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Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand

Weather in New Zealand
A beautiful day in New Zealand with a snow-capped Mount Cook in the distance

Aoraki/Mount Cook is an icon of the country and many visitors flock to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park to see it. Altogether there are 19 peaks over 3,000 metres in the park including New Zealand's highest mountain at 3754 metres. The park stretches 60 km on the southwestern coast of South Island. The park dates from 1953. The national park forms the majority of New Zealand's sole International Dark Sky Reserve.

It was the 6th to be established of New Zealand's 13 national parks after Tongariro, Egmont, Arthur's Pass, Abel Tasman and Fiordland national parks.

Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Aoraki/Mount Cook


The Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is known for its spectacular alpine scenery, mountaineering, skiing and scenic flights over the ice. Altogether the park covers some 700 square kilometres.

The Tasman Glacier stretches 27 km and besides its natural beauty provides a landing space for helicopters and small planes. It is also New Zealand's longest glacier.

Other glaciers in the park are the Bonney, Darwin and Murchison glaciers popular with advanced skiers.

Climbing Aoraki/Mount Cook provided Sir Edmund Hillary with the experience to ascend Mount Everest. Other peaks in the park include Elie de Beaumont, La Perouse, Malte Brun, Sefton and Tasman. All are for experienced mountaineers only.

To experience the beautiful nature and varied alpine flora without the risk there are also 10 walking and hiking trails that begin at Aoraki/Mount Cook Village leading to various scenic viewpoints. The easiest is Governors Bush Walk, a 2 km trail through lovely beech trees with abundant birdlife. The most challenging is the 10 km Mueller Hut Route - a 6 to 8-hour climb up to 1800 metres and stunning views. Other walks include the 1 km Blue Lakes and Tasman View (40 minutes), the 4 km Red Tarns Track, the 7 km Kea Point Track, and the 9 km Hooker Valley Track.

Also in the village is the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre complete with a 3D theatre and planetarium. A tribute to the great mountaineer in particular and the mountain area in general the centre, located in the Hermitage Hotel, includes a museum and the Hillary Gallery. Some of the fascinating films shown in the 3D theatre include Hillary on Everest and Primeval New Zealand.

Edmund Hillary (1919-2008) was, along with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, the first person to climb Mount Everest in 1953. During his career as an adventurer, Hillary reached both the North and South poles as well as climbing several other peaks around the world. He dedicated his later life to the Himalayan Trust, helping to build schools and hospitals in Nepal. A statue of Hillary at Mount Cook/Mt Aoraki captures him gazing towards the summit of the mountain. His death was marked with a state funeral.

There are several stunning waterfalls in the park. These include the 230-metre tall Wakefield Falls, Mueller Glacier Waterfalls, best seen in spring or early summer when the glacier is melting and Eugenie Stream Falls, which drops from the Eugenie Glacier.

Alpine plants in the park include the Mount Cook buttercup (Ranunculus lyallii), the world's largest buttercup, the snow tussock and South Island Edelweiss. Altogether there are well over 300 different species to be found.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Centre in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village is at 1 Larch Grove, Aoraki / Mount Cook (Tel: 03 435 1186). The centre has displays on the local climate and glaciers as well as the mountaineers who have climbed in the region (several of whom perished here).

Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge.
Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge


There are 17 DOC huts scattered within the park providing accommodation for skilled mountaineers.

More casual visitors should head for Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. The village has a range of places to stay. Try the Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge, a 5-minute walk from Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.

Aoraki Court Motel is a modern motel with heated guest rooms with double-glazed windows and a flat-screen TV. Each unit has a patio with mountain views.

The Hermitage Hotel at 89 Terrace Road offers four stars, a restaurant, and also houses the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (see above).

The YHA Mount Cook provides backpacker accommodation with a seasonal barbecue area, a self-catering guest kitchen, and free access to a sauna room.

Find accommodation in Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.

The beautiful scenery of the park.
The beautiful scenery of the park

Access - Getting There

Take State Highway 80 to Aoraki/Mt Cook Village on Lake Pukaki. Aoraki/Mt Cook Village itself is at 760 metres. There are buses from both Christchurch and Queenstown.

The nearest towns to the park are Tekapo, on one of New Zealand's famous lakes and Twizel. Both connect by bus to Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.

Lake Tekapo is about a 3-hour drive mainly west of Christchurch. From Christchurch, Tekapo is 227 km on State Highway 8 runs and 256 km from Queenstown. The drive from both places takes about three hours and 30 minutes.

Places to stay include the Godley Hotel offering country-style accommodation in 58 rooms and the luxury Galaxy Boutique Hotel. There are superb views over the lake from the hotel which is close to the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Tekapo Heights offers rooms with a private patio some with great views of the lake.

See a complete list of accommodation in Lake Tekapo.

Alpine plants are a must see.
The stunning flora in the region is another huge draw

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