A guide to exploring Mount Cook
Up until a few months ago, we had never actually visited the Mount Cook region. We always tend to visit and stay in Lake Tekapo, so it was great to finally venture that little bit further and make it out to the Mount Cook Village.
We were thrilled to finally be visiting the Mackenzie Region in autumn – the roads were lined with glowing golden trees, which contrasted magnificently against the turquoise water of the lakes. The entire journey was incredibly scenic, which made time pass quite quickly – before we knew it we were driving along the final leg trip, beside Lake Pukaki.
Located in the centre of New Zealand’s South Island, the region is named after the highest peak in the country. Standing 3,724m tall, the village directly looks out to the majestic mountain. While the weather can change a dozen times in a day, it is truly a wonderful sight to look out to Mount Cook on a blue-sky day.
We have put together a guide to spending a weekend in Mount Cook, which we hope will help you plan your adventures in the region to ensure you make the most of your time there.
Where to stay Budget: YHA Aoraki / Mount Cook
Spoil: The Hermitage Hotel
A stay at The Hermitage had been on our wishlist for a while so we thought we'd treat ourselves with a luxury weekend away. The highlight had to be the room windows opening up to cinematic views of Mount Cook. Read more on our stay at The Hermitage in our other blog.
What to do
Tasman Valley Walk – offering spectacular views over Tasman Lake and mighty glacier.
This is a short up-hill walk to a magnificent viewpoint looking out over the opaque water of the Tasman Lake. Formed by the retreat of the Tasman Glacier, what began as small ponds soon turned into an entire lake. The Tasman Glacier is the longest in the Southern Hemisphere reaching up to 29km in length. From time to time icebergs will break off from the glacier and float across the lake. You can see one floating in the picture below.
On the way back down there is a path that will take you to the Blue Pools, although as you will see, they might need to be renamed to the Green Pools.
There is another easy trail nearby which leads to the lake jetty. This took a bit longer but was a great reward being able to get closer to the gigantic icebergs and lake.
Hooker Valley Track – allow 4 hours return, the photo opportunities are endless
This track is such a gem, taking you right through the Hooker Valley and rewarding you with a brilliant outlook of Mount Cook. It is a mostly flat walk, with some spectacular swing bridges to be crossed along the way.
There are a few sights that really stood out as highlights of our walk - the Mueller Lake, the iconic alpine hut and the boardwalks crossing the tussock covered plains.
It was such a magic feeling being among the mountains and looking up to the powerful glaciers clinging to the peaks. We will return to this place again and again.
Scenic Helicopter Flight with an alpine landing
We flew from Glentanner over the striking Lake Pukaki, braided rivers and ancient glaciers. The panoramic views were incredible and we couldn't help but pinch ourselves as we realised how lucky we were to be experiencing the mountains in this beautiful way. We flew alongside rugged mountain peaks before landing on the snow at a viewpoint that looked out over the mighty Murchison Glacier. We spent a decent amount of time on the snow, chatting to our pilot and taking in the inspiring views surrounding us.
On the flight back to Glentanner, we flew beside Mount Cook and the breathtaking Hofstetten Glacier before hovering back above Lake Pukaki and landing at The Helicopter Line base.
Heli-Hike the Tasman Glacier
Cruise around on the Tasman Lake to get an up close and personal perspective of these icebergs that have broken off the ancient Tasman Glacier.
Where to eat
Tasman Delta Café for breakfast or lunch (Glentanner) Chamois Bar & Grill for dinner (Mount Cook Village)
How to get there
Approx. 4 hours’ drive from Christchurch
Approx. 3 hours’ drive from Queenstown