Arrive in Te Anau, and head out to do the thing Fiordland is most famous for - hiking! Grab a raincoat, insect repellent, sunscreen and head straight into the forest via the Kepler Track. Within 10 minutes of the Kepler Track car park, you are amongst lichens, punga ferns and beech forest. For an easy hike, walk to Dock Bay which should take around one hour return.
After your taste of Fiordland’s famous walking tracks, head back into Te Anau and grab lunch at one of the cafes or restaurants in the town centre. After lunch, it’s time to get out on the water. Fun family activities on Lake Te Anau include a jet boat ride with Fiordland Jet along the Waiau River to Lake Manapouri or jump on a lake cruise to the glow worm caves.
Restaurants in Te Anau welcome children and families, and most will offer kids’ menus. If the kids are still full of energy, head down to the lake to watch the sunset, and maybe take an evening dip in cool water. Enjoy a good night’s rest in preparation for a big day out in Piopiotahi / Milford Sound tomorrow.
The journey to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound along the Milford Road is an epic family adventure. You can choose to book a coach and cruise tour where you can sit back and relax and take in the scenery with commentary or drive yourself. The drive to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound can be done in two hours, but we recommend leaving a lot more time to explore the many incredible walks and scenic spots on the way.
Here are some of the best stops along the Milford Road. Top tip: Do half of these on the way into Piopiotahi / Milford Sound and half on the way out.
- Eglinton Valley – Snap an incredible family portrait against this vast valley backdrop
- Lake Gunn Nature Walk – A gentle 45-minute return walk
- Pop’s View – The perfect spot for a quick geography lesson
- Homer Hut- Chat to the climbers and take a look at Sir Edmund Hilary’s training grounds
- Monkey Creek – Fill up your drink bottle and collect some special stones
Family activities in Piopiotahi / Milford Sound include a scenic flight over the fiord, a scenic cruise where you may spot the local seals or dolphins or a visit to the Underwater Observatory (done as part of a Milford Sound cruise). Don’t leave Piopiotahi / Milford Sound without taking a walk along the foreshore to view majestic Mitre Peak or find the famous Milford Swing.
Top tip: There is always a good chance of rain in Fiordland. Pack a good rain jacket for every member of the family!
In the morning, take some time to enjoy the slower pace of life in Te Anau. Relax by the shores of Lake Te Anau or Lake Manapouri like a local. Fiordland locals also love to get involved in conservation, so take a stroll along the lakefront to Punanga Manu O Te Anau / Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. Run by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the sanctuary is home to native birds including kaka, ruru and the rare, flightless takahē. Takahē were believed to be extinct until a remote population was discovered in the Murchison Mountains in 1948. The birds in the sanctuary have been injured or are involved in captive rearing programmes.
In the afternoon, get active and head out for some budget-friendly family fun. Enjoy a game of frisbee golf in Ivon Wilson Park, rent bikes and ride the Lake2Lake Cycle Trail or hit the Sputnik and flying fox at Lion's Park Playground. A visit to Fiordland Cinema is a Te Anau must-do, so book your tickets for an afternoon or evening screening of the breathtaking Ata Whenua / Shadowland. Filmed mostly in helicopters, this locally-produced short film will leave you mesmerised. Fiordland Cinema is a boutique experience offering local wine and craft beers.
Make this a family holiday to remember and do a trip to Patea / Doubtful Sound. There is no road to Patea / Doubtful, so the experience of getting there is an adventure in itself. There are many ways to experience Patea / Doubtful Sound including a scenic flight, float-plane flight, kayaking or overnight cruise, but the best way to see the fiord when travelling with kids is on a Doubtful Sound cruise.
A cruise will give you an up-close view of this immense and beautiful fiord system with its many waterfalls, arms and islands. If you’re lucky you may just spot the local population of bottlenose dolphins or seals.
A Doubtful Sound experience will take around seven hours. At the end of the day, take a gentle evening walk along the lakeshore or head out to one of Te Anau’s many kid-friendly restaurants for a family meal.