Te Anau, New Zealand (3/3 – 3/6)

Gateway to The Fiords of the World

Happy Birthday Kurt! What better way to celebrate than flying into a new country, and New Zealand of all places!

We took an eight hour flight from Sydney, Australia and landed in Queenstown, New Zealand which turned out to be our favorite country on our RTW trip.

After landing we quickly hopped in our rental car (for the next four weeks) and headed towards Te Anau. 

(Not our car, but how sweet would that be?)

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Why Travel to Te Anau, New Zealand

Te Anau provides the easiest access to the Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, which has some of the most unimaginable glacial valleys, waterfalls, and mountains we have ever seen. This really shouldn’t even be a question, beauty at every corner!

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How Long to Stay in Te Anau, New Zealand?

Milford Sound was the sole reason we decided to add Te Anau to our trip. You could drive directly to Milford Sound from Queenstown but at an approximately four-hour drive…we took a hard pass. For our trip, after landing in Queenstown we drove straight to Te Anau during the day and were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way. 

New Zealand 101: Always drive on the left side of the road

We were then able to wake up early the next morning to drive to Milford Sound for the morning boat cruise. This gave ample time to enjoy the incredibly picturesque drive (with stop-offs) on the way back to Te Anau. We highly recommend staying another night to recharge before you continue with your New Zealand itinerary.  For this reason, we believe staying two nights should be a minimum.

*See our adventures for next time section below to see ideas for adding even more days in Te Anau and the surrounding areas*

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Things to Do in Te Anau, New Zealand


1) Take a cruise through Milford Sound (Fiordland National Park)


Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the Ice Ages. The waterfalls in the Fiord cascade from as high as 1000 meters (more than 3,000 feet).  It is a magical place of plunging cliffs and raging waterfalls.

This needs to be the #1 to-do of your life. We’re not kidding. Our lives were complete after this. Take a cruise through one of the world’s most magnificent Fiords. 

New Zealand 101: Do NOT skip Milford Sound

2) Enjoy the drive to/from Milford Sound


The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is unbelievably gorgeous. With no stops, it will be about a two-hour drive. But you are going to stop. Make sure you allow ample time before/and or after your Milford boat cruise (we assume you are going for the cruise, because you’d be crazy not to) to really enjoy this drive. There are many scenic highlights and terrific hikes where you are going to need the extra time.

Check out this Milford Sound Driving Guide for more information: 

Courtesy of Cruise Milford

We did the vast majority of our stop-offs after doing Milford Sound. These are all worth a brief pull-over: 

  • Tutoko Valley: A quick stop-off with views of (approximately) 9,000-foot-tall (2,723m) Mt Tutoko – the highest peak in Fiordland National Park.
  • The Chasm Walkway:  A nice easy 20-minute (just over half-a-mile) walk with views of gushing waterfalls. The Chasm was formed by a river. Over time, the sheer force of the river caused unique formations and patterns in the rock formations created by the raging waters.
  • Lake Marian: You have options to walk 10 minutes to the Marian waterfalls or a three-hour return trek up a relatively steep path to Lake Marian. We opted for the long “scenic route”. 
  • Mirror Lakes: Take a walk around this set of lakes that offer a wonderful reflection of the mountains in the background. This is about a five minute walk.
  • Unmarked stops: As you are driving there are several unmarked stop-offs with jaw-dropping scenery. 

3) Patience Bay & Frasers Beach


Not a must-do by any means, but we spent one day relaxing and planning the rest of our trip in New Zealand. On this day, we stopped off at a couple of beaches and really enjoyed the scenery and peacefulness. 

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Where to Stay in Te Anau, New Zealand


Fiordland National Park Lodge


We stayed at Fiordland National Park Lodge which was 30km north of Te Anau at Te Anau Downs and located just 91 km from Milford Sound. The views from the lodge were great and being not too far from Milford Sound (very limited options) was a big plus. 

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Where To Eat in Te Anau, New Zealand


The Fat Duck Gastropub

Delicious food in a relaxed environment. Check out the bean bag chilling area outside.  

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Other Recommendations of Things to Do

These are all adventures that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do on our own but would have considered if we had more time:

  • Kepler Track: An unbelievably scenic 60-kilometer (just over 37 miles) hiking track that passes through the Fiordland National Park in the South Island. It takes three to four days to complete. We did not have enough days in our stay. 
  • Hollyford Track: A four-five day trek starting in Fiordland National Park, the track follows the Hollyford River to the sea at Martins Bay.
  • Doubtful Sound Overnight trip: The Doubtful Sound is another fiord, like Milford Sound but sounds like it is less traveled but also impressive. We would like to try an overnight cruise option which covers the full length of the Sound out to the Tasman Sea. 
  • Te Anau Glowworm Caves: This activity takes you deep inside a cave system to a grotto that is covered by hundreds of glowworms (unique to New Zealand) that illuminate the darkness. The pictures seem pretty cool so we’d like to see how it looks in real life.

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Questions For You

  • Where is New Zealand on your bucket list? (It should be at the #1 spot)

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