You may have heard that Fiordland is home to three (soon to be four) of New Zealand's Great Walks. These walks will wind through the most spectacular scenery, mountains. rivers, waterfalls, and valleys, you name it, they have it. Gaining their great walk status from their natural beauty we want to break it down and show you why one, two, three, or even part of one should sit firmly on your New Zealand South Island itinerary.
Te Anau is our home. A small town nestled on the shores of Lake Te Anau, down in the South Island of New Zealand. It is known as the gateway to Fiordland National Park and the region is home to many a native bird, wildlife, alpine flowers, and fauna. We can talk all day about the abundance of trout in our lakes and rivers or the countless Kea sightings we hear about but what we really want to showcase is our Great Walks.
With quick access to all three Great Walks, Te Anau is the perfect basecamp.
From here you can rest, relax, and recharge those batteries before heading out on another adventure. With a range of accommodation options from quaint local BnB’s to lodge style living, you will feel at peace in your surroundings here. Catch up with friends, or make new ones, downtown at one of the local eateries, where fresh Fiordland delights make the menu daily. You may also stock up or hire gear for your hiking adventure from our retail operators downtown and be sure to grab those last-minute snacks from our supermarkets. Whenever you decide to visit Te Anau for your Great Walk voyage we recommend taking a couple of days out of your itinerary to kick back in Te Anau and discover something truly spectacular.
When are the Great Walks open?
Great Walk season officially starts at the end of October and runs through till the end of April. You will need a booking to complete the multi-day hikes in this period. Outside of the Great Walk season, hut facilities and access to the trails is greatly reduced and should only be attempted with a high level of backcountry experience. All bookings are handled by the Department of Conservation and you will find access to booking online here. The DOC huts offer bunk rooms on each track with the Kepler and Routeburn also offering campsites.
The Great Walks are designed for solo hiking however, the option to walk these world-famous trails guided can be found here.
With each trail gaining more attention each year (and rightly so) we suggest that you book well ahead of time, especially if you plan to travel in the peak summer season.
The tracks at a glance
Duration: Flexible. 2-4 days
Distance: 33km (20 miles)
Starting Point: The track can be hiked in either direction. Choose to start from The Divide (85km from Te Anau) or The Routeburn Shelter (25km from Glenorchy, near Queenstown).
The Routeburn Track is an awesome adventure. Connecting Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park, this three-day walk will take you through ice-carved valleys full of wonderful wetlands and ancient forests. The trail middle section will take you on a journey above the bush line to alpine lakes and incredible Fiordland views. The track is considered the ‘easiest’ of the three and the ridgeline walk overlooking the Hollyford Valley down below is truly unforgettable.
Duration: 4 days, 3 nights
Distance: 53km (33 miles)
Starting point: Te Anau Downs (30km north of Te Anau).
Boat transfers are required from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track at Glade Wharf.
Endpoint: Sandfly Point (Milford Sound)a boat transfer is required from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound.
For many, hiking the Milford Track is somewhat a right of passage and for those visiting from foreign shores, this is considered one of the best hikes in the world. The Milford Track is a point-to-point walk which starts on Lake Te Anau and ends at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. You will cross the Mackinnon Pass, Lake Mintaro, the Clinton Valley, and view the awe-inspiring 580m high Sutherland Falls. This hiking experience is world-renowned and lives up to all expectations.
The Kepler Track
Duration: 3-4 days
Distance: 60 km
Starting Point: The Kepler car park, control gates, or water taxi transfer from Te Anau to Brod Bay.
Endpoint: Right where you started
The Kepler Track is a loop track taking you from the gentle, beech-forested shores of Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri to the tussocky alpine tops of grand Mt Luxmore. This great walk that starts and ends in Te Anau. During this 60km loop track, you will pass through many landscapes in Fiordland National Park. Such as rocky mountain ridges, tall mossy forests, and rivers. With three huts on route, you will be fully immersed in the true backcountry of New Zealand. Resident Kea visit the hut sites regularly and be sure to enjoy the sunrise from the iconic Luxmore Hut overlooking Lake Te Anau.
Preparing for your Great Walk
One of the best pieces of advice we can give you for your Great Walk adventure is to be prepared. Be sure to pack suitable clothing, enough food, and water, plus the right kit to keep you safe in the backcountry of New Zealand.
We have put together a great walk’s preparation guide for you. Here you will find the information you need before embarking into the wilderness.
The Department of Conservation is also an excellent source for information, as are the Mountain Safety Council. Be sure to check in with both these resources to be in the know before you go.
Track Transport for our great walks has been made simple by many local operators here in Te Anau. With car relocation services, boat transfers and a bus system you will have your transport package sorted in no time. Find access to your track transport options here.
What to do before and after your Great Walk adventure?
The adventure does not need to stop after you kick your boots off for the last time. Te Anau and Fiordland National Park is the gift that keeps on giving. Te Anau has plenty of activities and experiences to warrant a longer stay during your New Zealand itinerary. From cruising to scenic flights, wildlife encounters to delicious food and beverage available in town. Te Anau is the place to relax after your epic accomplishments.
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