Te Anau and Queenstown

Te Anau and Queenstown are both gateway communities to Fiordland. Te Anau is smaller and quieter, and closer to Doubtful and Milford Sounds; Queenstown is larger, busier, and has other adventure activities. 

Day 1: Dunedin to Te Anau

Our bus wasn’t until 2:00 pm, so we did some souvenir shopping and bought possum fur socks. They’re made from a mix of possum fur and merino wool and are supposed to be warm and fuzzy. So we each got some. Then we had brunch at Capers cafe, a Cajun chicken and bacon sandwich and pancakes with fruit salad and yogurt. Pancakes sounded good for some reason.

We took a taxi to the bus station. It’s currently in a pretty industrial area, and being moved downtown. It was a little confusing but it all became clear eventually, and there were lots more people getting on the same bus, so we were pretty sure we weren’t getting stranded.

The bus ride was scenic and uneventful. Te Anau is a town of about 1900. Kinda reminds us of northern Michigan. We went to The Ranch for beer and burgers. Our room at the Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers lodge is spare but nice, and we have a lovely view of Lake Te Anau from our deck.

Day 2: Doubtful Sound

Our day started earlier than we expected. We woke up around 4:00 AM to use the bathroom and discovered we had no water. So we went downstairs to the communal bathrooms and discovered someone had left the water on full blast at the sink, so there was no water pressure on the second floor where we were. Who does that?!?

Anyway, our Doubtful Sound tour started at 7:00 AM. It was magical.

Doubtful Sound

It was nice and sunny when we got done around 3:00 pm so we found a place down the street where we could sit in the sun and watch the lake. After a couple of beers there, we had pizza for dinner. 

Then we got banana bread for breakfast and beer for dessert and watched the sun go down behind the mountains across the lake.

Day 3: Te Anau Glowworm Caves

The weather was a little different today. Good thing we didn’t have anything outdoorsy planned! We went into town to see a cool half-hour movie shot in this area via helicopter. It talks about the geography, history, and myths of the area. We might have to download it when we get home. Then we had meat pies for lunch and gelato for dessert.

Our one real activity today was going to the glowworm caves here. The pictures below are around the dock out at the cave. You take a boat across the lake to get there. 

The caves here are different from the ones at Waitomo on the north island. This cave is much younger, so no stalactites. It also has an underground river rushing through it. It was odd to hear that rushing water while being on perfectly calm water in a boat in a cave in total darkness. The glowworms weren’t as numerous as the other cave, but the cave itself was interesting, and we learned some things from the video they showed afterward, which had close-ups of the glowworms. Okay, so they’re actually maggots, but that doesn’t sound very appetizing.

The map below shows the Fiordland area. 

Day 4: Milford Sound

Milford Sound was our last big event in New Zealand. And what a finale! Where Doubtful Sound was tranquil, Milford Sound was dramatic.

We then had a four-hour bus ride to Queenstown. Queenstown is known for its nightlife. So what did we do? Walked across the street to the first pizza place we found, Fat Badgers, and had beer and pizza. Then we walked just up the street to Betty’s Liquor Store and got a 6 pack of Max’s Porter, which we drank in our room because it’s too cold to sit outside. The low here tonight is supposed to be 26°F.

We were greeted this morning with a rainbow, and closed the day with a dramatic sunset behind the mountains.

Day 5: Queenstown

Queenstown is a charming, sophisticated resort town. We didn’t do much there with the partial day we had but did walk around a bit. There was an art fair going on, and we actually walked around it. (We are not known to frequent art fairs.) You could tell it was fall. 

Flying from Queenstown to Auckland on the first lef or our journey home we covered most of the west coast of New Zealand. There are lots of whitecapped mountains and glaciers we missed so we’ll have to go back someday.

Essentials​

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Lodging

In Te Anau we had a private room with ensuite, with a view and a shared balcony overlooking the lake. Nice location within walking distance of downtown.

In Queenstown we also had a private double room with ensuite. The room had some surprising (for a hostel) bonuses like a TV and a fridge. Nice central location. The hostel has a secured luggage room with lockers. We didn’t have a lock, but the front desk loaned us one. 

Dining

There are several places to eat in Te Anau but if you’re after sophisticated dining and nightlife (and more exciting activities) head for Queenstown.  

The Ranch Bar & Grill
Te Anau
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Our burgers were fine, the beer selection was fine, so was the service. Just nothing that really stood out. We were looking for a standard kind of bar meal, and they delivered!
Ristorante Pizzeria Paradiso Da Toni
Te Anau
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We ordered a pizza with smoked salmon, capers, and spinach, and another with spicy salami, fresh mushrooms, and artichokes. Both were pretty good. So was the gelato.
The Moose Bar & Restaurant
Te Anau
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Nice view of the lake from outdoors. Pretty standard beer selection and bar food. No issues with any of it. It was nice to able to run a tab rather than pay for each round.
Miles Better Pies
Te Anau
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Yummy pies, quick service, cash only. Tiny little place, though it has a couple of tables you can sit at.
Fat Badgers Pizza Bar
Queenstown
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Music so loud you can't hear, and noisy drunks in the corner. And lager. Which was cold. The pizza was not, which was good. We enjoyed the food and the atmosphere was ... interesting.
Fergbaker
Queenstown
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The line for Fergburger next door was out the door, and we wanted pies anyway. Fergbaker was great. Enjoyed the meat pies, our last chance to get them before heading home! Fast though somewhat chaotic service
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Transportation

One of the reasons we booked our tours with Real Journeys was the option of getting picked up in Te Anau and dropped off in Queenstown. That saved us time and money arranging separate transportation. Both towns are walkable. Even getting from the bus station to Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers with our luggage wasn’t difficult. 

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