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.

  • "From the easy parking to the super warm welcome from Kerri & the brilliant night's sleep - what's not to like at Radfords? Great location - 5 mins walk to the main street, 10-12 mins at most to the farthest restaurant - 2 mins to the seaplane, 5 mins to the heliport & 30 seconds to the lakeside - so well positioned. Rooms large, fast Wifi, did I say comfy bed? Large bathrooms & well-equipped kitchenettes & spotlessly clean rooms - each had a lovely spot to sit outside for an afternoon wine. Kerri is a hive of information about the local sights & eats - upon her recommendation, we ate at Redcliff & Fat Duck - both fantastic. If you have time do the Heli-Hike with Southern Lakes Heli to the Kepler Track - all-day activity but SO worth it."
    KiwiNZExplorer – April 2022 – Queenstown, New Zealand  Read Reviews
  • "What a magical stay... the best accommodation and most impressive host during our two-week SI road trip. Kerri was so warm, and helpful and gave us the best tips for our stay (Redcliff's Restaurant and the Cruise Milford experiences were amazing). The location of the property was perfect, with views of the lake and the rooms were beautiful... exactly how they look in the photos. Stunningly fitted out, comfortable bed and the added benefit of great kitchenette facilities to prepare your own breakfast, if preferred. We, (two couples) would definitely return."
    Robin B – May 2022  Read Reviews
  • "Fantastic time staying at Radfords, the service was outstanding, great recommendations, and beautiful rooms. We are a family of 5 and it was a nice home away from home for our 2 night stay, wish we could have stayed longer."
    Jess G – June 2022  Read Reviews
  • "Kerri the owner was very warm, friendly & super helpful. She made us welcome right from the start! The rooms were very spacious & the decor was lovely. The beds were super comfy. We had a superb view over-looking the lake. The motels were within easy walking g distance to town & the restaurants etc. We would definitely recommend this place to stay."
    PaulaMM – April 2022  Read Reviews

Our Environmental Promise

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



Three generations working together ♥️ with the next generation not far away from learning the ropes! 

With Mother’s Day just around the corner it got me thinking how lucky I am to be surrounded by these amazing ladies. 

Left to right Shelley, Phyllis, Kerri. Katie was unfortunately unable to be here for the photos. 

We hope everyone has a wonderful Mother’s Day this Sunday 🌸 

📸 @mgphotonz

Relax and enjoy a much deserved getaway on us!

Wake up to majestic views and locally sourced in-room breakfast, experience some of Te Anau’s many unique activities and amazing restaurants on offer.

We are giving you the chance to win a 2 night stay @radfordsonthelake follow instructions below to go in the draw.


🌟Two nights accommodation for two people in our Premier Lakeview Studio

🌟 Locally sourced in-room continental breakfast each day

🌟 $100 restaurant voucher to dine at a Te Anau restaurant of your choice

🌟 Movie tickets to watch local film Ata Whenua 


👉 Follow @radfordsonthelake 

👉 Tag the person you would like to treat to a weekend away (each tag is an entry)

👉 Share to your story and tag us for an extra entry

Good luck 🤞 

T & C’s

Closes 4th April at 7pm and winner will be announced that week.
Prize must be redeemed before 30/09/22
Need a Valentines gift for your loved one? ♥️ 

Book a romantic getaway in Te Anau and soak up the scenery together!

Mention this post at time of booking to receive a complimentary gift on arrival.

Valid until 28/2/22

Golden hour 🌅 taken on dusk just before the sun disappeared 

📸 @graham_dainty 

We were stoked to be able to host these lovely ladies @brodiejeankane @jokane80 over the weekend while Brodie knocked the Luxmore Grunt off! Great to see all their stories out and about enjoying what Te Anau has to offer and we can’t wait to host them again to share more. 

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.