Te Anau is a small tourist town located on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand in the Southland region. It is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park and its many fjords.
Good to know: The weather in Te Anau and Fiordland is absolutely unpredictable. 80% of the time, the region is beaten by gusts of winds and torrential rains.
Te Anau is located on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island whose Maori origin Te Ana-au means “the swirling water cave”.
Population : About 2000 people. Its population doubles during the summer period.
Currency : New Zealand dollars ($)
Language : English
Located on the shores of the lake and surrounded by the mountains of Fiordland, Te Anau is a haven of peace and tranquility. The city is located at the intersection between Queenstown and Invercargill, the two major cities of the region, both about two hours away. In winter, the village which lives mainly thanks to tourism seems to be in hibernation while during the summer season, its population double or triple with a large number of Europeans and Asians visiting.
For lovers of water, cruises and activities, Te Anau and Manapouri lakes are within easy reach and two of Fiordland’s finest fjords are within a short drive. Milford Sound is the most popular and most accessible, while the more distant Doubtful Sound remains wild and quiet.
The area offers a plethora of treks on horseback, quad excursions or excursions to see where some scenes of The Lord of the Rings were shot. But the best way to discover the Fiordland National Park is to hike. A lot of walks ranging from a few hours to several days are at the gates of the city. And for Great Walks enthusiasts (several days trekking supposed to be the best of the country), three hikes are available: the Kepler Track, the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track.
Day 1. Cruise and food feast
For your first day in the area, nothing better than going for a cruise in Milford Sound. The road from Te Anau to the fjord takes you about two hours and is absolutely incredible. Passing through the impressive Eglinton Valley, crossing the Homer Tunnel, descending into the Milford Sound Valley and arriving at Sandfly Bay where the iconic Miter Peak, the highest peak overlooking Milford Sound is unveiled. A dozen small strolls are present along the road and deserve the detour. If you have time, push up to Hollyford Valley (after the stop The Divide) to visit Marian Lake.
Once in Milford Sound, embark on a cruise of about two hours in the fjord. It is best to cruise as soon as possible. This allows you to avoid the hordes of tourists coming from Queesntown and arriving around 11am and usually the weather is often better in the morning. Take advantage of the outside deck to get your eyes blow away and listen to the captain’s explanations about the fjord. If you are lucky you may be able to spot dolphins, penguins or seals!
One of the best options if you do not have a car is to check the discounts on bookme.nz. I went on a cruise with VIP Milford for half price and got a bus with only two other people, lots of explanations and photo stops, a cruise without too many people and a free very good buffet.
Milford Sound Nature Coach-Cruise-Coach // VIP Milford // website
The journey and the cruise will take you the majority of the day. Returning to Te Anau, probably around 6pm, I propose a dinner at the Kepler Restaurant. Blending specialties of the Fiordland and a South American touch, the place offers you a friendly and warm atmosphere and a menu with the amazing dishes.
Seafood, Crayfish, lamb Rack, Paella, Papas Rellenas, Cheesecake, etc. await you to fill your stomach and offer you an exceptional dinner. However, be warned, the restaurant is ranked #1 in TripAdvisor in Te Anau, so the place is often fully booked. Better to book in advance.
Kepler Restaurant // 23 Town center, Te Anau // Diner: Mon-Sun 5pm till late, Breakfast: Mon-Sun 7am-11am // website
Day 2. Activities, Pies and Cinema
_Lots of awesome activities
If the day is beautiful, it is an opportunity to go out on horseback or visit the Glowworms Cave or why not let yourself be tempted by a seaplane flight over the Fiordland. The prices being very expensive for a short duration, it is an activity to think carefully before choosing it. But the overflight of the mountains and fjords will be an extraordinary spectacle that you will not forget.
_Miles Better Pies
To recover from your emotions, a detour by the best pies shops of the region is a mandatory stop. Miles Better Pies located right next to the i-site is a very small shop making the best pies of the Fiordland. Some twenty choices are available with sandwiches, desserts, coffees, smooties and others. I recommend the Satay Chicken Pie. A creamy and tasteful delight.
Miles Better Pies // 19 Town center, Te Anau // Mon-Sun 6am-6pm // website
_Fiordland Cinema and Bar
In the afternoon, let’s have a look at Fiordland Cinema. The small cinema and bar of Te Anau is a private cinema built by the director of Ata Whenua. This thirty-minute documentary from a helicopter presents absolutely grandiose views of the Fiordland from the sky. The film is broadcast every day almost every hour. Other films are on view following the current releases.
Fiordland Cinema and Bar // 7 The Lane, Te Anau // website
Day 3. Hiking in the nature
Third day in Te Anau, it’s time to explore the nature of the park. The most accessible hike is the Kepler Track, about an hour’s walk from Te Anau along the lake shore. This 2 to 4 days Great Walk takes you through the New Zealand beech-covered forests, the Kepler Mountains ridges and the shores of Te Anau and Manapouri Lakes. Three shelters are available along the trail. In summer, shelters must be reserved and cost $54 each! If you do not have the time or desire to pay so much, the first refuge is 3-4 hours of hiking and offers beautiful views of the area, while allowing you to go for a good day trip.
Kepler Track // 2 to 4 days // 60km loop // website
If you have your own car, the Routeburn Track (another Great Walk) is an hour’s drive from Te Anau and also offers great day trips. If you have the opportunity to spend a few days hiking, I recommend you to hike the Routeburn Track. It is one of the nicest hiking trails in the area and there are two campsites along the way, which allows you to pay less.
Routeburn Track // 1 to 3 days // 32km one-way // website
Day 4. Kayaking in a fjord
_Expedition in Doubtful Sound
To finish your visit to Te Anau and Fiordland, a Kayak cruise in the Doubtful Sound is essential. What better way to combine discovery, physical activity, adventure and wonder! Paddling in the fjord waters surrounded by majestic peaks provides an incomparable feeling. GoOrange organizes kayak trips at relatively affordable prices. If you have the opportunity I recommend you to do the Overnight Kayak cruise in order to sleep in the fjord and to be able to appreciate the immensity of the fjord and the sunrise lost in the nature.
Go Orange Kayak Expeditions // 1 to 5 days // website
_ à propos
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