Known as the ‘gateway to the fiords’, the peaceful town of Te Anau has everything you need for an activity-filled stay. There’s plenty of accommodation to suit every budget, and shops so you can stock up on food as well as equipment for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, cycling and more. Many people choose to travel from Te Anau to Milford Sound, rather than starting in Queenstown.
Te Anau is located a couple of hours’ drive from Queenstown, on the shores of the largest lake in the South Island (and the second largest in New Zealand).
Buses and coaches to Milford Sound pass through Te Anau daily. If you’re going to walk the Milford Track or take a Milford Sound tour or cruise that starts before lunchtime, Te Anau is a good starting point for your journey to Milford Sound. awesomeNZ and GreatSights tours pick up and drop off in Te Anau as well.
If you’re starting your Milford Sound tour from Queenstown, you’ll stop for a short morning tea break in Te Anau. This is also a good place to stock up on food and drinks if your tour does not include lunch – Te Anau is the last place to buy food on the way to Milford Sound. If you have the chance, try one of Southland’s local delicacies: the cheese roll, a tasty snack made of a creamy cheese and onion mixture rolled in bread and baked.
From Te Anau, the Milford Road curves along the shores of the lake, heading north towards Te Anau Downs. Once home to the earliest European settlement in the area, Te Anau Downs is now the main starting point for the Milford Track and a good place for scenic photos of the Murchison mountain ranges. It also marks the entrance to Fiordland National Park.
Attractions in Te Anau
If you’re spending a couple of days in Te Anau, you must visit the Te Ana-Au Caves after which the lake is named. These spectacular limestone caves are home to twinkling glowworms. Access is only available by boat as they are located across the lake from the town.
Te Anau Bird Sanctuary or Punanga Manu o Te Ana is just a short walk from Te Anau, where you can see some of New Zealand’s most precious birds. See the rare flightless takahē, the kākā (a rare parrot) and kererū, our native woodpigeon. You may even be able to feed these beautiful creatures, nad many other native birds are also frequent visitors to the sanctuary. Entry is via gold coin donation.
Accommodation in Te Anau
Te Anau is the closest town to Milford Sound and has a range of accommodation including hostels, bed and breakfasts, motels and campgrounds. Staying overnight in Te Anau is a great way to make the trip to Milford Sound easier – and beat the traffic!