Itineraries for Your Trip to Te Anau

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3 Days 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.

With three days in Te Anau, there’s time to experience all the highlights. This lakeside township nestled in World Heritage-listed Fiordland offers a variety of guided hikes, cruises, scenic flights, and day trips. Enjoy a range of nearby outdoor adventures, or go a bit further afield. Here’s how to get the most out of a 3-day stay.  

Day 1

Some of the South Island’s best hiking trails are near Te Anau, and many people use the town as the point of departure for these sights. While multi-day treks require advance booking with the Department of Conservation, you don’t need for a backcountry permit for a day hike. Take a water taxi across Lake Te Anau to reach the Kepler Track trailhead, or skip most of the uphill climb to Mount Luxmore and opt for a helicopter flight and landing with a guided hike to the summit. 

Alternatively, take a nature walk along the popular Milford Track, which boasts views of the area’s famous fiord. Another Great Walk option is the Routeburn Track, which is nothing short of spectacular. It’s possible to tackle any of these trails independently or book a small-group or private guided trip; combine your outing with a scenic cruise for extra value.

Day 2

Spend your second day visiting Milford Sound, the area’s most famous and popular sight. Snap pics of towering Mitre Peak, and search for Fiordland crested penguins and other wildlife. While there, check out the Underwater Observatory for a closer look at the aquatic world. If you’re visiting in high season and the cruise boats are crowded, consider a day trip to see the larger but more distant Doubtful Sound instead, which is no less impressive and boasts an array of gushing waterfalls following rain storms. With any luck you may spot the small resident population of bottlenose dolphins. 

Rather not venture too far? Take afternoon tea aboard an elegant yacht on a cruise around Lake Te Anau; speed across the lake to the Glowworm Caves and take a tour of its illuminated caverns; or spend a lazy day learning to fly-fish for rainbow trout on the Waiau River. 

Day 3

Fiordland National Park offers unparalleled scenic views, including more than a dozen ice-carved fiords. The scale of Fiordland’s sheer cliffs, shimmering lakes, snow-capped mountainscapes, and virgin beech forests is hard to fathom, and it’s impossible to cover it all. A scenic flight gives you the best chance to take it all in and offers plenty of postcard-worthy views. You can book a helicopter tour over Dusky and Doubtful—two of the region’s largest fiords—for a closer look at the Southern Alps and Kepler mountains. Alternatively, opt to soar above Milford’s iconic Mitre Peak, or hover above the twin lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri. Whichever tour you choose, you’ll get stunning views to cap off your trip.

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