Best Walks In And Around Te Anau

There’s never been a better time to consider hiking one of New Zealand’s famous Great Walks or one of the many excellent shorter walks and hikes located in Fiordland. Reduced visitor numbers mean tracks are less crowded, and huts are more readily available. So why not finally tick off doing the Milford Track, the Kepler or the Routeburn? Read on to find out more about the best hiking tracks in and around Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park.

5 Best Short Walks In Te Anau

Te Anau’s short walks are the perfect way to get in some exercise, a bit of fresh air, and explore the area a little more without any of the fuss of having to prepare for a long hike in the wilderness. Here are our top 5 short walks in Te Anau.

1. Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre To Bird Sanctuary Walk

  • Time – 20 minutes (one way)
  • Distance – 0.5 km (one way)
  • Difficulty – Very easy

This is a short leisurely walk and a lovely way to introduce yourself to the delights of Lake Te Anau and some of the wildlife inhabitants of the region. From the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre, make your way down to the lake’s edge and turn left to meander along the foreshore. Finishing up at the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. Stunning views of the mountains and the lake will accompany you along the way.

Time your walk just right, and you can join the daily guided tour featuring the 10.30 am bird feeding. The Te Anau Bird Sanctuary provides shelter and care for sick and injured birds who would not make it on their own in the wild. Expect to see Takahē, Kākā, Antipodes Island parakeets and the Ruru koukou (morepork) plus more!

2. Lake Mistletoe Walk

  • Time – 45 minutes return (loop track)
  • Distance – 1.3 km (return)
  • Difficulty – Easy

Suitable for all ages, Lake Mistletoe is a great little walk for the whole family. You will find this lovely little loop track Just 30 minutes drive along State Highway 94 north of Te Anau. It joins up with the road to make a full circle, which is handy for organising the return trip, do take care on the road though it can be quite busy at times.

This walk is easy to find and access, it’s a peaceful little spot with a wetlands kind of feel to it. You will find yourself wandering through the lush forest before breaking out onto the lake’s edge. The track is flat and easy to follow.

3. Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre To The Kepler Control Gates

  • Time – 45 minutes (one way)
  • Distance – 4 km (one way)
  • Difficulty – Easy

Following on from the Bird Sanctuary walk above, this walk simply continues along the foreshore of Lake Te Anau to the Kepler Control Gates. Expect to see a little more of the lake as well as excellent mountain views and a view of the golf course as you make your way along the lake’s edge.

The Control Gates regulate water flow between Lake Te Anau and the Waiau River, which links to Lake Manapouri and its hydroelectric power station. There is a convenient lookout point to view the gates if you hang left after the Kepler car park and follow the signs.

4. Kepler Control Gates To Rainbow Reach Bridge

  • Time – 2.5 hours (one way)
  • Distance – 9.5km (one way)
  • Difficulty – Intermediate

After crossing the Kepler Control Gates, instead of following the foreshore further along the edge of the lake to Dock Bay, head inland on the Kepler Track and follow the Waiau River south. While this track is actually part of the more extensive Kepler Track, you don’t have to walk all the way. Walking into the Rainbow Reach Swing Bridge and back is a nice introduction to this famous trail.

You will encounter some small undulations in the track but it is mostly flat so it makes for an enjoyable two and a half hours through the lush green bush. The trail follows the river for the most part, with small portions taking you deeper into the forest. The Rainbow Reach swing bridge crosses the Waiau River at the height of roughly 5 metres and makes for a great pick up point if you don’t wish to walk all the way back home!

5. Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre To Upukerora River Track

  • Time – 1.5 hours (one way)
  • Distance – 5 km (one way)
  • Difficulty – Easy

From the Visitor Centre, head to the lake and turn right following the foreshore along past the Te Anau Township and on to the Boating Club at Bluegum Point. From here, it’s simply a matter of following the lake’s edge around until it meets the mouth of the Upukerora River.

Expect to find a different perspective on the beautiful views across Lake Te Anau and the mountains in the distance. Bear in mind you do share this track with children, dogs, runners, and even the odd cyclist, so do take care along the way. The trail is fairly exposed to the elements, so don’t forget your sunscreen and a hat!

Top 3 Day Hikes In Te Anau

Want something a little more substantial than the short walks? Whether you knock out these longer walks in a morning or an afternoon, or choose to make a day of it and spend some time enjoying nature, you will find our top 3 day walks in Te Anau won’t disappoint!

1. Lake Marian Track And Lake Marian Falls

  • Time – 3-4 hours (return)
  • Distance – 6 km (return)
  • Difficulty – Advanced

The Lake Marian Track is located about an hour’s drive north of Te Anau on the way to Milford Sound, making it a great option for a pit stop to stretch the legs. Look out for the Marion Corner Turnoff at Lower Hollyford Road.

The Lake Marian Falls are just a 20 minute walk from the beginning of the Lake Marian Track and if you are short on time or have little ones in tow then this trail is a good option on its own. The full Lake Marian Track will take you around 3-4 hours return. While the track is not particularly long, it does involve a reasonably steep incline and does involve hiking over rocky terrain, so decent footwear and a reasonable level of fitness are highly recommended.

2. Key Summit Track (Routeburn Track)

  • Time – 3 hours (return)
  • Distance – 6.8 km (return)
  • Difficulty – Intermediate

Part of the Routeburn Track, the Key Summit Track offers a sneak peek into this Great Walk without the time commitment. While the summit track does follow a steady incline, it’s not too strenuous, and the views from the top are well worth the effort!

The walk will take around 3 hours return, but this will depend on your pace and how long you spend taking pictures at the top! You will find the entrance to the Key Summit Track about an hour north of Te Anau on the way to Milford Sound. Look out for the Routeburn Track signs and follow this track until you see the signs to turn off to the Key Summit Track.

3. Brod Bay Walk – Kepler Track

  • Time – 3 hours (return)
  • Distance – 5.6 km (return)
  • Difficulty – Easy

The Brod Bay Track follows the first part of the Kepler Track, it is accessible from the Kepler Track car park off Golf Course Road at Te Anau. It is suitable for children, especially if you plan to catch a water taxi for the return trip.

Brod Bay is a great place for a swim, so don’t forget your togs, and there are toilets available as well. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the lake’s edge, stop for a dip in the cool waters and take in the stunning views – the perfect day out for the whole family. There is even a camping site at Brod Bay if you wish to extend your visit, bookings are essential.

Best Multi-Day Hikes In Te Anau

Prefer to take your time and enjoy New Zealand’s famous walking tracks for all that they have to offer? Multi-day hikes are the perfect way to experience what this exceptional little corner of New Zealand is all about – and the good news is Te Anau is home to three of New Zealand’s most popular ‘Great Walks’.

1. Milford Track

  • Time – 3 nights 4 days
  • Distance – 53.5 km (one way)
  • Difficulty – Intermediate

The Milford Track is probably one of the most well-known of the Great Walks and is in fact, sometimes referred to as the “finest walk in the world” – and it’s not hard to see why. Traverse winding alpine trails, long valleys carved out by glaciers millions of years ago, ancient rainforests, and wander past cascading waterfalls on this trip of a lifetime.

Making your way to the start of the track requires a very scenic boat trip across Lake Te Anau, you will also require 3 nights accommodation on the trail, around 6 hours of hiking per day and a boat trip across Milford Sound to finish. The Milford Track is only able to be walked one way, from the south to the north, and it is possible to hike the Milford Track independently or as part of a guided walk.

Keep in mind this is a multi-day hike requiring a good level of fitness and careful preparation. The best time to walk the Milford Track is between the months of October and April. Hiking the track outside of these months will mean the likelihood of encountering extremely cold temperatures, avalanche hazards and other potentially dangerous conditions is high. Always be prepared when entering the wilderness. See here for some handy information on what gear to take when hiking the Milford Track.

5 Top Tips To Take Away

  1. Book In Advance. Hut passes are required to stay in the DOC huts on the track – these are limited to 40 people per night, and they book out quickly.
  2. Don’t Forget Transportation. You will need to sort transportation across Lake Te Anau and back to Milford at the other end before setting out on your hike. Collect your hut passes at the DOC office in Te Anau.
  3. Be Prepared. Getting wet is a given. Make sure you have packed well for all kinds of weather and carry all of the essentials with you.
  4. Invest In Bug Repellent. Yes, there are a lot of sandflies! Carry bug repellent handy at all times and clothing that covers legs and arms. You might also want to pack some antihistamines to combat the itching!
  5. Watch Out For Keas. While they are a lovely birds to look at, they can be quite cheeky. Don’t leave any gear outside at night and minimise your contact with them. Do not feed the Kea’s!

2. The Kepler Track

  • Time – 3 nights 4 days
  • Distance – 60 km
  • Difficulty – Intermediate

Another of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Kepler Track offers an excellent introduction to the Fiordland National Park and all its natural wonders. Wander through thick native forest, enjoy the views from atop rocky mountain ridges and relax at the lake’s edge after a long day of hiking – the Kepler Track has it all!

Conveniently the Kepler Track starts and finishes in Te Anau, this loop style track makes transport easy as there is no need to arrange for pick up at the end of the track. You can also walk the track in either direction. Booking ahead for hut space is essential, you can book a bed in a hut or a tent site at one of the two campsites; Brod Bay and Iris Burn.

The Kepler Track is an unguided or independent walk, so you will need to fend for yourself and bring everything you might need with you, including a tent if you have booked a tent site. The huts have bunkbed style accommodation with foam mattresses, heating, toilets and basic cooking facilities. Keep in mind that Fiordland’s weather is unpredictable, it always pays to be prepared for facing severe weather, including snow, thick fog, heavy rain and gale-force winds.

5 Top Tips To Take Away

  1. There Are A Couple Of Shortcuts. The full loop track is 60km long and will take you four days to hike. If you wish to cut off some of the track to shorten the trip, you can bypass the first part by using the Kepler Water Taxi to cut across Lake Te Anau and shorten the walk to Luxmore Hut. Or equally, at the opposite end, you can catch a shuttle from Rainbow Reach to the main car park, which cuts off approximately 9km of walking.
  2. Be Prepared For Some Steep Sections. The Kepler Track does involve its fair share of climbing uphill. Across four days, you’ll cover over 60km and climb to heights of over 2000 metres. The worst of these is the climb to the Luxmore Hut – but once you’re up there, you’ll see it was well worth it!
  3. Don’t Forget The Hut Passes. You will need to collect your hut passes at the DOC office in Te Anau before heading out.
  4. Weather Conditions Are Highly Changeable.No matter what season, month of the year or what the Fiordland National Park weather forecast says, the Fiordland National Park experiences rapid changes in weather conditions often without warning. Cold temperatures, high rainfall, snow and strong winds can occur at any time of the year, it pays to be prepared for all conditions.
  5. Luxmore Hut Is The Best! Think luxurious backcountry experience, and you won’t be far off (as far as DOC huts go anyway!). The Luxmore hut has two bunk rooms, indoor toilets and million-dollar views! A definite favourite out of all the huts on the Fiordland Great Walks.

3. The Routeburn Track

  • Time – 2 nights 3 days
  • Distance – 33 km (one way)
  • Difficulty – Intermediate

Roughly an hour and a half’s drive from Te Anau on the way to Milford Sound, you will find the entrance to the Routeburn Track. Winding its way through the mountains between the Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, the Routeburn Track offers the true alpine hiking experience complete with snow-capped mountains, glasslike alpine lakes, immense valleys and the impressive Routeburn River.

At a total of 33 km (plus a few short sidetracks), most people spend 2 nights and 3 days hiking the Routeburn Track. As with all of the Great Walks, it is possible to take your time and extend your stay. The Routeburn Track can be walked as a guided tour or completed independently. The main benefit of guided walks is that you can stay in private huts, while independent walkers stay in DOC huts or tents.

It is important to note that the Routeburn Track is not a loop track, you will begin on the Te Anau side of the Humboldt Mountain range and end up on the Queenstown side. By road, this is at least a four hour drive apart. You will need to arrange a bus or a transfer service once you finish the walk.

5 Top Tips To Take Away

  1. Train For The Terrain. The Routeburn Track has sections that are steep, narrow and uneven, and clambering over rocky terrain can be difficult at times, especially when those legs are tired. Getting in some good long walks ahead of completing the Routeburn will help you with keeping pace and make for a more enjoyable hike.
  2. Don’t Skip The Side Trips. If you’re lucky enough to have good weather making the extra effort to take in the side trips on the Routeburn is well worth it. The views from Key Summit Track and Conical Hill are awesome!
  3. Catch The Sunrise At The Routeburn Falls Hut. Yes, it does mean getting up early – but who sleeps that well in a hut full of people anyway? Climb up above the hut for the best viewpoint.
  4. Invest In Some Heavy Duty Bug Repellent. This is no joke, get a big bottle the sandflies are ferocious – you are going to need it!
  5. Book Early. Like the other Great Walks, the Routeburn Track does book out if you don’t get in quick. Always book your place well ahead of time. The Great Walk booking system is live around June for the following November-April summer hiking season.

Getting back to nature is one of the best ways to rest and recharge. Unplug from the daily stresses of life and get back to nature with Fiordland’s best walks. Need accommodation while you’re in Te Anau, or want to extend your stay in Fiordland? Get in touch with the Te Anau Lodge direct for the best room rates.