TE ANAU (tea ah now) is a small town of aproximately 4000 contented souls, nestled on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in New Zealand, and the largest in the South Island. Lake Te Anau is 42 miles long, and has an area of 132 sq miles. On it's western shore three large Fiords (drowned glacial valleys) cut deep into the mountains. The longest (South Fiord) is 22 miles long, and the shortest (North Fiord is 9 miles. Between these is the Middle Fiord, which is 10 miles long, at the head of which are the North west and South west Arms. Many islands dot the entrances to the Fiords. These are over-ridden spurs, formed by the ancient glaciers which shaped Fiordland some 15,000 years ago. The mountains bordering Lake Te Anau rise to around 7500 feet asl, and are bush covered on their lower slopes to a height of 3500 feet, which is the lower level of the winter snow.
Te Anau is the service centre for the Fiordland National Park, which is a World Heritage Site. Fiordland National Park is aproximately 3 million acres of rugged snow capped mountains, deep valleys, plunging waterfalls, and absolutely stunning scenery. The park occupies the whole South west corner of the South Island. There are few roads into the park. The best known is highway 94, which goes to Milford Sound. This passes through Te Anau, and is the only road access to this popular scenic gem. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound takes aproximately 2 hours, and is one of the worlds great scenic highways. Other roads are the Wilmot Pass road, between West Arm (Lake Manapouri) and Deep Cove (Doubtful Sound) This is a private road, built during the construction of the giant Manapouri Power Station in the 1960's. Other roads are the Hauroko road, in the south east of the park, and the Borland road, which is also a private road, but some public access is allowed.
Te Anau has a good mix of accommodation. Most is mid range, between US$70 and US$200 per night (2006 rate). There are many restaurants offering a range of cullinary delights. Indian, Chinese, and Italian, as well as traditional NZ fare (steak, lamb, fish etc)
Most visitors come to Te Anau to experience the tour to Milford Sound, or for the many walks which originate from here. The Milford Track and the Kepler Track are probably best known, but there are many other fine walks, including the Routeburn between Glenorchy (Queenstown), and the Milford Road, and the Key Summit, from The Divide. Te Anau is the ideal base for tours to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, and offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.