Tissue morphogenesis involves both the sculpting of tissue shape and the positioning of tissues relative to one another in the body. Using the renal tubules of Drosophila, we show that a specific distal tubule cell regulates both tissue architecture and position in the body cavity. Focusing on the anterior tubules, we demonstrate that tip cells make transient contacts with alary muscles at abdominal segment boundaries, moving progressively forward as convergent extension movements lengthen the tubule. Tip cell anchorage antagonizes forward-directed, TGF-β-guided tubule elongation, thereby ensuring the looped morphology characteristic of renal tubules from worms to humans. Distinctive tip cell exploratory behavior, adhesion, and basement membrane clearing underlie target recognition and dynamic interactions. Defects in these features obliterate tip cell anchorage, producing misshapen and misplaced tubules with impaired physiological function.