When it comes to the dreamlike landscape of Fiordland, the mountainous peaks might provide the drama, but it’s the shimmering lakes that provide the contour. In the case of Lake Te Anau,
this massive, deep, glacially carved lake wraps its arms around Fiordland’s mountains in a geological embrace. This is the second largest lake in New Zealand—but the largest in total volume—and it forms the backdrop for the town of Te Anau and the road toward Milford Sound.
Of all of the activities to take part in on Lake Te Anau, touring the glowworm caves is undoubtedly the most popular. These luminescent critters inhabit the ceilings of dark caves on
the shoreline, and the ride to the other side of the lake offers sweeping views of the surroundings. The lake also provides a stunning backdrop for hikers tackling the Kepler Track, and there are small beaches that dot the lake, perfect for a cold dip.
Lake Te Anau is located near the town of Te Anau, which lies two hours south of Queenstown and 1.5 hours from Milford Sound. The lake temperature fluctuates between 48° F in the winter months to 59° F in the summer, and there are good swimming beaches to the north of town as well as at Brod Bay and Dock Bay (accessible via a 3.4-mile section of the Kepler Track). Water taxis are also available during the summer months between Te Anau and Brod Bay. Glowworm tours depart from Te Anau, and if you book a tour for late in the afternoon, the return ride turns into a sunset cruise.