Situated near the town of Twizel within the heart of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park lies Mount Cook Village. And it’s a place you simply must drive to if you’re ever in the South Island of New Zealand.
Why? Well, the rugged landscape of ice and rock kind of speaks for itself.
In addition to 19 peaks and a stunning alpine environment, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park features the country’s highest mountain. (Yes, that’s right – you guessed it – Mount Cook.)
From hiking to gawking at the breathtaking views, there are several Mount Cook activities you can do during your time in the National Park. And the best thing about them is that there all pretty close together, so you can tick them off your list within 24 hours!
1. Take THAT Mount Cook Photo
Mount Cook activities 101: you can’t head to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park without taking THAT photo on the road to Mount Cook Village.
Sure, it’s touristy and overdone AF, but you can’t deny the power of the shot. After all, the way that the road and hills on either side perfectly frame the peak is photography goals.
Pro tip: You can find this exact spot 10km outside of Mount Cook Village on Mount Cook Road. It’s after you’ve passed Lake Pukaki on the right, but before you reach the airport.
2. The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View Walk
Let’s be honest, you go to Mount Cook Village for the scenery more than anything else. Hence, it’s all about the hiking.
If you’re only in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park for less than 24 hours, you might want to consider taking a short scenic flight to cover the highlights (such as Mount Cook itself, Tasman Lake, the Tasman Glacier, The Divide, Franz Josef Glacier, and Fox Glacier).
However, if you have the time, please do the walks. They’re incredible.
Start with the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View. It’s 40 minutes return on a gradual incline with rock steps – but the surroundings when you get to the top are out of this world.
3. The Tasman Valley Walk
Another unbelievable hike, the walk to the Tasman Glacier Lake might take one hour but the gradient is flat so you can do it quite leisurely. Once you get there, you’ll be amazed by the icebergs casually floating in the lake.
How did this happen, you ask? Well, the lake sits at the bottom of the Tasman Glacier where the icebergs fall off intermittently. You know, just casually.
Pro tip: During summer (early September to late May), you can even kayak or take a boat trip across the lake so you can get up close and personal with the glacier.
Pretty cool, right?
4. The Hooker Valley Track
One of the most popular Mount Cook activities within the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, the Hooker Valley Track is 5km in length and gains about 100m in height.
The track takes three hours from start to finish and leads up the Hooker Valley and along the Hooker River. It then finishes up at the glacier lake where you will find the best views of Mount Cook up close.
Unfortunately, we only made it to the first swing bridge when we were there at the beginning of May. This is because the track was closed from that point onwards due to flood damage. Sob.
Even if this is the case for you too, you should still walk along as much of the track as you possibly can. The environment is seriously Instagrammable.
5. Have Drinks at The Hermitage Hotel
Finally, after doing all the Mount Cook activities that involve walking (which is most of them, let’s face it), it’s great to kick back with a good beverage at The Hermitage Hotel.
Four-star Mount Cook accommodation that’s a five-minute walk from the Visitor Centre, The Hermitage’s fancy Snowline Lounge has floor to ceiling views of the peak.
Pro tip: Happy Hour starts at 4pm if you want to save some pennies.
Relax in plush seating and watch the sun go down over the mountains as you reflect on a day to remember.
Lake Tekapo and The Church of the Good Shepherd
If you’ve done all the Mount Cook activities you wanted to do and you still have a bit of time to spare before you move onto the next place, may I recommend driving the one hour and 15 minutes east to Lake Tekapo.
A small town located at the southern end of the lake of the same name, Lake Tekapo has some spectacular sights – particularly from the Church of the Good Shepherd.
I mean, if this charming, small stone church on the edge of the lake doesn’t take your breath away with its mountain backdrop, then are you even human? It’s truly not to be missed if you can help it.
Mount Cook Activities For All Fitness Levels
Even if you’re not much of a hiker (me a few months ago), you can still enjoy Mount Cook’s beauty by doing some of the shorter walks.
Either way, there’s a reason why fellow travellers rave about Mount Cook. Whether you choose to stay for more than one day or do a whistle-stop tour, why don’t you go see for yourself what all the fuss is about?
I guarantee that you won’t regret it.
Have you ever been to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park? Which Mount Cook activities have you done or would you do?
Katie Davies is the Yorkshire-based freelance writer who founded Trendy Tourist. Since 2017, she has written for over 100 companies on a range of subjects, from fashion to marketing. When she’s not producing content, you can find her shopping, exploring a new place or sitting somewhere having a cup of builder’s tea.