There are quite a few things to do near Te Anau. We booked our amazing visit to the Te Anau Glowworm caves in advance. But we arrived so early, that we had a couple of hours to do something else before heading over to meet the glowworms. We’re always up for stretching our legs, so we decided to walk on a short Kepler Track day hike. We made a plan to hike in the trees on the way to Rainbow Reach to give us a small taster of the walk. We left our hire care at the Kepler Track car park, and went as far as we could in 45-50 minutes. That way, we had enough time to get back to Te Anau with plenty of time to meet the Glowworms.
So, this post isn’t about a long walk, it’s just a teeny taster of a longer, epic hike. For us it was a good way to get a feel for the area, and to stretch our legs after the drive from Wanaka.
Getting to the Kepler Track Car park:
Our walk started at this unassuming car park a few kilometers south of Te Anau, that has pretty amazing views of out to the lake. Our hire-car came with a satnav, so we found it by searching “Kepler track car park.” But if you don’t have a satnav or a phone, you can still find it!! If you start at the Te Anau Visitor centre on Lakefront Drive, follow the highway that leads to Manapouri for a couple of kilometers, and then turn right onto a golf course road for another couple of kilometers. The carpark is on the right and has an obvious sign post, so you won’t miss it!
Even if you don’t fancy a walk, there are pretty views of Dock Bay and Lake Te Anau from the car park!
The Kepler Track:
The Kepler Track is a 60km loop that takes most people 3-4 days to wander around. As it is one of the Great Walks, the paths are pretty substantial and easy to follow. If you arrive in the summer, then it isn’t possible to do the whole walk unless you have managed to book space in the huts in advance. BUT even if you can’t manage to whole walk, there are several possibilities for day hikes on the Kepler Track. I liked the sound of walking up to Luxmore Hut (because I like hiking up mountains and because I have Kiwi friends who’s family name is Luxmore!) I also really liked the sound of the walk from Kepler Track carpark to Dock Bay and Brod Bay. But, alas, we didn’t quite have enough time to manage either of those. So, we opted to walk towards Rainbow Reach.
Hiking to Rainbow Reach
Our day hike followed a path that wound its way through a beech forest on the banks of the Waiau River. It looked like the walk could take us the whole way to Lake Manapouri. Even the teeny walk we managed was a lovely introduction to the area. Some stretches of the walk went through the trees, but we had constant glimpses of the river shining through the foliage.
I love the way this river was so calm and good at reflecting the forest and skies.
Waiau River – the rainbow river
When you see the river from low down, it has a turquoise-green colour. But then as soon as you climb up slightly, this is replaced by reflections of the blue sky and clouds, so it’s easy to forget the extraordinary water colour. It had yet another colour on our return journey when we walking into the sun; Then it started to look a sort of brown-green. This is the kind of river that would be difficult to describe if a child asked you what colour you should paint it!!
The paths goes through a beech forest. These are the kind of trees that let plenty of light in during the summer. So even walking in the shade, we were able to enjoy beautiful dappled light.
This was the view just before we decided we should turn back. I think the mountain in the background is Mount Luxmore. We’ll have to come back to complete this whole walk, or at least make it up there!
Kepler Track Birdies – Tui
This walk showed me that I am a terrible wildlife photographer! Whenever a cute bird caught my eye, it’d take me so long to get my good lens ready, that the bird would be gone by the time I was ready to take a photo! We saw one beautiful bird with a white cravat-like feather on its chin! It flew off before I could snap a picture. I was so sad that I kept my large lens out for aaages in my hand, while I listened out for him.
The second time we saw him I spent aaaages attempting to take his photo. In the end I managed to snap several, but I like this one best. You can see his white cravat and his slightly puffed out feathers. Apparently this is a Tui. It seems black at first, but if you look carefully his feathers are iridescent with a sort of peacock green-y colour. What do you think his name should be?
Quiet, pleasant forests:
Even thought this is one of the Great Walks, it didn’t seem busy at all as a day walk! We hardly saw any other people despite the lovely weather! If you fancy a pleasant and quiet day walk, this is a good option.
I spent such a long time trying to take photos of the Tui above that we had to rush a little on our return journey. Still, I loved walking through the forest. There were some amazing tree roots. Some were helping to hold up the river bank, and some creating mini tree-caves for Kiwi critters. This would be a really good place to explore with children. The path is easy (and easy to follow,) but there is plenty to see.
We didn’t actually make is as far as rainbow reach, so I am not very sure what is there! We did see quite a few people fishing, so maybe it is something to do with rainbow trout? I think rainbow reach is some kind of jetty or a bridge that helps people reach the rainbow trouts! Anyway, as we didn’t make it that far, I’ll leave you with a last couple of photos looking out over the river and forest. It wasn’t quite a rainbow, but I loved all the green and blue hues.
We are both speedy walkers so we made it back to Te Anau with plenty of time to spare. I thought the path towards Rainbow reach was a lovely day walk. Hopefully we can return to do more of the Kepler Track one day!
I’d like to finish this post with a photo of a giant Takahe that we saw in Te Anau. These pretty blue birds were thought to be extinct. Until they found some in the Mountains to the West of Te Anau in 1948! Now there is lots of conservation work to help protect them. Pretty cool eh!? Hopefully we can meet a real one next time we visit New Zealand!?
So, if you find yourself in Te Anau, but you don’t have time to hike along the whole Kepler Track, I highly recommend taking a peek at a Kepler track day hike.
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