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Mt Cook New Zealand - our highest peak.

Mt Cook looking over Lake Pukaki image courtesy

Mt Cook New Zealand is a stunning place and is a "must see" if you are visiting the South Island.

At 3,754 metres (12,316 feet) Mt Cook New Zealand is part of the Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, and is one of more than 140 peaks in the park that stand more than 2,000 metres high. These peaks form part of the Southern Alps which run the length of the South Island.

Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, along with Westland National Park, Fiordland National Park New Zealand and Mt Aspiring National Park, form an area recognised as a World Heritage Site.

Mt Cook courtesy Miles Holden

Consisting of three peaks, Mt Cook New Zealand is popular with climbers, the most notable being Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach the summit of Mt Everest.

Tasman Glacier lies to the east of Mt Cook and Hooker Glacier to the west.

But you don't need to be a mountaineer to see Mt Cook New Zealand. Whilst the mountain itself is not easily accessible, amazing views can be had from Mt Cook Village (12 kilometres from Mt Cook), and from numerous vantage points across Lake Pukaki. You can read about our last trip to Mt Cook in our New Zealand Travel Journal).

In our extensive travels around New Zealand, we have seen some spectacular sights, but Mt Cook ranks up there with the best.

Getting There

Mt Cook New Zealand is roughly 4 hours drive from Christchurch , and around 3.5 hours drive from Queenstown .

The road into Mt Cook village is known as State Highway 80, and has to be one of the most stunning drives on earth. The road runs close to the shores of Lake Pukaki, whose turquoise waters seem almost "unreal" in colour.

As you make your way along State Highway 80 you will find several places to pull over and take photos.


Nearby Twizel (around 45 minutes drive) has a range of accommodation available including hotels and backpacker lodges.

Mt Cook The Hermitage External

Your accommodation choices in Mt Cook Village include a first class hotel (the Hermitage), a lodge (Aoeraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge), and the YHA backpacker lodge.

The Hermitage Hotel provides accommodation in a variety of room types. You can choose from first class hotel rooms, family suites, and chalets.

They also have several excellent restaurants, cafes and bars (we can highly recommend the evening smorgasboard!), and stunning, stunning views of Mt Cook. And they can even pack you a picnic lunch!

One of our fondest memories of our stay at the Hermitage is of sitting in the Snowline Lounge, looking through the floor to ceiling windows, watching the landscape change as the village was hit by a heavy snow storm. Over a couple of hours, Mt Cook slipped in and out of sight, and eventually the storm cleared, and the sun lit up the peak of Mt Cook.

Mt Cook The Hermitage From Dining Room

During our stay we had a room on the seventh floor of the tower. The room was clean and modern, reasonably spacious, and had amazing views of Mt Cook. When they designed the Hermitage they made sure that there were plenty of spots to take photos - the elevator has glass walls and on each floor of the tower there are small observation decks. I found it difficult to turn my camera off!

We would gladly stay at the Hermitage again.

Another excellent option is the Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge. Opened in September 2005, the Alpine Lodge caters for the budget conscious traveller, and offers a range of room types. Guests can choose from twin, double, family and bunk rooms, and there are even two fully self contained suites with kitchenettes.

A fully equipped kitchen, dining and lounge area allows guests to self-cater.

And of course guests can enjoy wonderful mountain views from the Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge.

Mt Cook Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge
Mt Cook YHA

Backpackers are well catered for with a YHA lodge. This Qualmark Four Star+ lodge has received favourable reviews, has it's own kitchen and BBQ area, and linen is included in the tariff.

There are also 24 hot showers, a lounge and games room, and internet access.

You can check prices, read reviews and book your stay at the YHA Mount Cook Village right here.

Around 20 kilometres before Mt Cook Village you will pass through Glentanner, a small settlement which contains a campground (with powered campervan and tent sites), a range of cabins, and also backpacker accommodation.

The Glentanner Park Centre also has an airstrip, licensed cafe / restaurant, and a gift shop. And it's the base for a range of activities like helicopter flights and snow landings , scenic flights, horse treks, and glacier treks and walks. It would be a great base from which to explore the Mt Cook New Zealand region.

A little further from Mt Cook Village, you can find a wide range of accommodation at the stunning lakeside village of Lake Tekapo (around 1.5 hours drive). Click on the following link to view a full range of Lake Tekapo accommodation.

Things To Do

You will never be lost for things to do at Mt Cook.

The Hermitage Hotel complex also includes the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, a 3D theatre and planetarium.

Mt Cook Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Image courtesy The Hermitage

The 3D theatre screens an entertaining "Mount Cook Magic" 15 minute feature detailing the legend behind Aoraki Mt Cook. Well worth seeing.

The planetarium has a variety of presentations and all are interesting and informative.

The Museum and Hillary Gallery chronicles the history of the Mt Cook region, and gives a great understanding of the struggles that confronted the pioneers of the region. Sir Edmund Hillary has a strong connection to Mt Cook and the museum also details his affiliation with the region.

Mt Cook Glacier Explorers Image Courtesy Glacier Explorers

The Glacier Explorers tour takes you on a boat across the terminal lake of New Zealand's largest glacier, the Tasman Glacier. See icebergs and stunning ice formations on this amazing trip, which is the only one of its kind in New Zealand, and one of only three in the world. This tour operates seasonally from Mid August to late May.

Another thrilling Mt Cook New Zealand experience is the Tasman Valley 4WD and Argo tour, which explores the area near the Tasman Glacier in unique 8 wheel "Argo" vehicles.

More information on the Glacier Explorers and Argo tours can be found on the Hermitage website.

The Old Mountaineers Cafe Bar and Restaurant, is the ideal place to sit and relax, taking in the stunning views. Specializing in organic produce, they have a great range of food, and a range of historic photos of the area. They also proudly boast that they are the only business in the village officially opened by Sir Edmund Hillary.

The region has a wide range of walks and treks, ranging from easy 30 minute walks, to the demanding three day Ball Pass Crossing .

Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC), and their excellent website has some great information about the park, particularly in relation to walks and mountaineering within the park. DOC also have an information centre in Mt Cook Village with a full range of displays and information on the region.

Have a look at their website for more information on Mt Cook New Zealand.


Mt Cook New Zealand is a must see on your New Zealand trip. Unrivalled scenery, crisp, clear air, and a great range of amazing activities will ensure an experience that you will never forget. It's one of our favourite New Zealand destinations.

Tim and I at Lake Pukaki way back in 1999
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