5 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos
5 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos

12 Best Things to Do in Aoraki Mt Cook

© Pexels

The Must-Dos in 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 it? We’ll help you out with this list of the best things to do in Aoraki Mt Cook.

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 limited 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 Mt Cook Village.

5 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos© Fraser Gunn - Tourism New Zealand

2. Do the Governors Bush Walk

Another fantastic little walk available from within Mt Cook Village, the Governors Bush Walk takes you through picturesque beech forest. The walk features a lookout where you can get spectacular views of the Tasman Valley. Keep an eye out for New Zealand’s alpine parrot called a kea. See more walks in the area with our 10 Must-Do Hikes Around Mt Cook.

Location: Mt Cook Village Public Shelter, 59 Bowen Drive, Mt Cook Village.

© Krzysztof Golik on Wikipedia

3. Land on the Tasman Glacier in a Ski Plane

For a unique flying experience in New Zealand, fly in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park in a ski plane! The 35-minute flight takes in the highlights of the national park including New Zealand’s longest glacier and highest mountain. Then, the ski plane will land on the Tasman Glacier where you’ll get about 10 minutes to play in the snow and take in the scenery before taking off back to the Mt Cook Airport. Book your flight with INFLITE Experiences on Viator or Tripadvisor.

Location: Mt Cook Airport, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Mt Cook Village.

11 Unmissable Things to Do in Mt Cook© NZPocketGuide.com

4. Soar the Skies Around Aoraki Mt Cook

Want to see it all in one scenic flight? The Mt Cook 360 flight with INFLITE Experiences does just that. Take to the skies in an all-encompassing 35-minute flight in a ski plane. The flight literally does a 360 around Aoraki Mt Cook, including views of the Tasman Glacier, crossing the Southern Alps to see the tops of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, before circling over the Hooker Valley back to where the flight began. See more experiences like this in the 10 Luxury Activities in Mt Cook.

Location: Mt Cook Airport, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Mt Cook Village.

10 Unmissable Things to Do in Mt Cook© INFLITE Experiences

5. Heli-Hike on the Tasman Glacier

Explore the ice caves and walk on top of New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier! Heli-hike or ice-climb with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or The Helicopter Line (on Viator and Tripadvisor). After reaching a remote area of the Tasman Glacier by helicopter, you’ll get to walk on the glacier in some provided crampons. No two tours are the same in this ever-changing river of ice, with ice caves to explore, crevasses to peer into and much more. Learn more about New Zealand’s glaciers in 10 Facts You Did Not Know About New Zealand’s Glaciers.

Location: Mt Cook Airport, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Mt Cook Village.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

6. Go Boating on the Tasman Lake

One of the best ways to “get” the scale of Mt Cook is to get below it. The Tasman Lake is where the Tasman Glacier terminates, releasing huge icebergs into the lake. Get up-close to these ice giants on a boating tour on the lake! Tours with Glacier Explorers 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 that is ever-changing. In fact, the lake only formed in 1989 and has been expanding ever since. 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: Terrace Road, Mt Cook Village.

Avenue on Wikipedia© Avenue on Wikipedia

7. 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 artificial lights of Mt Cook Village for the best views. If you want more context to what you’re seeing, join a stargazing tour from the Hermitage Hotel, starting with an orientation in the planetarium. You’ll then be taken to a stargazing facility away from the artificial lights of the village where you’ll get the chance to look at the night’s sky through powerful telescopes.

Location: Tours depart from 89 Terrace Road, Mt Cook Village.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

8. Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre

Learn about the national icon, Sir Edmund Hillary, who was one of the first to reach the summit of Mt Everest, at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. This mini-museum in the Hermitage Hotel displays relics from early alpine exploration, has heritage displays from everyday life in Mt Cook Village through the ages, and a 3D cinema and planetarium.

Location: Hermitage Hotel, 89 Terrace Road, Mt Cook Village.

© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Take a Scenic Helicopter Flight Around Mt Cook

As you might have guessed by thing point in our list of the best things to do in Aoraki Mt Cook, taking to the skies is kind of a big deal here. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to flight options in Aoraki Mt Cook, but whatever you choose it will be nothing short of spectacular. See highlights like the Hochstetter Icefall close-up, fly through glacier valleys and learn about this majestic area through your pilot’s commentary. We recommend the 40-minute flight with The Helicopter Line (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or the 55-minute flight with INFLIGHT Experiences (on Viator and Tripadvisor).

Location: Mt Cook Airport, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Mt Cook Village.

© The Helicopter Line

10. Kayak on the Tasman Glacier Lake

Venture onto a lake produced by the Tasman Glacier on a guided kayak tour with Aoraki Mt Cook Guiding. In a sea kayak, you’ll get to paddle among giant icebergs while surrounded by a tremendous valley and mountain scenery.

Location: The Old Mountaineers Cafe Bar, Mt Cook Village.

© Southern Alps Guiding and Aoraki Mount Cook Guiding

11. Go on a 4WD Safari

Get to those hard-to-reach places around the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park on a 4WD adventure. Tasman Valley 4WD Tours gets to see different perspectives of the Tasman Valley and includes a walk to the top of a moraine wall with picture-perfect views over the Tasman Glacier Lake. You’ll also get to learn more about this fascinating area and its history from your guide.

Location: Hermitage Hotel, 89 Terrace Road, Mt Cook Village.

© Tasman Valley 4WD Tours

12. Experience Snowshoeing

Explore snowy plateaus and breath in the fresh mountain air on a snowshoe tour with Alpine Guides or Mt Cook Glacier Guiding. Your guide will lead you on a relaxed tour on a remote mountain only accessible with a scenic helicopter flight.

Location: Alpine Guides – 98 Bowen Drive. Mt Cook Glacier Guiding – Mt Cook Airport, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Mt Cook Village.

© Pxhere

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