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On Walkabout Around: Lake Te Anau, New Zealand

The next morning my wife and I got up early after arriving the evening before in the scenic New Zealand village of Te Anau, to go back to the lake shore and see the sunrise on the lake:


The rays of the sun reflecting off Lake Te Anau’s surrounding mountains was quite spectacular:


After watching the early morning sunrise, my wife and I walked back across the street to our caravan park and made breakfast before setting out to explore Te Anau. There really isn’t a whole lot to the city of Te Anau other then the basics that holidayers like us need such as restaurants, grocery stores, petrol stations, caravan park, etc. This was something we actually liked because it kept the city from becoming overflowing with tourists like its Queenstown counterpart:

te anau city map

Here is tip for everyone; in downtown Te Anau there is a pizza parlor that I recommend checking out if you like home made pizza like I do:


Overall I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the restaurants in New Zealand but my wife and I liked this place.

We next decided to take a walk along the lake to the local wildlife park which is only a couple of kilometers outside of town. The walk was quite pleasant with the beautiful weather and large quantities of ducks to keep us company along the trail:


Along the way we saw this statue of a man by the name of Quintin MacKinnon who was the first person to reach the legendary Milford Sound overland from Te Anau in 1888:


The route MacKinnon forged to Milford Sound which is now one of New Zealand’s most recognized icons, is called the Milford Track:

This track is considered by many to be one the “Finest Walks in the World“.  The track is 53.5 kilometers land and It takes four days to hike the Milford Track.  Reservations must be made in advance which is done to limit the number of hikers on the trail.  Additionally hikers may only hike in one direction, from Te Anau to Milford Sound and have to say in lodges at designated rest points along the way.  I try to make a reservation as an independent walker on the track nearly a year in advance and all the slots were bought up already during the timeframe I was going to be in New Zealand.

There was plenty of guided tours slots open though which are extremely expensive to book.  It costs anywhere from roughly $1,700 – $4,000 for a guided walk on the track depending on what time of the year and level of accomodation is purchased.  That kind of money would pay for the entire cost of my campervan and then some. So I passed on the hike this time, but I am going to go back to New Zealand one day to do this walk.

From the statue we continued on around the lake taking in the incredibly scenic views:


After a few more minutes of walking we eventually reached the Te Anau Wildlife Centre:

This wildlife park is filled with the various birds that call this area of New Zealand home.  The most famous bird in this area is not the kiwi which is obviously the most famous bird in New Zealand but the Kea:


The Kea is New Zealand’s mountain parrot and are known for being extremely intelligent.  The Kea is known as being one of the most intelligent if not the most intelligent bird in the world.  This intelligence is what gets these birds in trouble because they are highly social and inquisitive.  They are known for getting into trash cans, letting the air out of tires, destroying windshield wipers, taking shoes and supplies from campers, etc.

These birds are a little bigger then an Australian cockatoo and are only found in this remote corner of New Zealand.  There numbers used to be much larger but are now a protected species because only 1,000 – 5,000 of the birds are estimated to survive in the wild today.  There numbers decreased due to the killing of the birds by European immigrants who were annoyed by their behavior as well as their tendency to hunt in groups to kill sheep.  Yes that is right these birds will work together to kill something as large as a sheep.

Another popular bird at the Wildlife Centre is the Takahe:


The Takahe is a flightless bird that was thought to be extinct until 1948 when it was rediscovered in some remote grasslands in the mountains Fiordland area of Southwest New Zealand.  Loss of habitat and introduced predators are what have decimated and continue to threaten the remaining Takahe population in New Zealand.

Besides checking out the native animals located at the wildlife park, I kept finding myself looking back to take in the incredible view over the lake from the park:


Lake Te Anau really is quite a beautiful lake and the second largest in New Zealand behind only Lake Taupo.  Besides a great view of the lake there was also a lot of local flowers that could be seen at the wildlife park as well:




After finishing checking out the Te Anau Wildlife Centre my wife and I walked back to town in order to board a boat tour we had booked earlier in the day.  The boat we took out on the lake was actually quite large and probably had well over one hundred people on it as it set out across the lake:


The further the boat proceeded down the lake the more spectacular the scenery became:



It was no easy feat trying to take these pictures on a swaying boat, but I was actually able to get some pretty nice shots of the surrounding mountains:






Part of the boat tour on Lake Te Anau is an excursion to a glow worm cave.  The boat pulls up to a pier where everybody gets off and walks to a visitor center that sits adjacent to a cave:


At the visitor center everyone sees a film about the cave and its glow worms.  From there the people on the boat are divided into groups of about ten people a piece and then are led into the cave by guides.  Unfortunately no pictures are allowed in the cave because the glow worms are very sensitive to light.  The entrance to the cave is actually quite small and I had to bend over quite a bit just to get in, but once inside the cave it is actually quite large.

The guide led our group along a walkway that took us deep into the cave.  Eventually the walkway ended and we boarded a boat that took our group even further into the cave, which is where we got to get a glimpse of the glow worms.  These worms glow in order to attract bugs towards them that get caught in these glue like strings that hand from the roof of the cave.  Floating around on a boat deep inside a cave in total darkness looking at these oddities of nature was a pretty cool experience.

Some people traveled from Queenstown on a day trip just to see these glow worms and arrived for the night time boat tour and were disappointed by the experience.  Taking a day trip from Queenstown just to see glow worms especially traveling at night on the lake with no opportunity to take in the incredible scenery would not make this trip worth it.  However, for anyone staying in Te Anau definitely take a day time boat tour of the lake and stop and see the glow worms because it is one of the many great things to see in the Te Anau area.

Next Posting: The Road to Milford Sound

Prior Posting: The Road to Te Anau

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