【NZ Travel Blog】Mount Cook 2 Days (Glacier Heli-Hike, Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook Motel)

Mt Cook Travel Blog Foodwinetravelmore

Prior This Trip:

Our New Zealand one month summer trip started from Queenstown and we drove our way up north. We started with 2 nights in Queenstown, then 1 day in Cromwell (Central Otago), 2 days in Wanaka. Then spent a night in Mount Cook.

Driving From Wanaka To Aoraki Mount Cook

It was approximately 2.5 hours drive from Wanaka to Mount Cook. The scenery in the South Island was amazing. Wanaka to Mount Cook - Map

Wanaka is a tourist town. We drove from this bustling small town, passing by Waitaki Valley, then onto another town, Omarama (hometown of All Blacks world-cup winning captain Richie McCaw), passing by the blue lake of Lake Pukaki, before reaching the snow-capped Mount Cook.

1st Stop: Lindis Pass Viewpoint
Waitaki Lookout - Wanaka to Mount Cook
First Lookout: Waitaki Lindis Pass Viewpoint

This place was amazing. It was like driving into another planet. The landscape was wild and raw. Definitely a good pit stop.

Waitaki Lookout - Drive from Wanaka to Mount Cook
The valley landscape felt like another planet.
2nd Stop: High Country Salmon Farm

After about 1 hour and 40 minutes drive, we stopped by a salmon farm called High Country Salmon. It was located just beside the highway, an obvious tourist trap spot.

High Country Salmon Farm - Wanak to Mount COok

High Country Salmon Farm, WAnaka to Mount cook

Some small tour buses stopped there for lunch. Food looked ok (Salmon rice don, salmon sashimi….etc) , but we just took 5 minutes to browse and left. It just felt a bit boring for us. Salmon are salmon.. no?

3rd Stop: Stock Up Food Supply Before Mount Cook

We stopped by Omarama for a quick lunch. If you are a New Zealand rugby fan, you should already know this is the hometown of All Blacks world-cup winning captain Richie McCaw!

We stopped by Twizel, the last small town before reaching Mt Cook. This is a crucial point to note, Twizel could be the last small town/supermarket to buy your food before reaching Mt Cook. Be prepared as there is no supermarket/ mini-market available in Mount Cook. So if you are not going to eat in the hotel every day, just stock up your milk/ bread/ cooking ingredients etc in this town, please!

You’ll thank me later!

4th stop: Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki was the setting for ‘Lake-town’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Every car that stopped by the lookout were wowed by that turquoise hue of the lake, and the incredible southern Alps backdrop.

Driving to Mount Cook - Lake Pukaki

We took a bush walk down to the lake. Quiet and peaceful. I can remember painting the lake in light blue when I was young. This was like my childhood imagination come true.

Lake Pukaki NZ Southisland Mout Cook Journey

Mount Cook Village

Finally, after a hundred “wow”s and “let’s stop for a picture”, we have reached Mount Cook Village.

Seeing the Alps getting bigger the closer we drove, we just can’t hide the excitement. Look at the picture below, can you imagine driving towards the mountain?Mount Cook New Zealand South Island Blog

Do you know?

Mt Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and home of the longest glaciers in New Zealand. Sir Edmund Hillary developed his climbing skills here in preparation for his conquest of Mt Everest.

Where did we stay in Mount Cook Village?

Up to this point, you should already know I am a big fan of Airbnb in New Zealand. Unfortunately, there is no Airbnb in Mount Cook village. Yes, zero Airbnb available. The nearest Airbnb is located 50 minutes away in the next town.

No choice is a good choice. There are only a few motels and hotels in Mount Cook village, and the price isn’t cheap. Average of $150/night and above. And just because there are not many accommodation choices, getting a good accommodation at the last minute or during the weekend is quite impossible.

There are a few popular quality hotel/motel in Mt Cook Village:

Of course, if you don’t mind hostels, YHA Aoraki Mt Cook is another popular choice for backpackers.

I tried to book our accommodation 2 months before the trip, no luck in getting a room in the Hermitage Hotel. After reading some reviews we booked a Motel Studio Deluxe Room ($245 SGD/NZD night ) at Mt Cook Lodge & Motel.

We arrived in the lobby at around 2 pm. Check in was easy. Mount Cook Lodge and Motel New Zealand Hotel

Without much prior expectation, we had a great surprise after check-in.

The motel looks much better than we expected. Newly renovated, clean, spacious, with cooking facilities, parking right outside the door. Everything was great, except no free wifi available.
Mt Cook Motel Studio deluxe - bedroom

$245 for a night stay in a motel seems quite expensive, however, it was considered cheap if compared to the Hermitage hotel which cost around $500+. (PS: the day we stayed was a Saturday).

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much choice really. Thank God the room was in good shape and comfortable.Mt cook lodge motel deluxe room view

mt cook motel lodge bathroom
Clean shower and toilet. No bath. With a wall heater and heated towel rack.
mt cook motel lodge outdoor sitting area
Outdoor sitting area – Mt Cook Motel Studio Deluxe.

That night we grabbed our blanket and sat outside star gazing. It was cold, but imagine the sky full of stars… 🌟✨

Mt cook motel lodge kitchen studio
The benefit of renting a motel is that we get to cook our own meal and save some money while travelling.

Dinner was simply pasta + pasta sauce + broccoli, tomatoes + mussels. No recipe at all. Just boil the pasta and broccoli. Heat up pasta sauce and chopped tomatoes, combine the cooked pasta with the sauce together! Lazy fast meal! 👩‍🍳

It wasn’t super delicious but the good wine, good company and good holiday were what matters. Right?
Mt Cook Motel Dinner Studio Cook

Oh, forgot to mention that Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir. 👍 If you are a wine lover you might want to check out my Central Otago wine post including the trip to visit Felton Road vineyard. Click here to read later.

Activities To Do at Aoraki Mount Cook

The scenery is the key here at Mt Cook National Park. So you can choose to hike, bike, boat cruise on the glacier lake, helicopter and hike on New Zealand’s longest glacier.

Hiking

The first day we went for a short hike at Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walks.

It was an easy walking track. 2.6 km return via the same track. Took approximately 1 hour. Free!

Tasman Glacier walk hiking map - What To do in mt cook
Plenty of hiking options in Mt Cook, we took the Blue Lakes &Tasman Glacier walk. 1-hour return.

Tasman Glacier Walk - Hiking In Mt Cook
Hiking trail at Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mt Cook, NZ, TAsman Glacier Walk, Crossing

Tasman Glacier Walk Mount Cook Blog FoodWineTravelMore
Glacier lake is not always blue huh? Cloudy glacier was due to the sediments from the rocks and minerals.
Tasman Glacier WAlk Mount Cook New Zealand South ISland Blog
Soaking in the view
Tasman Glacier WAlk Mount Cook New Zealand South ISland Blog
Landscape was interesting. Felt like sitting on an ancient seabed.

Tasman Glacier Hike Mount Cook Stacking Stones Japanese New Zealand

There’s another longer hiking trail called Hooker Valley Track, which takes 3 hours return. Another popular track which leads you to a glacier lake, hooker river and swing bridges.

Tasman Glacier Helicopter & Hike (Heli Hike)

Other than hiking, another activity to do in Mt Cook is helicopter tour. Unless you are a seasoned hiker, I think the best way to see this marvellous area is to join a helicopter tour. Yes, it can be expensive. But if you’re going to come here once in your life, why not experience to the fullest.

When travelling, we prefer to spend money on experience rather than things. And I think it’s definitely worth it.

So we spent $575NZD/ $585 SGD per person on a helicopter tour + hiking on the Tasman Glacier. The total duration of tour = 3 hours.

The trip started from Mt Cook airport, flying over Tasman Glacier Lake and landed on the glacier ice 3000m above sea level. Spent 2 hours hiking on the ice terrain in the shadow of highest peaks of the Southern Alps. On the return flight, we flew close by the massive 1000 m high Hochstetter icefalls on the eastern face of Aoraki Mt Cook.

 

Check in:

There are 3 slots available for the tour. 8.45am, 10.45am and 12.45pm departure.

Since we only stayed one night in Mt Cook Village, we check out of the motel in the morning and took 10.45am tour.  Check in was at Aoraki/Mt Cook Airport.
Mt Cook Helicopter Trip - Mount Cook Airport Departure

Mt Cook Helicopter Hike departure from mt Cook Airport
Mt Cook Tasman Glacier Helicopter Hike (Heli Hike) departure airport
Mt Cook Helicopter Biking Tour
Helicopter was carrying a container of bicycles. Apparently there’s another tour called Heli-Bike! 🚲
Mt Cook Heli-Hike Waiting Area Boarding New Zealand
View from the waiting deck
Mt Cook HeliHike Crampons to walk on ice
All pieces of equipment are provided. Glacier boots & ice crampons to walk on the ice safely. A waterproof jacket if required.
1. Mt cook helicopter - Walking towards helicopter, boarding
Walking towards helicopter
2. Mt Cook NZ Helicopter Helihike - TAsman Glacier - helicopter view
Lucky front seat view: Flying over Tasman Glacier Lake
3. Mt Cook Helicopter Hiking - landing on glacier
Landing on the glacier

3. Mt Cook Helicopter Hiking - landing on glacier

Mount Cook NZ Helicopter Landing On Ice

 

Mt Cook Nz Heli-Hike - Hiking On The Glacier
2 hours of hiking on glacier ice begins

Big Holes on ice - mt cook new zealand helicopter hiking

Ice on ice - mount cook new zealand heli hike
Ice on ice 💎
Sun Halo - Mt Cook New Zealand Helicopter HIking
See the Halo around the sun?

 

Mount cook helihike on tasman glacier - beautiful view travel blog

Mount cook Tasman glacier hike helicopter hiking, steep ice
Can’t imagine walking without crampons.
Mt cOOK helihike new zealand ice hole
Little ice holes with clear water

Watch the full video of the Heli Hike trip below, or click here.

 

Overall, money well-spent. Experience of a lifetime.

Tasman Glacier Heli-Hike

  • $585 NZD / person
  • 3 hours (2 hrs on ice)
  • Highlights: Helicopter flight, guided hike on NZ’s longest glacier, flying over the Southern Alps

There are also other helicopter tours to explore Mt Cook, you can find them here.

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with or received any commission from the tour company. The comments and expenses are all on our own.

 

After Thought & Tips

Mt Cook is a place to see the world’s wonder. I can’t tell who wouldn’t be amazed by the glacier and the incredible southern Alps. There are activities suitable for young and old, you can hike for a day or you can do something more adventurous like going on a glacier cruise, helicopter or biking.

Even though the temperature is cooler in the alpine region the UV is still extremely high as is everywhere around New Zealand, so don’t forget your sunblock and bring a jacket, sunglasses and hat always. Stock up your food (and alcohol) supply in Twizel before staying in Mt Cook Village is always a good idea.

Most importantly, enjoy the clean air and the southern nature and always take your trash with you.!

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Next destination: Lake Tekapo

Next post will be up soon. Stay tuned.

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【NZ Travel Blog】Mount Cook 2 Days (Glacier Heli-Hike, Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook Motel)
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