Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park is a national park dominated by New Zealand's two highest mountains, Aoraki / Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Several other high peaks of the South Island's Southern Alps are nearby. The park is part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage site.
Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park was established in 1953 and today covers 707 square kilometres. The park is home to 22 of New Zealand's 23 named peaks over 3,000 metres high (Mount Aspiring / Tititea is the 23rd).
The park is renowned for its natural environment. "Take only pictures and leave only footprints" is a good rule to follow.
Visitor information centre
- 1 Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park Visitor Centre, 1 Larch Grove, Canterbury, ☏ . 8:30AM–5PM.
Situated in the centre of the Southern Alps, Aoraki / Mt Cook Village is near the popular tourist spots of Lake Tekapo, Omarama, Twizel and is a 3 or 4 hour drive from Queenstown and Christchurch. From Twizel there is an all-weather sealed road to Mount Cook Village. Glentanner Park Centre is located 15 mins drive from Mt Cook Village on the main road into Mt Cook.
Fees and permits
Walking is a popular way to get around the park. There are a number of formed tracks and recognised walking routes.
For those who want to see or ski the mountains, there are light aircraft and helicopters that can get you to places in minutes that would otherwise take hours or days of walking.
These are high mountains, so close up that it will put a crick in the back of your neck.
Air Safaris provide scenic flightseeing tours flying from both Glentanner Park and Lake Tekapo. The Grand Traverse scenic flight from here offers the big picture with an exciting and comprehensive aerial sightseeing tour of all the major mountains and glaciers in both the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and the Westland National Park.
- 1 Tasman Lake and Glacier (Haupapa / Tasman Glacier), Tasman Valley Rd. New Zealand's longest glacier with a length of 23.5 km (14.6 mi). Unfortunately, climate change has meant that the glacier has since been retreating and several crevasses have been exposed. The easiest way to view the glacier is via the 650-metre walk to Tasman Glacier Viewpoint from the car park – if you look north-east, the glacier is visible, though it may not be the nicest looking one. The confluence between the Tasman River and Lake are also a popular photo spot – turn right just before the Blue Lakes and continue for 1 km.
- 2 Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, 89 Terrace Rd (inside The Hermitage Hotel), ☏ . Daily 8:30AM–8PM. A small museum in The Hermitage Hotel focusing on the region's aviation history in addition to the climbing history of Aoraki / Mt Cook – it also features a planetarium and 3D movie theatre. Adult: $25; child: $15.
- Glacier Sea Kayaking, ☏ . A once-in-a-lifetime experience! Go kayaking on Mueller Lake with stunning views of Aoraki / Mt Cook and the Mueller Glacier. $120-$133 pp.
- Skiing. Options include day skiing on the Tasman Glacier with Mount Cook Ski Planes and Alpine Guides, or heliskiing in the Ben Ohau and Liebig Ranges, or ski touring based at high alpine huts. See  and .
- Mountaineering. Options range from introductory climbing courses to guided ascents of Mount Cook.
Aoraki / Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. There are a number of glaciers, including the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest. Experience the glacier boat trips on the terminal lakes where you can get close to the only icebergs in the south Pacific, explore some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand on a unique glacier sea kayaking adventure, one of the sub-alpine experiences to try.
For a bird’s eye view take a scenic flight over the Southern Alps to the West Coast and some planes will even land you on top of the Tasman Glacier.
There are climbing courses and stargazing tours which can also available at Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.
Walking and tramping
Aoraki / Mount Cook Village is surrounded by beautiful nature walks for all abilities. For options refer to Department of Conservation website.
For tramping, options include an excursion to Mueller Hut (refer to Department of Conservation website above) and the Ball Pass Trek. For the Ball Pass crossing you need mountaineering experience, crampons and ice-axe, or go with a guide. For the guided option see  or phone ☏ .
One of the most popular tracks is the Hooker Valley Track, starting from the White Horse Hill Campground area 5 km north to Hooker Lake (directly facing Mt Cook). The track also features three swing bridges and excellent views of Lake Müller along the way. Allow 3 hours including return.
- Old Mountaineers Cafe, Bar and Restaurant (next to the DOC Visitor Information Centre). 11AM till late.
- 1 Glentanner Park Centre (on the main road into Mount Cook approx 15 mins drive from Mt Cook Village), ☏ , [email protected]. The cafe/restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch all year round with evening dining in summer. dorm from $40.
- The Hermitage.
- There are huts in the mountains, be prepared to climb to reach them.
- Camping out is permitted in some parts of the park, though you may need to dig a snow cave.
- 1 Glentanner Park Centre, 3388 Mount Cook Road, Glentanner, ☏ , [email protected]. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Offers a high standard of self catering and budget accommodation, backpackers, campervan sites. Sited on the shores of Lake Pukaki only 18km from Mt Cook National Park, superb views of the mountain and excellent access to the National Park. Self contained cabins with kitchen $155 night 1-2 people, basic cabins $95 night 1-2 people, dormitory $27.50 pp linen hire $8 single, $12 double set, power site $18.50 pp, tent site $16.50 pp.
- Mt Cook Lodge & Motels. Dorm bed $45, private rooms available.
- 2 Aoraki Alpine Lodge, 101 Bowen Drive, Aoraki / Mount Cook, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Motel with some views of the breathtaking mountains which are a very unusual sight for Oceania.
Travelling in this mountain area requires preparation and some experience of mountain country.
Even in summer, day-walkers should carry warm clothing and some high-energy food, as the weather in this area can change rapidly.
Tramping and climbing parties should be prepared to stay overnight in the open in an emergency. Intention plans should be lodged with the park rangers. Be aware that weather conditions may delay search and rescue efforts, so parties should be self-sufficient and competent in all aspects of mountaineering. Local advice and guidance should be sought on any proposed activities.
Motorists should keep to the paved roads and not venture onto unsealed roads or 4 wheel drive tracks unless they are sure of their driving abilities and the suitability of their vehicle for the terrain and road surface. Some (notional) roads in this area are so dangerous they are excluded from vehicle insurance policies. In winter, chains should be carried and used when roads are covered in snow.