Lake Te Anau after winter snowfall, Fiordland National Park

The best activities to really experience Lake Te Anau

6 Jul 2022

Lake Te Anau is a special place, located in the southwest corner of New Zealand in Fiordland National Park. Carved by glaciers, it is the largest lake in the South Island, covering an area of 344 square kilometres, and the largest lake in Australasia by freshwater volume. The deepest part of the lake is 226 metres below sea level, and it boasts the only inland fiords in New Zealand. So, in summary, it is LARGE and AWESOME!

Geographically unique, this is also our home.  The township of Te Anau lies beside the mighty lake edge on the east.  While the western lake shore boasts an incredible wilderness area, encompassing expansive native forest and remote mountain tops.

Whether a visitor for a few days, or a Southlander, Lake Te Anau offers numerous opportunities to explore and enjoy this amazing place. Here are the best activities, in my view, to make the most of this incredible lake.

children jumping off wharf into lake Te Anau with Fiordland mountains in the background

Jump into Lake Te Anau, what are you waiting for?


The lake is cool in temperature, so be prepared year-round if you plan to dip your toes in the water! The average water temperature in Lake Te Anau is nearly steady throughout the year, with an average of 14 degrees Celsius. A wetsuit is recommended, and keep in mind the lake depth drops quickly once leaving the shore.  It is not uncommon for children to wear life jackets until they are confident swimmers.

There are several spots to enjoy the water but here are my easily accessible top picks!

  1. Pontoon – Just beside the boat harbour, and 10 minutes’ walk north from the town centre, this area offers a safe swimming zone, and is especially popular with families. With an electric BBQ, public toilets, sheltered setting, and sandy beach, it’s a lovely spot to spend a sunny afternoon.
  2. Te Anau Wharf – In the opposite direction of the town centre, is the locally famous wharf. A popular spot to jump off and just hang out with friends. This is one of the most locally photographed places, and a focal point for the very keen lake swimmers, who use the buoys to swim around.


From an urban setting, with paved walkways in the vicinity of the Te Anau township, to the Kepler Track, a New Zealand Great Walk, there is something for everyone to wander along.  So, there is no excuse, and every reason to stretch your legs with a spectacular hike alongside the shores of Lake Te Anau. You can even go to the next level with a Heli-Hike, where you fly over Lake Te Anau to land at Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track and walk down to the sandy shores of Lake Te Anau.

Whichever path you choose around Lake Te Anau, there is plenty of good opportunities to discover the diverse, lush forest, native birds, and scenic lake vistas.

people walking in tussocks above a lake with farmland in the far background in Fiordland

Hike above lake Te Anau on the Kepler Heli Hike


If you are local, or know a local, you are likely to have access to a boat. Water skiing, fishing, and boating on the large fiords reaching out on the western side are all popular leisure activities on Lake Te Anau.  The lake is a vast place, and boats enable you to go some incredible places with few other people around.  Visitors to the area can also discover Lake Te Anau by boat.  Cruise to see the glow worm caves on the western shore of Lake Te Anau with RealNZ or discover the mystic and charming hidden lakes with a lake cruise onboard the historic boat ‘The Faith’, this boutique cruise has plenty of character.  


Finally, Lake Te Anau offers the most scenic backdrop to relax and unwind.  Sit down, enjoy a coffee, or a meal overlooking the water.  The peace and tranquillity offered by the water setting is truly next level! Watching a sunset or sun rise never gets old, and the low light at these times makes for the best photography. Lake Te Anau will truly take your breath away!

still lake with sun setting behind mountains

Sunset beside Lake Te Anau allows you a chance to relax and unwind.

There are so many ways to enjoy and explore Lake Te Anau, so come check it out for yourself.  Ensure this is one lake on your next holiday itinerary, whether traveling from near or far!



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