As tourist destinations go Te Anau is not as famous as Queenstown, so there are (slightly) fewer visitors, which gives it a big tick from me. Known as the gateway to Fiordland, Te Anau lies beside Lake Te Anau in one of our most scenic locations. There’s never been a better time to visit.  

Fordland National Park is our largest national park and a recognised World Heritage Site, a good six-hour drive from Ashburton – longer if you stop for photos, and believe me, you’ll want to!  

It’s the remoteness of Fiordland that makes this place as beautiful and untouched as it is. Just past Queenstown, you’ll come to the tip of Lake Wakatipu and from there, it’s all magic as you meander south westward to Te Anau.

Settle into your accommodation, and your first stop must be the Fiordland National Park Visitor to find out what you want to do – or, more likely what you can fit in – there’s just so much you’ll need weeks, so my advice is to pick your top ten, then depending on how long you have, cull that down to five. After all, you do need some time to relax and enjoy this fabulous place.

It’s been years since I last visited, so a drive to Milford Sound was top of the list, stopping along the way at Mirror Lakes for that iconic photo; the Lake Gunn walkway, followed by several more stops as stunning views of the mountains, lakes, rivers and the sea presented even more perfect photo opportunities.

Stunning, epic, magical, sensational – I was only on day one, and already I had used every superlative I could muster!

If your budget allows, book ahead and overnight on a guided Milford Marina overnight cruise. You’ll get up close to spectacular waterfalls, rainforest and wildlife, and, if you’re lucky, seals, dolphins and penguins.  Anchored in a sheltered spot, a night of fabulous food and wine awaits, and a chance to unwind and reflect on the day’s experience. 

Back in Te Anau, there’s no shortage of things to do: the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is a great place to see several of our native bids up close; Lake Manapouri is just 20 minutes’ drive away -breathtakingly beautiful; Doubtful Sound is about ten times larger than Milford Sound and another overnight opportunity (saved that one for next time); the Te Anau Glow-worm Caves are jaw-dropping; you can raft, you can fly, you can kayak, you can cruise, you can fish, or you can simply soak up the fantastic lakeside vibe, hire a bike and try one of the many cycle trails.

I haven’t mentioned food, have I? It’s hard to know where to start – enough to say that there is everything here from fine wining and dining to craft beers and great casual pub grub. You definitely won’t go hungry!

Te Anau in a nutshell? Truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. Go see it!

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.