Nothofagus antarctica typically grows 10–25 m (32–80 ft) tall and has a slender trunk with scaly bark. The leaves are simple and alternate, growing 2-4.5 cm long, and often viscid, with a sweetly scented wax. The leaf color is medium green, turning yellow to orange in the fall. The leaves are broadly ovate to triangular, crinkly, rounded at the tips, irregularly and minutely toothed. The flowers are inconspicuous yellow-green catkins. The fruit is a 6 mm, very fragrant 4-valved capsule containing three small nuts.
N. antarctica has been planted on the North Pacific Coast of the United States and in Great Britain where it thrives. Trees planted in the Faroes, which were imported directly from its southernmost distribution in Tierra del Fuego, have shown good hardiness.