Quick Fun Historical Facts about our beloved Te Anau!

October 29, 2021

Quick Fun Historical Facts about our beloved Te Anau!

As the gateway to the World Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park, the lakeside town of Te Anau is often known as a stopover along the iconic Milford Sound route, however, those fortunate enough to stay a little longer quickly discover that Te Anau is well worth a visit in its own right. Nicknamed as the ‘walking capital of NZ’, Te Anau attracts nature-lovers and adventure-seekers from near and far – but it offers much more than just a stop to stock up on supplies and tie your shoes before embarking on the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler Tracks. Spend a while soaking up the sights before or after your Great Walk, and you’ll soon discover the hidden gems that await.

In pre-European times, the area was a common place for the Ngai Tahu iwi to rest and gather food whilst journeying between the South Island’s east and west coasts. However, the settlement of Te Anau only began to develop once the iconic Homer Tunnel was opened in 1954, as the first proper road access to Piopiotahi/Milford Sound.

Named after the lake it lies beside, there are many theories as to the origins of the name Te Anau, but today it’s most commonly translated as ‘the cave of swirling water’. This recognises an ancient Māori legend that mystical glowing caves lay hidden somewhere along the lake – and in fact, these underground glowworm grottos were rediscovered by intrepid explorers in 1948.

View of a lake with mountains and trees in background

Lake Te Anau is the largest lake in the South Island, covering an area of 344km2. Credit: Great South/Videocopter.

Bordered by the majestic Mt Luxmore, Kepler Ranges and Murchison Mountains, the lake itself is the second largest in Aotearoa (behind Lake Taupō), and the biggest in the South Island – sitting at 210m above sea level, it measures 61km long and is 417m at its deepest point.

A trip to Te Anau wouldn’t be complete without spending some time in the picturesque lake, where glacial fiords and rugged mountainscapes meet lush native forests and rolling farmland. Synonymous with the classic Kiwi adventure – it lends itself to an incredible variety of outdoor pursuits and activities on the water – swimming, kayaking, sailing, waterskiing, jetboating, and plenty more. It’s also a haven for fly-fishers, with an abundance of rainbow trout and land-locked salmon awaiting those who cast their line in the lake (or one of the many neighbouring pristine rivers).

Te Anau is also home to an extensive variety of wildlife, and the town’s kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection) have aided many endangered native bird species to thrive. The Department of Conservation has well-established breeding and rehabilitation programs in the area, and has played a major role in improving kākā, kererū, tūi, ruru, and parakeet populations. A visit to our friends at Punanga Manu o Te Anau/Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is highly recommended – particularly to see the precious takahē. This rare and flightless bird was thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered living in the neighbouring Murchison Mountains in 1948, and are now supported by DOC’s recovery efforts with a population of around 400.

Takahe bird on grass

The endangered and prehistoric-looking takahē have ‘celebrity status’ at Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. Credit: Great South.

The western shores of the lake are home to a mysterious yet magical natural wonder, the Te Anau Glowworm Caves. Located just a short cruise across the lake from Radfords, these jaw-dropping limestone formations are an extraordinary sight. Don’t miss your chance to go on a guided walk and boat tour through the caves, and be captivated by the natural light show of hundreds of glistening glowworms above you. These 12,000-year-old subterranean caves are still geologically active – meaning the rushing waterfalls and whirlpools are still sculpting the rocks today.

View of the glowworm cave ceiling in Te Anau Glowworm Caves

The shining stars of Te Anau’s glowworm caves are a truly mesmerising wonder. Credit: Great South/RealNZ.

For film buffs, it’s no surprise that the wild and untouched landscapes of Fiordland are a popular backdrop for many Hollywood movies. Perhaps the most iconic are the sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Basing yourself in Te Anau, visit the filming locations at Kepler Mire, Mavora Lakes, Waiau River, and Snowdon Forest.

With a population of just under 3000 people, the compact and charming town centre is easily walkable from Radfords. With a gentler and more laidback vibe than our bigger neighbour of Queenstown, it’s a town where you can easily enjoy some well-deserved R&R. Spending time in Te Anau is the ultimate wind down after your Fiordland National Park adventure – enjoy comfort and luxury whilst still getting that away-from-it-all feeling.

If you’re planning your next Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound or Fiordland hiking trip, book your accommodation with us today! A long weekend or short break at Radfords on the Lake is the perfect getaway to a special corner of New Zealand, where the tranquillity of untouched nature meets the adventure and thrills at Te Anau’s doorstep.

  • "It's the perfect stop when travelling from Queenstown to Milford Sound. Very welcoming and helpful host, Gorgeous Lake Views. Easy walk to town. Very comfortable and spotless units. We thoroughly recommend Radfords on the Lake."
    Helen J – September 2021 – Queenstown, New Zealand  Read Reviews
  • "Absolutely gorgeous place to stay in one of New Zealand's hidden jewels. So much to do here - needed more time!. Beautifully appointed apartment with the best location right on the lake. Glowworms up and running again which made our stay very special. Kerri was amazing - and helped us with all our booking - nothing beats local knowledge and contact. Will definitely return."
    delwynstephen – October 2021 – Timaru, New Zealand  Read Reviews
  • "We have stayed here twice and really love it. The motel units are so clean and really spacious and the beds are very comfy. The staff are so friendly and lent us bug spray when we went on our boat ride and gloves when we went on our jet boat ride as it was cold. It is a great location and we definitely recommend it."
    KiwiTraveller – October 2021 – Christchurch, New Zealand  Read Reviews
  • "This is a fantastic place to stay with exceptional service and rooms. The owner goes above and beyond to ensure everyone has a fantastic stay. The rooms are beautiful, and the location is perfect. We hope to make it back one day."
    78clarke – October 2021 – Whakatane, New Zealand  Read Reviews

Our Environmental Promise

We are committed to preserving our beautiful surroundings and reducing our footprint on the environment.



Just like you, we love our stunning Fiordland environment 💚 Caring for our local wildlife is super important for us - did you know we’re proud supporters of the Antipodes Island Parakeet, also known as the Kākāriki?

Thanks to fantastic conservation efforts from our friends at Te Anau Bird Sanctuary (only a 20 minute walk from us), these special birds are being protected from extinction.
It’s that time of the year to vote for Bird of the Year for 2021 - so jump on with us and vote and if you can make a donation towards their great efforts.
Link in bio

📸 @nzbirdsonline
We were recently visited by travel blogger @findingalexx. A connoisseur of all-things NZ tourism, Alexx has compiled a list of top places to stay across the country, and thanks to her enjoyable stay with Radfords, we’ve made the list! 
Hear what Alexx had to say about her time with us - link in our bio
Finalist…. With the MC
We love all of our guests, and sharing their joy as they discover the pure, pristine beauty of Fiordland. So we’re more than pleased to share some rather exciting news: we have been named a Finalist in the Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards! 

No matter what the end results may be, we are so honoured to be amongst such a fantastic list of finalists and to be recognised for our efforts.

Why, meow, two-legged pals. 

 I’m Dexter Dude, and this is my second attempt at a short news update on Te Anau from my particular purry perspective. Because despite my small stature, and my priority being snoozing in a patch of sun most of the time, I’m actually surprisingly up-to-speed with the goings on around here.

On Saturday July 10th it sounds like the Kepler Track is going to be bustling. There’s a family-friendly Matariki Night Time Nature Walk to discover the forest after dark, and spot some of the delicious interesting creatures that live there. Registrations are required, so get in quick https://www.doc.govt.nz/news/events/regional-events/fiordland-events/booking-form-fiordland/

That’s all from me for the month. Catch you next time! 
🐾 all my fluffy love, Dexter.

Winter is officially here! And the beautiful stillness of Lake Te Anau is second to none at this time of the year. In fact, the whole Fiordland region is stunning this season; things are a little bit quieter outside of the peak spring and summer Great Walks and general exploration period, meaning you can take a moment to catch your breath and soak in the scenery. 
We’d love to host you here at Radfords on the Lake for a midwinter break. Time it with the school holidays next month to treat the kiddos to a calm, crisp Doubtful or Milford Sound experience. Or take the time to yourself – as a couple or alone – to tick this trip off your Kiwi adventure bucket list. 

📸 Great South
Reading through Trip Advisor reviews and I thought this lovely review sums up Kerri and her team perfectly...
Kerri, Steve and their team absolutely love sharing their local knowledge and making sure you get the most from your time in Fiordland. 

💫 Warm friendly Southern Hospitality
🏔 Beautiful views of Lake Te Anau, surrounding mountains and manicured gardens
🛏 Cosy and comfortable apartments 

Pappi’s scones for morning tea - our favourite!! 
Follow @whats_for_smoko for this recipe and many more