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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Canterbury > Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is home to New Zealand’s tallest mountain (Aoraki/Mount Cook) and its largest glacier (Tasman Glacier). Aoraki is a sacred place to Māori, so accessibility and development of the town is limited. This does not mean that it is not crowded with outdoorsy types all year round, though. It is a haven for climbers and hikers; there are excellent walks and scenic flights and guided tours are available. Mount Cook Village is tiny and functional, and offers little to entertain besides a most spectacular view from every window. Walking tracks begin from several points around town.

Practical information

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park DOC Visitor Centre

1 Larch Grove, Mount Cook Village
Tel (03) 435 1186
Website www.doc.govt.nz
Open Jan-Apr 8.30am-5pm daily; May-Sep 8.30am-4.30pm daily; Oct-Dec 8.30am-4.30pm daily

Coming & going

The Cook Connection (tel 025 583 211) shuttle goes to Tekapo and Twizel, where you can connect with coaches to Christchurch or Queenstown. It picks up and drops off at the YHA hostel.

Hostel accommodation

Mount Cook YHA

Corner Bowen & Kitchener Drives, Mount Cook Village
Tel (03) 435 1820

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Glentanner Park Centre

State Highway 80, Aoraki/Mount Cook
Tel (03) 435 1855

Activities

Boat Tours & Kayaking

Glacier Explorers (tel (03) 435 1077) operate boat tours to Tasman Glacier that cost $120. Glacier Sea-Kayaking (tel (03) 435 1890) run good value sea-kayaking trips to Mueller Glacier that cost $110. Either option allows you to see a glacier from a unique perspective as you glide past icebergs on the lake. These trips operate Oct-May.

Scenic Flights

Several companies offer scenic flights over Aoraki/Mount Cook and Tasman Glacier. Flights by both helicopter and fixed wing planes offer glacier landings.

 

The Helicopter Line (tel (03) 435 1801) has flights departing from Glentanner Park, about a 15-minute drive from Mount Cook Village. These include a 20-minute flight past Mount Brown and Zodiac Glacier ($210), a 30-minute flight over Mount Brown and Richardson Glacier ($295) and a 45-minute flight over Tasman Glacier, Liebig Range and Aoraki/Mount Cook ($415).

 

Air Safaris (tel (03) 680 6880) operate 50-minute scenic flights from Glentanner Park that fly over Lake Tekapo; Franz Josef, Fox, Balfour, La Perouse and Tasman Glaciers and include a loop around Aoraki/Mount Cook. This flight costs $320, but it doesn’t include a glacier landing.


Mount Cook Ski Planes (tel 0800 800 702) feature snow landings. A 40-minute flight over Tasman Glacier costs $340 and a 55-minute flight over Tasman Glacier with a loop around Aoraki/Mount Cook costs $450. Flights without a glacier landing cost between $230 and $310.

Hiking

There is a good selection of short walking tracks in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

Walks from Mt Cook Village

The most popular hike is the Hooker Valley Walk (4 hours return), which passes Mueller Lake and crosses two swing bridges while following the Hooker River to Hooker Lake at the foot of Hooker Glacier.


Other short walks from the village include Red Tarns Track (2 hours return), which has a steep climb to a point that affords breathtaking views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the surrounding alpine country. Kea Point Walk (2 hours return) leaves from the DOC Visitors’ Centre and climbs to a viewpoint looking over Mueller Lake, the Hooker Valley, Mount Sefton and Aoraki/Mount Cook. The more challenging Sealy Tarns Track (3-4 hours return) branches off from the Kea Point Walk and climbs past abundant wildflowers to offer a stunning view of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Tasman Valley Walks

There are also several hikes in the Tasman Valley, about an 8km drive from Mount Cook Village.


These include the short Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View Walk (40 minutes), which offers views of the Blue Lakes and the lower Tasman Glacier. An alternate route goes to Tasman Glacier Lake (50-60 minutes), which freezes over in winter and has icebergs floating in it during summer.


The longer Ball Shelter Hut Route (3-4 hours each way) follows the old Ball Hut Road alongside the massive Tasman Glacier. People used to stay in the hut overnight and walk back the following day, however this is no longer possible and you now need to complete the return trip on the same day.


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