Most travellers use Te Anau as a jumping-off point to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Allow 2 hours to reach Milford Sound from Te Anau. There are lots of scenic stops along the way, but not much else, so stop at Fresh Choice for snacks and be sure to fill up your gas tank, as there is limited petrol available in Milford Sound.
Tracknet run buses from Queenstown and Invercargill. This is also available as a combined ferry and bus ticket from Stewart Island by Stewart Island Experience. Tracknet have services to and from some walking routes.
- Te Anau-Au Caves. Approximately 2.3 hr total. A boat trip and guided tour into the Aurora Caves system by walking path and small boats within the cave itself where you will see thousands of glow worms. The caves are only accessible by boat, and Real Journeys operates a quality catamaran for a 30-minute cruise each way. You'll spend approximately 35 min underground, where you will see some spectacular underground waterfalls, some high ceilings, and many other interesting things with a professional guide. It is not suitable for everyone. You will have to bend over considerably at the entrance, which is only 1 m high for 3-4 m. Promotions often apply. $63/adult, $20/child.
- Lake Te Anau (Te Ana-au). "The cave of swirling water", it is the second-largest lake by surface area in New Zealand (after Lake Taupo) and the largest in the South Island. North Fiord, Middle Fiord and South Fiord are the only inland NZ fiords.
- Lake Marian. Off Hollyford Road on the way to Milford lies one of the most beautiful places on earth.
- 1 Te Anau Wildlife Centre (1 km (c. 10-min walk) from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre towards Manapouri). Dawn to dusk. A short walk from downtown, the Te Anau Wildlife Centre provides the unique opportunity to view some of New Zealand's rarest endangered birds. Be sure to see the takahe, a large flightless bird with beautiful blue plumage and an enormous red beak. With only 225 takahe left in New Zealand, this is perhaps your only opportunity to see this majestic bird. Free, but donations are appreciated.
- Tramp any of the many tracks located in the area. Te Anau isn't called the walking capital of the world for no reason! The major tracks that can be started from the surrounding area include the following "Great Walks":
- Kepler Track. This track starts from near Te Anau, and the section around the lake to Brod Bay and back makes a pleasant gentle day walk. The complete track ( a circular route) usually takes 3 or 4 days and climbs to 1470 m.
- Routeburn Track.
- Milford Track. This has been described as the greatest walk in the world. It is very popular and the many dates are fully booked within hours of booking opening in June for the following summer. The track starts with a ferry ride from Te Anau Downs, and there are connecting shuttle buses available. The track takes 4 days if you are walking independently.
- Don't miss out on going to Milford Sound, taking a cruise, and enjoying the scenic wonderland. For once it's probably better to take a bus, they don't rush it and you get good quality commentary.
- Take a day walk somewhere - Lake Marian for example. If you don't have gear, you can hire it from Bev's Tramping Gear Hire.
- Cruise Te Anau. A boutique cruise to the South Fiord of Lake Te Anau and a gentle bush/nature walk to discover the Hidden Lakes.
- 1 Westray Horse Treks, 55 Ramparts Road, ☏ . 9AM, 1PM and 4:30PM. $75.
- The Gateway. Buy and rent DVDs, video games, and CDs, but a terrible selection of used books. Friendly staff.
- Outside Sports, 38-40 Milford Rd, ☏ . Buy or hire most tramping gear you may need for one of the nearby tracks.
There are several decent places to eat, considering the size of Te Anau.
- La Toscana. For pizza, pasta and both Italian & NZ wines.
- 1 Miles Better Pies, 2 Milford Crescent, ☏ . 7AM-3PM. Specialist pie shop that has a range of fresh pies, sandwiches, cake slices and other treats, and great coffee, all to take away. The pies are packed with meat. <$10.
- Redcliff, 12 Mokonui St, ☏ . Summer: restaurant 5PM-9:30PM, bar 3PM till late. Serves food and drink. Warm atmosphere, cozy pub-feel and the rustic small-town kindly atmosphere you would expect in NZ. $30.
- Sandfly Cafe, 9 The Lane. Country-style cafe open for breakfast and brunch.
The local supermarkets are a cheap alternative if you're self-catering.
- 2 Fresh Choice, 5 Milford Crescent. 7AM-9PM. Te Anau's main supermarket, also the best place to buy beer and wine.
- 3 Four Square, 30 Town Centre. M-F 7:30AM–8PM, Sa 8AM–8PM, Su 8AM–7:30PM. Smaller supermarket with groceries and some prepared meals.
The three main venues in Te Anau are The Ranch, The Moose and Redcliff, in order of the age groups most likely to be found at each location. There is also a working men's club for the older generations.
During December and January, bookings are essential! While bed and breakfasts, hotels, and backpackers abound in Te Anau, they will fill up and the nearest accommodation could be as far away as Gore.
- 1 Barnyard Backpackers, ☏ . Just outside the township overlooking a deer farm and a mighty fine view of the sunset when nature treats you right.
- 2 Rosie's Backpackers, 23 Tom Plato Dr, ☏ .
- 3 Lakefront Backpackers, 48-50 Lakefront Drive. Pretty close to the town centre, doubles with a shared common area for $78, dorm beds from $28.
- 4 YHA Te Anau, 29 Mokonui Street, ☏ . Check-in: 1pm, check-out: 10am. 90 bed hostel in the town centre.
- 5 Radfords Lakeview Motel, 56 Lakefront Dr, ☏ . Clean and modern motel by the lakeside, with great service.
- 6 ASURE Amber Court Motel, 68 Quintin Dr, ☏ . Good self-sufficient units and helpful owners.
- 7 The Village Inn, Mokoroa St, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 249 791. A quirky pioneer-styled hotel, with an attached restaurant. Internet for $5/day
- 8 Paul's Backpackers Homestay, 12 Tom Plato Drive, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Quiet homestay with kitchen, living room with TV, free WiFi & off-street parking. 3 rooms only.
- Te Anau Library. Tu-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 11AM-2PM, M 1-6PM. Free internet. You can use their 5 computers for up to 30 minutes for free or you can use their wireless room for unlimited wireless access for free. Follow the rules and use the designated internet room; the librarians are grumpy!
State Highway 94, the Milford Road, leads to Milford Sound, 120 km to the north. Milford Sound is a major tourist attraction, but the trip itself is just as spectacular and should not be rushed. There are several scenic stops along the route that provide unique views. With about 2,500 visitors a day travelling to Milford Sound at peak times, it pays to get an early start, especially as parking space sometimes runs out in the (free) Milford car parks in the late morning.