tea break while taking in the incredible scenery.
After the tea break, you will go on a downhill hike along the Kepler Track with your guide. You will walk through native beech forest, spot limestone bluffs and then end your hike along the shores of Lake Te Anau. From here a water taxi awaits you to bring you back across the lake to Te Anau.
This tour is the perfect option for people who don’t fancy spending the whole day hiking up to Luxmore Hut and back down. You will skip the incline which is mostly the hardest part.
Go on a Milford Sound Cruise
If you go to Te Anau and don’t go to Milford Sound… then you miss out on some of the highlights in New Zealand! Visiting Milford Sound and embarking on the cruise is the number one reason that people visit Fiordland National Park. It truly is a must do as you will see some of New Zealands most beautiful landscapes.
It is a 1.5-hour drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Take your time to explore the stunning Milford Sound road with all its natural beauty. Allow plenty of time to make photo stops along the way. The Milford Road is part of the Southern Scenic Route and is also considered to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world!
You can book many different Milford Sound cruises, varying in size of the boat and extra activities. All of the Milford Sound cruises depart from Milford wharf and cruise past Mitre Peak and the cascading waterfalls. You will see Lady Bowen Falls, Stirling Falls and Seal Point while searching the deep fiord for marine life including bottlenose dolphins and New Zealand fur seals.
Take a scenic flight over Milford Sound
A Milford Sound scenic flight is the perfect way to see the impressive landscape of Fiordland NP from the air. Depart from Milford Airport and track west along Milford Sound. Climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks. After the 20-minute helicopter flight, you will return to Milford base.
Another great way to see Fiordland National Park from above is when you book the scenic fly-cruise-fly tour from Queenstown. You will get a round-trip flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound followed by a boat cruise in Milford Sound. Take in the spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, remote valleys and waterfalls. During the flight, you will have an amazing aerial view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls as can be seen in the picture below. This unforgettable experience will take your breath away and is a must-do! Without a doubt some of the most scenic flights in New Zealand.
See the mirror reflection at Mirror Lakes
The Mirror Lakes are a collection of beautiful reflection ponds and lakes on the way to Milford Sound. Therefore it is a perfect stopover to stretch the legs and enjoy the fresh air of Fiordland National Park on the way to Milford Sound. On a calm day the lakes are truly like a mirror, reflecting the Earl mountains and showing the sunken tree branches. Via a short walk on a wooden platform you get to the lakes and take in the beautiful scenery. The best time to visit the Mirror lakes is on a calm day with not much wind. Only then you will be able to see the reflection of the Earl Mountains in the water. Generally the water and wind is most calm in the early morning or around sunset.
Take in the views at Eglinton Valley
The Eglinton Valley is one of the only road-accessible valleys in Fiordland National Park and a must-stopover along Milford Road (part of the State Highway 94). It is only a 40-minute drive from Te Anau located right beside the road. This large area of lowland beech forest with a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains asks for a photo and moment to take in the mesmerizing view.
Go on a Milford Sound overnight cruise
For a special way to experience Milford Sound after all the day tours have finished, this overnight cruise is a must. During this tour you can truly take in the peace and beauty of Milford Sound on the Fiordland Jewel cruise boat. During the day, you will cruise Milford Sound and go on kayaking excursions. You will sleep in an ensuite cabin with sea views and a three-course dinner plus breakfast is included. The boat is also equipped with a top-deck hot tub where you can soak in the breathtaking views and completely come to rest.
Hike the Key Summit track
The Key Summit track is a beautiful 8-kilometer day walk in Fiordland National Park that takes you through ancient mossy rainforest with a stunning view of the Southern mountains and alpine lakes at the end of the hike. Here you can explore this impressive alpine environment and learn more about how the landscape was formed. The well-maintained boardwalks will take you along several tarns with stunning views over the snowcapped Humbolt and Darran Mountains. Overall, the Key Summit track is a fun and diverse day hike in Fiordland National Park.
Go kayaking in Milford Sound
This Milford Sound Cruise is more intimate than the general nature cruise. Depart during a morning cruise on a smaller boat that travels outside of peak hours. This will give you prime viewing and more time on the water than other tours. You will listen to the informative commentary from the passionate skippers of Southern Discoveries and enjoy a provided picnic lunch. If you want to, you can include a kayak excursion and paddle Harrison Cove in a small-group. Limited to 8 people you will have a very intimate experience to really take in the immense scale of the bluffs and explore Milford Sound in a unique way.
Hike to Getrude saddle
The Gertrude Saddle track is one of the best day hikes in New Zealand taking you up to a stunning viewpoint overlooking Milford Sound towards the Tasman Sea. This out-and-back trail of only 7 km (4.3 miles) in length doesn’t sound too difficult, but it’s absolutely not recommended for inexperienced hikers.
There is a lot of scrambling involved and steel cables had been put in place to help people up the slippery, granite rocks. A dozen of people have felt to their death during this hike in the last decade, so take your preparations seriously if you decide to hike to Gertrude Saddle.
Some of the most important things is to watch the weather. You should not hike to Gertrude Saddle on a rainy day or directly after heavy rain or a storm. With clouds covering the peaks of Milford Sound it is also not worth it to do this hike as the views won’t be anything more than white cloud. It’s just not worth it as this hike is difficult, at some parts dangerous and you want to have good visibility.
Nevertheless, if you’re in Milford Sound or Te Anau an it’s a beautiful clear, sunny day in summer, then hiking up to Gertrude Saddle will reward you with some of the most amazing views in New Zealand.
Stop at Milford Valley lookout
No visit to Te Anau is complete without driving the scenic road to Milford Sound. In fact, you can perfectly combine a stay at Te Anau with exploring Milford Sound. As there is only one accommodation option in Milford Sound, most people stay in Te Anau and drive the 118-kilometer long (73.3 miles) road to explore Fiordland National Park. There are many beautiful stops along the way which I have mentioned in this guide. And there is one lookout which you can’t miss along the Milford Road! You will get there after you’ve passed the Homer tunnel. It is the first glimpse of Milford Sound’s impressive mountains and waterfalls. Especially during and right after heavy rainfall you will see hundreds of waterfalls falling down the mountains. A truly mesmerizing view!
On Google Maps you will see a few photo spots marked called ‘1855 lookout’, ‘Hundred Falls’ and ‘Milford Valley Lookout’. All closely located to each other. Wherever is a safe spot to park you should pull over for a few minutes to take in these impressive views!
If you don’t have a rental car, you can also book this Coach and Nature Cruise tour with Buffet Lunch from Te Anau. This tour departs at 10 AM and takes about 7 hours. It includes stops along the Milford road such as this scenic photo spot.
Cruise to the Doubtful Sound
Te Anau is a perfect place to go on tours to either Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound. With Milford Sound being the easiest accessible, most tourists visit Milford and forget about Doubtful Sound. However, Doubtful Sound is known as “the sound of silence”, and that is for a good reason. It’s less popular than Milford Sound, and therefore still a bit of a hidden gem. It’s the second-largest fiord in Fiordland National Park but difficult to reach as there is no direct access.
Because of its remote location, you can visit Doubtful Sound only during this full-day tour. You will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound and learn more about the flora and fauna from your naturalist guide along the way. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife while taking in the stunning scenery. If you’re lucky you might see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins.
Do the Lake Gunn nature walk
The Lake Gunn walk is an easy 45-minute loop on the edge of Lake Gunn that leads through picturesque beech forests. It takes only 45 minutes to complete and is 1.4 kilometres long and even accessible to wheelchairs! You will see many beautiful trees covered in moss and great views of Lake Gunn and the surroundings.
Hike the Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is another one of the ‘Great Walks in New Zealand’. This 32 km multi-day tramping track takes you along snow-capped mountain peaks, huge valleys, roaring waterfalls, and sparkling alpine lakes. You will traverse both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park during the Routeburn Track. It is possible to start the Routeburn Track from either direction from The Divide (off the Milford Road) or the Routeburn Shelter near Glenorchy. The track is well marked and signposted but you should do proper preparations before departing such as booking the mountain huts in advance with the DOC.
Here you can find pricing and booking instructions. Make sure to book your mountain hut months in advance in the summer season as they tend to be sold out quickly.
Take a ride in Fiordland’s only floatplane
If you’ve always dreamed of flying in a float plane, then this is your chance! At Lake Te Anau is only one floatplane operator who can take you on an unforgettable tour to Milford Sound or the lesser-known Dusky and Doubtful Sound. Prices start at $165 for a 15-minute Lake Explorer flight and go up to $665 for the Dusky & Doubtful Sound flight.
Check here all tours provided by Wings and Water.
Hike the Milford track
The Milford Track is considered being one of the finest walks in the world. It is one the Great Walks of New Zealand and can only be walked in one direction over 3 nights and 4 days. This moderately difficult hike requires a fair level of fitness because you will hike long distances each day. The track is well marked and signposted but you should do proper preparations before departing such as booking the mountain huts in advance with the DOC.
Here you can find pricing and booking instructions. Make sure to book your mountain hut months in advance in the summer season as they tend to be sold out quickly.
Watch the sunset at Lake Te Anau Jetty
Sunsets from Lake Te Anau can be absolutely magical, especially in the summer months. The best way to experience this is by grabbing a drink or takeaway food, sitting down close to the jetty and enjoying the show. The sun will disappear behind the surrounding mountains, but the afterglow can be absolutely magical on some evenings. A very calming way of closing the day after exploring all the best things to do in Te Anau. Cheers!
Visit the Te Anau bird sanctuary
The Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is a great family-friendly place to visit in Te Anau. Here you can see some of Fiordland’s unique native birds that are often difficult to spot in the wild. Located along the shores of Lake Te Anau, the sanctuary is open to the public from dawn to dusk and easy to reach in a 20-minute walk or a 2-minute short drive from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre. You can either explore the park on your own because there are great interpretation panels that explain the different birds you can see. Or you can join the guided tour that runs daily at 10.30 am for around 45 minutes.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. However for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease. It also gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.
We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars. Here you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.
We recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!
What is the best time to visit Te Anau?
Te Anau is a great place to visit year-round. But if you love warm weather, then the best time to visit Te Anau is from January to March. The driest months in Te Anau are February, March and April. But because Te Anau is closely located to Fiordland National Park which has some of the highest rainfall in New Zealand, you can expect rain any time of year.
In terms of crowds, you can expect Te Anau to be the busiest in the summer months from December until March. The winter months are much quieter but also have their challenges with snow. Besides that, most of the hiking trails are not so easily accessible anymore in those months.
Where to stay in Te Anau
The best way to explore the most of Fiordland National Park is to stay in either Milford Sound or Te Anau. But because Milford Sound only has one accommodation and restaurant together with some camping sites, it is recommended to stay in Te Anau if you want to have more facilities around you. Here are the best places to stay in Te Anau.
Radfords on the Lake Te Anau
Radfords on the Lake is located across the road from Lake Te Anau with stunning lake and mountain views. The fully self-contained suites offer everything you need during your stay. From cooking utensils to a desk and a comfortable bed, Radfords on the Lake in Te Anau is your home away from home and is perfectly located in the town centre. With lovely staff, daily cleaning and its central location, we couldn’t recommend Radfords on the Lake enough. We have stayed here ourselves and fully enjoyed it!
Distinction Te Anau Hotels & Villas
Distinction Te Anau Hotels & Villas overlooks the spectacular Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland ranges. The accommodation offers elegant rooms with a fridge and tea and coffee facilities. Surrounded by colourful gardens, a day spa, sauna and a heated swimming pool, Distinction Te Anau Hotel is a great place to unwind after a day of exploring.
Tasman Holiday Parks Te Anau
Located adjacent to Lake Te Anau, Tasman Holiday Parks is centrally located within 5 minutes’ walk of restaurants in Te Anau and shops. Accommodation options include chalets, studios and self-contained apartments. All offer a refrigerator and tea/coffee-making facilities. Some chalets and apartments feature a fully equipped kitchen. There is a large communal kitchen, outdoor dining settings and a lounge area available to all guests. Other facilities include a self-service laundry room, a hot tub and BBQ facilities.
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best things to do in Te Anau New Zealand. Make sure to put this incredible destination on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on New Zealand’s South Island. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides.