Best things to do in Mount Cook National Park

There are so many magical things to do in Mount Cook National Park that it will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of any trip around New Zealand’s beautiful South Island. Here, the Southern Alps reach their most magnificent peaks, centring around Aoraki Mount Cook itself, which towers over the national park at 3724m tall. 

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From the highest point of New Zealand to the reflective lakes, many unexpected sights are found along the mountainous slopes. It’s no wonder the park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with over 140 peaks at over 2000m high and an incredible 72 glaciers. The two most prominent glaciers are Hooker Glacier and Tasman Glacier, which most visitors will be able to see during their visit. The park is 722 square kilometres, 40% of which is glaciers, so expect unique scenery unseen in many other mountainous regions!

Despite the otherworldly scenery, Aoraki Mount Cook is very accessible to visitors! Centring around Mount Cook Village, there are several friendly hotels, motels, and campsites, alongside cafes and restaurants, handily located just moments away from Aoraki’s best attractions! 

things to do in Mount Cook National Park
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The stunning landscape in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

While world-famous kiwi Sir Edmund Hillary used the site to prepare for his treacherous adventure as the first man to climb Everest, no hardcore adventuring is necessary to see the park’s top sights (unless you want to). From the easy Hooker Valley track taking you to a breathtaking sight of Mount Cook itself to leisurely walks up to glacier viewpoints, it really is a beautiful place.

Gosh, even just driving up to Mount Cook is stunning! Mount Cook village lies at the top of Mount Cook Road, a scenic drive that skirts around the dazzling blue waters of Lake Pukaki. If you just had one day to enjoy New Zealand’s absolute best natural attractions, this would be the place to come! And whether it’s your first visit to Aoraki or you just can’t resist returning, Mount Cook always finds new ways to take your breath away. 

Best things to do in Mount Cook National Park Aoraki

HIKING THE HOOKER VALLEY TRACK

Undoubtedly one of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Hooker Valley track is a must-do in Mount Cook National Park. 

The track is beloved for a reason and was one of my two favourite hikes while living in New Zealand, with the other being Tongariro Alpine Crossing on the North Island. If Tongariro was like exploring Mordor, walking the Hooker Valley track in Winter was like stepping into Narnia.

The Hooker Valley track is a 10km return walk – that’s 5km each way. Don’t be daunted by the length if you’re not an experienced hiker; the track is known as one of the best hikes worldwide for ‘best returns for little effort.’ By that, I mean for a relatively easy walk, you get absolutely insane views! I’ve done much more strenuous hikes in which the sights were nowhere near as good as these! In fact, there is only around 100m of elevation

The hike begins at the White Horse Hill DOC campsite. From here, follow the signs to begin your journey through Mount Cook Hooker Valley.

Highlights of the Hooker Valley track:

Here are some of the best views and things to look out for during your hike!

THREE MAGICAL SUSPENSION BRIDGES

Crossing the suspension bridges was so much fun! The first swing bridge has stunning views of Mueller Lake and Mount Sefton on the left-hand side. You can also look out for Mueller Glacier in the distance!

Next, the path winds around the valley till you reach the second bridge. This time, it crosses over the Hooker River, and I loved the sound of the water gurgling away amid the endless mountain scenery. Reaching the third bridge is a treat because you know you’re nearly at Hooker Lake – the best view of Mount Cook!

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Hiking over the suspension bridge on the Hooker Valley Track
THE BOARDWALK

The boardwalk through the valley is definitely a highlight of the walk! With mountains towering overside you, it is not a sight you’ll forget in a hurry. The flat, well-maintained boardwalk is so easy to walk on, so it’s the perfect spot to enjoy the scenery.

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The Boardwalk to Hooker Lake – hoping the fog will clear up by the time we reach the end of the hike!
HOOKER LAKE AND MOUNT COOK

This reflective lake gives you not only one but two views of the incredible Mount Cook as it reflects on the water below! The icebergs floating on the lake’s surface make it unlike any mountain view many of us have ever seen.

When I visited in Winter, the lake was entirely frozen over! I can’t begin to tell you how taken aback I was – genuinely stunning stuff. 

The lake is fed by glaciers, which actually formed the lake after receding over many centuries. Look out for Hooker Glacier sitting below Mount Cook! Despite much of it disappearing over time, it still stands at 11km long. It’s hard to disagree that this is one of the most beautiful places on the South Island. I am sure you’ll adore this walk as much as I did!

Start and end point: White Horse Hill Campsite, 227 Hooker Valley Road, Mt Cook National Park 7999, New Zealand

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Hooker Lake – frozen over in Winter

TASMAN GLACIER VIEWPOINT

The Tasman Glacier is the longest in New Zealand, reaching 23km! So if you’ve never seen a glacier before, don’t miss the Tasman Glacier viewpoint! And even if you have, the memorable views will still wow you. It’s one of the best glaciers to see in New Zealand, alongside the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers on the West Coast.

The Tasman Glacier walk is just a 2.6km return! So if you’re looking for the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park if you’re short on time, this is an excellent add-on to the Hooker Valley Track. It’s mostly straightforward, though there are 100 steps up to the viewpoint itself.

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The Tasman Glacier viewpoint – I enjoyed reading the information boards, which described precisely how far the glaciers have receded over the years. You really understand the importance of conservation and sustainable travel when visiting places like this.
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Tasman Glacier, which you can see on the opposite side of Tasman Lake from the viewpoint

In sheer contrast to the Summer months, when I have seen photos of people kayaking on the Tasman Lake, in Winter, the lake was completely frozen over, with icebergs dominating the water.

For a longer walk, continue along the track along the Blue Lakes Loop Track to get up close to the three small Blue Lakes and next to Tasman Lake itself.

Address: Tasman Glacier Car Park, Tasman Valley Road, Mount Cook National Park 7999, New Zealand

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Sunrise at the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint (more photos of this hike at the bottom of this blog post!)

More hikes in Mount Cook National Park:

GLENCOE WALK

Highlights of the Glencoe Walk: Visit at sunset for a beautiful view above Mount Cook Village and Mount Cook beyond. 

Distance: This short 30-minute walk is perfect for families. 

Difficulty: Easy – 40m height gain. 

Starting point: behind the Hermitage Hotel

KEA POINT TRACK

Highlights of the Kea Point Track: Views of the Hooker Valley and Mount Cook, alongside Mount Sefton and Mueller Glacier Lake. The Kea Point viewpoint has expansive views across the valley.

Distance: 3km, 1-hour return

Difficulty: Easy – gravel path with only 100m elevation gain

Starting point: White Horse Hill Campground

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Kea Point Track
MUELLER HUT ROUTE 

Highlights of the Mueller Hut Route: With so many mentions of the Mueller Lake, this is your chance to see it up close. Continuing on from the Kea Point Track above, this path focuses on the Mueller Range, which the track zigzags below. The best view is an 1800m viewpoint with 360 views across glaciers, ice cliffs, and the fantastic mountains beyond.

Distance: 5.2km one way (10.4km total). Give yourself 4 hours each way to complete the hike. 

Difficulty: Difficult – expect rock scrambles and steep climbs. Don’t venture off the track. This track is for experienced hikers.

Starting point: White Horse Hill Campground

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Mueller Hut Route
GOVERNORS BUSH WALK

Highlights of the Governors Bush Walk: Escape the expansive valley for this forested pathway. It leads to beautiful views above the valley towards the mountains.

Distance: 1.5km loop walk, 45-60 minutes

Difficulty: Easy – gravel path with 100m height gain

Starting point: Public Shelter on Bowen Drive, in Mt Cook Village

SEALY TARNS TRACK

Highlights of the Sealy Tarns Track: 2200 steps pay off with views over the Sealy Tarns freshwater lakes. More amazing views from the tarns over Hooker Valley and the country’s tallest peaks. 

Distance: 3-4 hours 

Difficulty: Fairly difficult – expect steep pathways with a height gain of 600m.

Starting point: This track also branches off Kea Point. 

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Sealy Tarns Track
RED TARNS TRACK

Highlights of the Red Tarns Track: Continue on from the Governors Bush Walk above – expect amazing views over Mount Cook National Park, which will be well-earned after a tough climb up dozens of steps. The tarns are small mountain lakes so expect magnificent reflective mountain views in good weather!

Distance: 4.6km return

Difficulty: Moderate – there is a 370m climb

Starting point: Public Shelter on Bowen Drive, in Mt Cook Village

Before you go hiking in Mt Cook National Park:

Note: Conditions are variable on longer hikes in Mount Cook National Park. Check what you need in advance – especially in Winter, when icy tracks may require ice axes and crampons. There can also be an avalanche risk.

Check with the Aoraki/Mount Cook visitor centre, and don’t take on anything beyond your experience level – to keep yourself and the local emergency services safe!

You can also check information online on the DOC website.

Aoraki Mount Cook Visitor Centre contact details are as follows: 

Phone number: +64 3 435 1186
Email: mtcookvc@doc.govt.nz
Address: 1 Larch Grove, Aoraki Mount Cook Village

Visitor Centre Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm in October to April, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm in May to September

Remember to take a reusable water bottle, layered clothing, and comfortable shoes. Since I hiked for sunset, I made sure I had a head torch with me to see the track on the return trail.

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Hiking the Hooker Valley track at sunset, returning in the dark

STOP AT PETER’S LOOKOUT ON MOUNT COOK ROAD

The road up to Mount Cook is home to one of the most photo spots in Mount Cook National Park! It’s easy to find, as there’s a small car park at the side of the road, and it’s marked on Google Maps as Peter’s Lookout. 

With Mount Cook standing over the winding road, with Lake Pukaki dazzling on the righthand side, I understand the hype! Since the lookout is directly on the side of the road and no walking is required, it’s definitely worth stopping on your way into the village.

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The view of Mount Cook on the other side of Lake Pukaki, from Peter’s Lookout on Mount Cook Road

And explore Lake Pukaki itself

Bright blue due to rock particles from the glaciers that feed the lake, the colour is pretty starling when in the sun. Surrounded by mountains, the sight is unforgettable.

The lake is best explored by cycling along the Alps2Ocean mountain bike trail or the 3.7km easy return Pukaki Kettle Hole Track. Both skirt around the side of the lake, offering panoramic views over Mount Tasman, Aoraki, and Lake Pukaki itself. 

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The road to Mount Cook, winding around the beautiful Lake Pukaki

VISIT THE SIR EDMUND HILLARY ALPINE CENTRE

Based in the Hermitage Hotel, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre will leave you feeling inspired and ready for adventure!

Alongside paying tribute to the famous explorer, the centre also highlights fascinating information about the national park and the region beyond. The innovative museum features more than just informational exhibits – expect a 3-D movie and the world’s Southernmost dome planetarium.

Price: $20 for adults, $10 for children

Address: Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, Canterbury 7999, New Zealand

Opening Hours: 9am – 7pm daily in Winter, 7am – 8:30pm daily in Summar

STARGAZING AT THE AORAKI MT COOK INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY RESERVE

If you’re looking for things to do at night, this is the perfect destination for stargazing or astrophotography. Mount Cook is the perfect spot to enjoy the night sky, with barely any light pollution from the village.

The night sky reserve at Mount Cook is the second largest in the world, stretching 4267 square kilometres. It’s also rated as a gold-tier dark sky reserve, which is the highest possible rating.

You don’t need to join a tour – just look up from the village or your campsite. 

That said, for a more immersive and guided experience to make the most of this special reserve, you can book a Big Sky Stargazing experience with Hermitage Hotel. The 60-90-minute experience is guided by resident astronomy experts who will show you the night sky through high-powered telescopes. After being shuttled to their base, hot chocolate and sweet treats are handed out before you step into the cold to enjoy the night sky. 

You’ll get the best views when there is no moon, as the effect of the moon glowing can still wash out the stars. And, of course, this is cloud-dependent too!

Tickets for Big Sky Stargazing: $109 for adults and $45 for children

Address: Tour begins at Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park 89 Terrace Road, Canterbury 7999, New Zealand

Opening Hours: Seasonal operating hours (depending on sunset times). Tour begins at 7:30 pm at the time of writing. 

SEE MOUNT COOK FROM THE AIR

This has to be among the most exciting things to do in Mount Cook National Park! A Mount Cook scenic flight has to be one of the most magical experiences you could have in New Zealand. While this might not be an accessible activity for budget travellers, if you can save up to splurge on one thing during your South Island holiday, this would be a great choice.

There are a few different scenic flights available so that you can find the perfect option for you, depending on your needs.

Best scenic flight tours in Mount Cook National Cook:

All the below tours offer free cancellation and a small group tour with a guide. Advance booking is recommended as these experiences are likely to sell out. 

Mount Cook Scenic Helicopter Flight with Alpine Landing

Highlights: A 25-minute helicopter flight up the Tasman Valley, past Mount Cook, and over the icebergs of Tasman Lake so you can get up close to the Tasman Glacier. This tour includes an alpine landing where you’ll face directly towards Aoraki Mount Cook. 

Rating: 4.9 out of 5

Book Scenic Helicopter Flights with Alpine Landing

Mount Cook and The Glaciers Helicopter Flight

Highlights: This 50-minute tour gives you incredible views over Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and multiple glaciers! You’ll pass by not only the Tasman Glacier but also across to the West Coast for views over the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. Like above, this tour includes an alpine landing where you can walk around in the snow before climbing back into the aircraft.

Rating: 4.9 out of 5

Book Mount Cook and The Glaciers Helicopter Flight

Mount Cook Ski Plane, Glacier Landing, and Helicopter Alpine Combo Flight

Highlights: Take things up a notch with this 45-minute world-exclusive flight. Fly over Tasman Valley and lake, and see the Hochstetter Icefall and amazing Aoraki. Next, this tour lands on the upper snowfields of the iconic Tasman Glacier, where you can explore the snowy alpine environment. You’ll swap aircraft, return via the Grand Plateau, and see the entire length of the Tasman Glacier. 

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Book Ski Plane, Glacier Landing and Helicopter Alpine Combo Flight

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Just imagine soaring past these mountain peaks from the air!
Mount Cook 3-hour Heli Hike to the Tasman Glacier

Highlights: This is the best tour if you want a longer time actually out of the plane walking upon the alpine scenery, as after landing on the Tasman Glacier, you actually get to hike on it!

You’ll get given glacier boots and crampons and an experienced guide who will lead you on a 2-hour adventure.

Glacier hiking upon the icy terrain will take you beneath the shadow of the Southern Alps, including Mount Aoraki and Mount Tasman. The scenic return flight will take you past Tasman valley, ice formations, and the 1000m-high Hochstetter Icefall. 

Book Mount Cook 3-hour Heli Hike to the Tasman Glacier

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Get up close to the Tasman Glacier on a heli hike and tread on the icy glacial path

SKYDIVE IN MOUNT COOK!

Did you know you can skydive in Mount Cook?! If you’re after an adrenaline rush, there must be no better place to skydive on the South Island than with scenic views over Lake Pukaki and the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps.

If you’ve come to New Zealand for the thrill-seeking experiences in nearby Queenstown, this is the Mount Cook tour for you. And arguably one of the most unique and fun activities!

Skydiving tours last two hours, and there are a few options to choose from depending on just how high you’re prepared to jump from! 

Skydiving from 9000 feet with 20+ seconds of freefall

Skydiving from 13000 feet with 45+ seconds of freefall

Skydiving from 15000 feet with 60+ seconds of freefall

The staff at Skydive Mount Cook are noted for being super friendly (and excellent with any nervous travellers). An essential assessment if you’ll be strapped to them while you jump out of a plane – have fun!

Best places to visit near Mount Cook:

TEKAPO

Lake Tekapo is just a one-hour drive from Mount Cook. With its own spectacular lake and alpine scenery, Tekapo is the perfect destination to combine with Mount Cook. 

While you’re there, don’t miss the Church of the Good Shepherd, walking along the shores of Lake Tekapo and stargazing at Tekapo Hot Springs!

TWIZEL

Just a 20-minute drive away, Twizel is the nearest town to Mt Cook National Park. There are some fantastic things to do in the area. From meandering around Twizel Walkway to enjoying beautiful views at the stunning Lake Ohau, the town is home to more of the McKenzie region’s stunning scenery.

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, don’t miss one of the lesser-known Lord of the Rings locations in Otago! Check my blog post for directions to ‘Pelennor Fields’ – otherwise known as the spot in The Return of the King where Eowyn takes off her helmet, reveals her true self, and delivers the iconic line ‘I am no man!’

OMARAMA

Omarama is an excellent location between Mt Cook and Wanaka that definitely deserves a stop! It’s just a one-hour drive from Mt Cook. 

Omarama is the perfect spot to unwind at the stunning Omarama hot tubs. For a completely different kind of natural spectacle, go sightseeing at the Omarama Clay Cliffs. These insane rock formations look like a different country, making it a unique and impressive attraction.

From Omarama, continue South to Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy, or alternatively, head East to explore Dunedin and The Catlins.

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Omarama Clay Cliffs

Tips for visiting Mount Cook Village in Winter

When I visited in August, there was snow underfoot and some crazy storms! We even got stuck in Glentanner campsite an extra day when a mudslide completely blocked off the road. So while Winter might just be the most beautiful time of year to visit Mount Cook, here are a few things to bare in mind.

  • Have proper hiking boots that you’re comfortable wearing and have a good grip
  • Don’t hike in bad weather or when there’s an avalanche risk (any risks will be noted at the start of any trails). If you’re unsure, check at the Mount Cook visitor centre before starting any trails.
  • Warm clothes are a must! Thermal layering is my favourite clothing system for winter.
  • Even the easy tracks are a whole different beast in the snow! When I hiked the Hooker Valley Track, it was icy underfoot and was likely much trickier than any other time of year. It was very slippery, and I had to take my time in any places I was unsure.
  • You might not need them, but make sure you have snow chains if driving around the Southern Alps regions in Winter. And learn how to fit them first, just in case you do.
  • Don’t forget your camera! When covered in snow, Mount Cook National Park is absolutely mesmerising. 

Where to stay in Mt Cook National Park

WHITE HORSE HILL CAMPSITE

This is the place to be if you’re camping or road-tripping in a caravan or campervan! It’s a DOC campsite, so book online in advance if you have a DOC Campsite Pass.

Facilities are limited to toilets, and the nearest hot showers and running water are available for free in Mt Cook Village, about 2.5 km away. No other onsite facilities.

This campsite is the beginning point for many hikes, including the Hooker Valley Track! So it’s perfect for being close to activities. Since I did the track for sunset, it was great to be so close to the van after arriving back in the dark. The views from here are excellent, too – even at night!

Book White Horse Hill Campground online.

Cost: $15 per adult, $7.50 per child, infants free.

Cost in Summer: (specifically 26th Dec to 8th Feb) $18 per adult, $9 per child, infants free.

Address: White Horse Hill campsite, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park 227 Hooker Valley Road, Canterbury 7999, New Zealand

AORAKI MOUNT COOK ALPINE LODGE

The family-owned Aoraki Mount Cook Mountain Lodge has beautiful rooms overlooking the natural scenery. Double rooms, deluxe studios, and family rooms are all available. 

The lodge is made of natural timber, with a cosy atmosphere designed to offset the very impressive views. Facilities include a guest lounge with a large deck and a fully equipped communal kitchen, 

Address: 101 Bowen Drive, Aoraki / Mount Cook 7946, New Zealand

HERMITAGE HOTEL

The iconic Hermitage Hotel has numerous accommodation options and packages available, with a range of budgets too. The hotel itself has many rooms available with some of the best window views of the national park. It’s the perfect base in the heart of the village, with a beautiful onsite restaurant and cafe.

Alternatively, their Mt Cook Hotels are great if you prefer a self-catering option for your getaway.

Address: Tour begins at Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park 89 Terrace Road, Canterbury 7999, New Zealand

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My friend said Hermitage Hotel looked like something out of a James Bond movie!

Other beautiful accommodations near Mount Cook National Park:

GLENTANNER PARK

I also stayed at Glentanner Park during my stay! This is the best option if you’re looking for a powered site for your caravan or campervan. It’s the only fully equipped park in the area. There are lounge areas, a communal kitchen, a cafe, toilets and hot showers.

The views are amazing, and it’s easy to walk down to the shores of Lake Pukaki from the site! 

Address: 3388 Mount Cook Road, Glentanner 7999, New Zealand

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Glentanner Park
SKYSCAPE

Skyscape is the way to stargaze in style. 

Designed with sheer glass walls, your remote SkyBed is the perfect spot to watch the night sky come to life. Nestled inside the Aoraki International Dark Skies Reserve, you’ll sleep under the stars in an isolated location for your privacy. It looks absolutely magical!

Skyscape includes a sun terrace, hot tub, continental breakfast, and optional evening dinner platter. Located on the Ben Ohau Range, this accommodation is like no other.

Address: 47 Ben Ohau Road, Ben Ohau 7999, New Zealand

Frequently Asked Questions about Mount Cook National Park

WHERE IS MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK?

Mount Cook National Park is in the centre of the South Island’s Southern Alps. Mt Cook is 300 km from Christchurch, 100 km from Lake Tekapo, and 275 miles from Queenstown

Even arriving at Mount Cook village is a remarkable experience, as the road winds alongside Lake Pukaki with the mountains towering ahead!

WHERE IS MOUNT COOK NP’S NEAREST AIRPORT? 

The closest international airports to Mount Cook are Christchurch and Queenstown.

For scenic flights, charter flights, and tourist experiences, there are small airports in Glentanner, Mount Cook, and Lake Pukaki. 

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Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

CAN YOU CLIMB UP MOUNT COOK?

Some people can! The average hiker, or even the average climber, isn’t ready to consider climbing Mt Cook – you need to be a very experienced mountaineer!

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WALK UP MOUNT COOK?

It takes 6 days to climb up Mount Cook on a guided climbing expedition, and you’ll be climbing for 13-18 hours daily. Mt Cook is a technical climb with a vertical height of 1800 – ‘walking up’ is impossible. 

If you do have extensive climbing experience and a high level of experience, you can book the 6-day guided climbing expedition with Queenstown Mountain Guides. It can be very dangerous, but the guides will only choose to climb in the safest conditions and know the safest routes.

As mentioned above, the average person cannot take on this climb.

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Spectacular snowfall from atop of the mountain peaks

WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN MOUNT COOK VILLAGE WHEN IT RAINS?

Mount Cook Village is the best place for visitors to base themselves if staying overnight in the national park due to its proximity to the many hikes that begin from the village. On a rainy day, there are a few short hikes you may be able to enjoy despite a dismal forecast – these include the Governers’ Bush Walk and Glencoe Walk.

In the village itself, you can enjoy the museum, 3-D movies and the dome planetarium at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. You could also enjoy a meal at the Old Mountaineers Cafe or Hermitage Hotel. Both restaurants have fantastic views over the park if the weather clears up.

Nearby, there are several activities to enjoy on a rainy day; you could go for a massage at Lakestone Lodge on the shore of Lake Pukaki. Alternatively, you can head a little further into Twizel town to visit the shops and restaurants.

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Exploring Aoraki Mount Cook National Park on a foggy day after a storm

WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT MOUNT COOK?

After visiting Mount Cook, you will discover for yourself what you find unique about this national park! Undoubtedly, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a very special place.

From the country’s highest mountains and longest glaciers to the wonderful alpine views in between, there’s little doubt in mind that Mount Cook is worth visiting. Another special element of Mount Cook is that it’s part of a night sky reserve – just imagine how beautiful the stars are, twinkling away behind the mountain peaks.

WHAT IS THE NEAREST TOWN TO MOUNT COOK?

The nearest town to Mount Cook is Twizel which is 65 kilometres away.

While most people visiting the national park stay in Mt Cook Village, which is in the heart of the national park itself, please note that the park has limited facilities. See the questions below for more information. 

IS THERE A BANK IN MOUNT COOK VILLAGE?

There is no bank or ATM in Mount Cook Village. The nearest bank is in Twizel, 65 kilometres away. 

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The road to White Horse Hill Campground

IS THERE A SUPERMARKET IN MOUNT COOK VILLAGE?

There isn’t a supermarket in Mount Cook village. You can go to the supermarket in Twizel, which is on the way to the village in either direction. If you choose self-catering accommodation in the village, make sure you stock up on groceries before arriving. 

The supermarkets in Twizel are both Four Squares. If you prefer to buy groceries in a different store, you can visit a major supermarket in Ashburton or Geraldine if travelling from the direction of Tekapo or Christchurch. If travelling from Queenstown, the biggest major supermarket before arriving in Mt Cook will be in Queenstown itself. The cheapest supermarkets in New Zealand are Countdown or Pak n Save. 

If you have already arrived at Mount Cook and need groceries, there is a small selection of essential groceries at the reception of Aoraki Alpine Lodge. This is just for basics, but you can visit one of the restaurants or cafes for a meal if you want more variety.

IS THERE A GAS STATION IN MT COOK VILLAGE?

There is a small self-service gas station in Mt Cook Village – credit card only.

Expect higher petrol prices here than in major cities due to the remote location. It’s best to top up your gas in Twizel or Tekapo before arriving.

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Mount Cook towering over Mount Cook Road

ARE THERE ANY VEGAN RESTAURANTS IN MT COOK VILLAGE?

I visited Mount Cook as a vegan, and I am happy to say that I did find vegan options, although there is no specific vegan restaurant which is to be expected.

Since I was travelling in a campervan, I enjoyed home-cooked meals and meals at restaurants while staying here. At the Hermitage Hotel, there are vegan options for lunch and dinner, such as the vegan platter, which is a good ‘cheaper’ option you can share with your travel companion. The vegan options here were proper, hearty meals, which was appreciated.

The Old Mountaineers Cafe can also veganise options, though check in advance if you can’t see anything on their current menu. 

A note on travelling to Mount Cook with dietary requirements:

I understand the stress of travelling with dietary requirements! Whether you’re halal, have specific allergies, or are vegan, it adds extra research to your day-to-day planning.

That said, if your food doesn’t ‘look’ vegan, please double-check with the chef! In my experience, the servers were not fully clued up on the vegan options. 

This is particularly important if you are gluten-free/celiac or lactose-intolerant, as you don’t want to risk an allergy. This is nothing against the staff at the restaurant, but general advice I offer when you’re travelling outside of major towns and cities.

If you’re especially worried, there are self-catering accommodation options in the village if you don’t have a campervan to cook in. 

New Zealand was still listed as one of the best destinations for vegans to visit – but obviously, in a small place like this, you won’t find the same variety as you would for vegan options in Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch.

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Stunning scenery in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND IN MT COOK?

However long you have! While 2 days would allow you to choose between a couple of the best hikes, you could easily spend longer here, relaxing in the village and enjoying the scenery. 

However, even one day is long enough to spend at Mount Cook if that’s all the time you have to spend. At least you will have a chance to drive the magnificent road alongside Lake Pukaki, marvel at the Hooker Valley track, and enjoy a meal with the absolute best views in the village.

Though, of course, no matter how long you spend in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, you’ll always want to go back and discover more of it!

Conclusion – best things to do in Mount Cook National Park

I hope you’ve found this post helpful, and enjoy your trip to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park! If there’s anything I’ve missed or needs updating, feel free to drop a comment below so we can help future visitors have a fantastic trip to Mount Cook!

Finally, I’ll leave you with a couple more photos of my time exploring this region, and I hope you’re inspired by all the beautiful things to do in Mount Cook National Park Aoraki! I hope you enjoy them!

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Aoraki Mount Cook National Park – for more photos of New Zealand and beyond, you can also find me on Instagram @cassiethehag.
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Sunrise over Tasman Lake from the Tasman Glacier viewpoint
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Hermitage Hotel, the most iconic accommodation in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
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Views from the Tasman Glacier viewpoint when you face in the opposite direction to Tasman Lake
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Hiking away from the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint
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The view from Mount Cook Road, next to Peter’s Lookout

10 Comments

  1. I am so in love with this part of NZ! I totally agree, this was totally the highlight of our Kiwi adventure (although we came in the summer, so the scenery looked quite different.) It looks beautiful in the snow! Our favourite hike was up to Sealy Tarns, and beyond to the Mueller Hut.

    1. It’s crazy how different New Zealand looks depending on the season isn’t it? Mount Cook was transformed in the snow! Sealy Tarns/Mueller Hut looks sooo beautifuL!

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