Things You Can’t Miss in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park!
Mt Cook Village sits in the heart of the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. While small, the village is the start of many adventures to explore New Zealand’s most extreme and most beautiful alpine environment. Mountains, glaciers, lakes, braided rivers, valleys, snow… It’s all here! Question is, how are you going to make the most of your time here? With that in mind, we put together this short list of the absolute Aoraki Mt Cook must-dos!
While there are plenty of walks, 4×4 tours, flights, lake experiences and more to be had in Mt Cook – just take a look at The Complete Guide to Mt Cook – we realise that you just can’t do everything. That’s why we’ve kept this list of Mt Cook must-dos super short so making your Mt Cook travel itinerary will be a breeze!
1. Walk the Hooker Valley Track
It’s stunning, it takes about three hours, and it’s free. That’s why the Hooker Valley Track tops our list of Aoraki Mt Cook must-dos! No matter what your budget is, you can enjoy this easy-going 3-hour return walk through the Hooker Valley toward the vibrant and glacial Hooker Lake. Soak up the views of several impressive glaciers and New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook. If you have more time, check out some of the other hikes in Mt Cook.
Location: Start the Hooker Valley Track from the White Horse Hill Campground car park at the end of the Hooker Valley Road, 2km (1.2 miles) from Mount Cook Village.
2. Take a Scenic Flight Around Mt Cook
Let’s be honest, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is all about the scenery. For those of you with limited time in Mt Cook, consider taking a scenic flight to see the highlights of the national park, such as Aoraki Mt Cook, the Tasman Glacier, Tasman Lake, The Divide, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and more, all within a 30-50 minute flight. See more experiences like this in the 10 Luxury Activities in Mt Cook.
Location: Flights to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park depart from Mt Cook Airport, Glentanner Airport, Franz Josef Airport and Lake Tekapo Airport. Book your Mt Cook Airport flight with Inflight.
3. Heli-Hike on the Tasman Glacier
Explore the ice caves and walk on top of New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier! Take a scenic helicopter flight with captivating glacier valley views and land straight onto the ice. Your guide will show you the unusual features of this ever-changing alpine environment, often including ice caves, stepping over deep crevasses, nearby Mount Cook and more. Learn more about New Zealand’s glaciers in 10 Facts You Did Not Know About New Zealand’s Glaciers.
4. Go Boating on the Tasman Lake
One of the best way to “get” the scale of Mount Cook is to get below it. The Tasman Lake is where the Tasman Glacier terminates, releasing huge ice burgs into the lake. Get up-close to these ice giants on a boating tour of the Tasman Lake! Tours involve a drive and short walk to the lake where you’ll then board a small boat for a trip on the vibrant turquoise glacial lake which is ever-changing! In fact, the lake only formed in 1989 and has been expanding ever since. Kayak tours on the lake are also available on the lake. Be aware that lake activities are seasonal and are only available between early September and late May. See more activities like this in the 7 Things to Do in Mt Cook with Kids.
Location: Trips depart from Mt Cook Village in various pick-up locations.
5. Stargaze in the Aoraki Mt Cook International Dark Sky Reserve
Aoraki Mt Cook is part of the Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, meaning that it is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. It has been given international status and protection to produce as little light pollution as possible to keep views of the night’s sky super clear. On a clear night, enjoy the views of the night sky from one of the campgrounds or even one of the roadside rest stops away from the lights of Mt Cook Village for the best views. If you want more context to what you’re seeing, stargazing tours with telescopes are available departing from the Hermitage Hotel.
Location: Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.