Itineraries for Your Trip to Te Anau

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1 Day in Te Anau for First Timers

Curated by Nicole ZimmermanNicole R. Zimmerman, born in São Paulo, Brazil and raised (mostly) in Northern California, is a queer Bay Area–based travel journalist, copywriter, and essayist. Nicole has written for Viator/Tripadvisor, Hipcamp, TripSavvy, Grove Collaborative, Insider, and the Los Angeles Times. Her work appears in anthologies such as The Best Women’s Travel Writing and in numerous literary journals including Creative Nonfiction and The Rumpus.

Most visitors in Te Anau use the scenic township as a base for exploring Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage area. But the town itself, situated on Lake Te Anau in front of scenic mountains, also offers plenty of recreational activities to enjoy if you have just one day in the area. Here’s how to spend a day in Te Anau.


The most popular destination in Fiordland is arguably Milford Sound, and if you’re going to do just one thing while in Te Anau, this is it. Opt for a nature cruise with a guide who can tell you about the otherworldly seascape of sheer limestone cliffs and the area’s crown jewel, Mitre Peak. Alternatively, book a cruise in Milford’s quieter, larger, and more remote neighbor, Doubtful Sound; tours include a boat ride across Lake Manapouri. If you’re short on time and want to pack in a few activities, spend the morning on a scenic helicopter flight and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the area.


The serene waters of Lake Te Anau offer myriad possibilities: Cruise across and enjoy a tour of the Te Anau Glowworm Caves’ illuminated grottoes, or take a spin on a jet boat for close-up views of the terrain. If you’d prefer to stay on land, head to one of the bike trails that link Manapouri and Te Anau via paths alongside the Upper Waiau River. Hikers can enjoy a short section of the Kepler Track and then take a water taxi ride to Brod Bay to explore the virgin beech forest that borders the lakeshore. 


Evenings tend to be tranquil at this lakeside spot, so it’s a good place to rest up after your daytime adventures—or before you continue on to Queenstown or Christchurch the following day. You’ll find a variety of bars and restaurants in town, some featuring seafood and South Island wild game. If you’ve got energy to spare, you can also stroll along the lakefront as far as your legs will carry you or hop aboard a luxury yacht and enjoy an evening sail, toast the day with Champagne, and watch the alpenglow of sunset reflected in the water.

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