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
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
This place was amazing. It was like driving into another planet. The landscape was wild and raw. Definitely a good pit stop.
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
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.
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.
Mount Cook Village
Finally, after a hundred “wow”s and “let’s stop for a picture”, we have reached Mount Cook Village.
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.
Without much prior expectation, we had a great surprise after check-in.
$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).
That night we grabbed our blanket and sat outside star gazing. It was cold, but imagine the sky full of stars… 🌟✨
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! 👩🍳
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.
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!
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.
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.
There are 3 slots available for the tour. 8.45am, 10.45am and 12.45pm departure.
Watch the full video of the Heli Hike trip below, or click here.
Overall, money well-spent. Experience of a lifetime.
- $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.!
Next destination: Lake Tekapo
After Mount Cook, we drove to Lake Tekapo to see the famous Church Of The Good Shepherd. Click here to read more.
Read Other New Zealand’s Travel Post
- Top 10 Things To Do in Queenstown
- 11 Wineries to Visit in Central Otago
- Wanaka – home of that #wanakatree
- Lake Tekapo – Church Of The Good Shepherd