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The Gateway to Fiordland National Park.

Te Anau is a small town of approximately 2000 permanent residents and is known as the 'Gateway to Fiordland' - being the closest town to Milford Sound and other accessways into Fiordland National Park. Following is some useful information about the area:

Visit the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves

A tour of the Glow Worm Caves is a must-do in Te Anau. It’s definitely a memorable experience for the whole family and in my opinion, seeing glow worms is one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

The Te Anau glow worm tour takes just over 2.5 hours total and includes a boat cruise across Lake Te Anau. This guided cave tour allows you to get up close with hundreds of glow worms. It combines both walking through the narrow cave passages to spot these creatures as well as a cruise through the caves in the dark on a small boat.

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glow worm cave

Hike the Kepler Track

One of my absolute favorite hikes in New Zealand starts just minutes from Te Anau – the Kepler Track. Without a doubt, hiking even just a portion of the Kepler Track is one of the best things to do in Te Anau.

The Kepler Track is a 60 kilometer-long (37 miles), 3 to 4-day loop track that follows along the shoreline of both Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri. Scenery highlights include golden tussock-covered ridges, cheeky Keas, views of deep fiords and stunning alpine mountains. The trail is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks and is easily one of the best hikes on the South Island.

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kepler hike

Visit the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary

Right next to Lake Te Anau and just a 15-minute walk from Te Anau town is the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. Here you can see some of New Zealand’s rarest and most famous species of birds. It’s an open-air sanctuary and should take you about an hour to walk around. Some of the bird species you will spot here include takahe (pictured above), kaka, kereru, tui, and morepork. As well as silvereyes, grey warblers, tomtits, bellbirds and fantails which are often seen feeding in the bush.

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te anau bird senctuary

Drive the scenic road to Milford Sound

No visit to Te Anau can be considered complete without a road trip to Milford Sound. In fact, this is the most popular thing to do in Te Anau. This route is considered one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand and is often called by its Maori name – Piopiotahi Highway. Without stopping the 118-kilometer long journey (one way) takes around 1.5 hours. But, I recommend allowing at least 4 hours on the drive to Milford as there is just so much to see along this route.

If you can’t drive or don’t feel comfortable doing so then you can take a coach tour from Te Anau to Milford Sound. These tours depart at various times throughout the morning and include stops at a few of the key points of interest along the road.

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milford sound scenic route

Explore Milford Sound

The unofficial 8th wonder of the world is an absolute must-see when staying in nearby Te Anau. It is, of course, picture-postcard beautiful but there are surprisingly lots of things to do in Milford Sound. The most popular is a cruise along the inky waters of the sound – or should I say “fiord”. Thats right, despite Milford being called a “sound” it’s actually a fiord because it was carved by a glacier not a river.

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milford sound

Visit Doubtful Sound

The second-largest fiord in Fiordland National Park is nicknamed “the sound of silence.” That’s because it doesn’t receive the same level of tourism as neighboring Milford Sound. Its lesser popularity has nothing to do with the scenery of the fiord (that’s epic) and more to do with how difficult it is to reach. With no direct road access into Doubtful Sound, you will start your journey with a cruise from Manapouri across Lake Manapouri and then a very bumpy coach ride down the Wilmot Pass.

The cruise through Doubtful Sound is 3 hours in total and takes you to where the fiord and the sea meet. A major drawcard is that you are unlikely to spot any other cruise boats.

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doubtful sound

Cycle the Lake 2 Lake Trail

This gorgeous 19 kilometer (11.8 mile) bike trail takes you from Lake Te Anau towards Lake Manapouri. This track is brand new and is not yet fully completed, there’s still a small 3.5-kilometer section that bypasses the incomplete part of the trail.

Despite its incompletion, it’s still an exceptional biking experience that runs along Lake Te Anau in the beginning and then along the Waiua River before ending at Balloon Loop – about halfway down the river. This trail will eventually lead all the way to Lake Manapouri.

It is rated a grade 2 easy and it is also used by walkers and runners so keep an eye out when using the trail.

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lake 2 lake cycling

Visit Rainbow Reach swing bridge

Rainbow Reach swing bridge is often visited by tourists because of its proximity to the Waiua River which is a popular Lord of the Rings filming spot. The River Waiau is the Anduin river in the Fellowship of the Ring and is featured in the opening shot of that movie.

Also, a nice 3-hour walk will take you from Rainbow Reach to either the Shallow Bay Hut or the beachside Moturau Hut. The track is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long and returns via the same track. There are gorgeous views of Lake Manapouri from the huts. If you want an overnight hiking adventure, consider booking Moturau Hut to spend the night. This way, you’ll hike the easier portion of the Kepler Track while enjoying a night in nature in one of NZ’s nicest backcountry huts.

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Rainbow Reach swing bridge

Enjoy a lakefront sunset

I’ve been lucky enough to witness some pretty epic sunsets over Lake Te Anau. And believe me when I say the sunsets on Lake Te Anau especially in the summer months are epic. So, make sure you have your camera with you. My top suggestion would be to grab a takeaway pizza from Paradiso Pizza or some Vietnamese goodness from Bao Now and find a spot close to the jetty for you to watch the sun sink into Lake Te Anau.

Worth noting is that sunset in the summer months falls at around 9:30 pm.

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te anau lake sunset

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