10 Helpful Tips For Your First Visit to Mount Cook National Park

Mount Cook

Planning an adventure to the South Island of New Zealand? If so, no trip is complete without visiting the magical Mount Cook National Park! We’ve compiled a list of 10 awesome things we wish we would’ve known before going to this outdoor paradise. Join us for endless NZ hiking trails, accommodation options, and all the best things to do in Mount Cook New Zealand. 

10 Tips For Mount Cook New Zealand

1. Getting to Mount Cook NZ

First off, you should know there is really only one way to get to  Mount Cook National Park. You may be coming north from Lake Tekapo, Christchurch, or South from Queenstown. Yet, all roads will direct you onto Route 80 which goes straight to Mount Cook NZ.

One thing to realize is that the drive in is almost as beautiful as actually being there! Enjoy every moment with the tremendous Southern Alps mountain range in front of you. Below we’ve listed the distance and times for popular routes to Mount Cook New Zealand.

  • Twizel 45 min / 64 km
  • Tekapo1.5 hours / 106 km
  • Wanaka2.5 hours / 208 km
  • Queenstown3.5 hours / 263 km
  • Christchurch4 hours / 332 km

→ South Island New Zealand Itinerary: 4 Amazing One Week Routes

2. Mount Cook Accommodation For Campers

There’s only a select few campsites to stay at on your visit to this region of New Zealand. We chose the Glentanner Holiday Park which is about 25 minutes to all the best hikes and things to do in Mount Cook.

Here we were able to plug in our camper, utilize the kitchen, and most importantly have hot showers in the winter! They do also have dorms and private rooms available if you aren’t planning on camping.

In the spring and summer we would recommend the White Horse Hill DOC site at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. White Horse Hill sits right at the start of the famous Hooker Valley Track, but don’t expect anything fancy.

There is no electricity, showers, and an it’s an eco-style bathroom. Still, it’s more than worth it to be sleeping under the mountain peaks and the first one out on the Mount Cook trails in the morning.

Mount Cook Hotel Accommodation

Ultra LuxuryHermitage Hotel – The historic Hermitage Hotel offers awesome tours, restaurants, and spacious rooms with a view of the snowy peaks. Here you’ll be in the best place to set off on all the best Mount Cook trails from. It’s unique location also makes for the perfect area to stargaze in at night! 

Fun Vacation – Aoraki Court Motel – This modern Mount Cook accommodation is inside the National Park and just minutes walking distance to the restaurants and cafes of the village. All rooms have views of the mountains, heat, and private bathrooms. 

Hostel – YHA Mt Cook – YHA is a budget lodge which backpackers and travelers alike can enjoy. It’s complete with a fully equipped kitchen, common area, and both dorms and private rooms. 

There are very limited hotels and they can sell out months in advance for high season. Make sure to book ahead if you plan to visit during the popular summer months. 

Mount Cook National Park Hotel

3. Visit the DOC Centre 

Stopping at the information center in a place like Mount Cook is almost a given right? Well you’d be surprised to know that this isn’t your average tourist hub. In fact, going to the visitors center is one of the best things to do in Mount Cook in itself!

It not only holds all the important info about the park, but also tells the story of the area. Take your time here learning about the nature, Maori history, and first European explorers before heading out to some of the most beautiful hikes in Mount Cook.

Mount Cook New Zealand DOC Center

4. Walk the Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular of the Mount Cook trails, and maybe in all of New Zealand! While it is more of a walk than actual hike, the winding pathways take you over three suspension bridges, through the snowcapped mountains, and end at the stunning Hooker Lake.

This glacier lake is also the perfect place to have lunch and take in all the incredible features of Mount Cook NZ before heading back to the carpark. In total, the Hooker Valley Track should take 2 to 3 hours when visiting Mount Cook.

→ Hooker Valley Track: Guide to the Fun & Easy Mt Cook Walkway

Mount Cook Hiking Trails

5. Ride the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail 

Not much of a hiker? While lucky for you Mount Cook has one of the best bike trails in New Zealand! The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail starts at Mount Cook National Park, and stretches for over 300 kilometers before ending on the East coast in Oamaru.

This incredible mountain biking trail is also split into eight different sections so you don’t have to take on the entire thing at once. An easy short route is the 23 km from the National Park to Glentanner campsite. This one of a kind cycling trail is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Mount Cook!

Mount Cook National Park Bike Trail

6. Where to Eat at Mount Cook National Park

There’s only a select few places to eat out when visiting Mount Cook New Zealand. We recommend stopping at the grocery store in Twizel or Tekepo before you head into the National Park, especially if you’re camping.

Our go-to food for the hikes in Mount Cook are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, granola bars, and dark chocolate! If you would like to eat out during your stay we’ve listed the most popular places to go around Mount Cook Village below.

This area is conveniently located where your Mount Cook accommodation will likely be. We’ve also included links so you can find them easily after a long day of exploring.

New Zealand Lamb

7. Weather in Mount Cook New Zealand 

The most important thing to consider before visiting Mount Cook is the weather. As you could probably tell from looking up at the snowy mountains, the weather can shift in an instant in this part of New Zealand.

Pack warm clothes, hiking boots, and all other essentials. Even when traveling to Mount Cook in the warmer months you’ll want to be prepared for anything.

The best season to visit is summer, but also note that between December and April is also the busiest time for tourists. If you go to Mount Cook National Park during those months be ready to share the Mount Cook trails with plenty of other hikers.

Also, if you have ANY questions about gear or trails make sure to stop into the visitor center for more information before you take off.

Mount Cook New Zealand Weather

8. Take a Helicopter Ride 

Looking for more excitement in between the walking paths and hikes in Mount Cook? A helicopter ride is the ultimate adrenaline rush, and way to experience the scenery from above!

Soar high in the clouds for this unique look at the jagged peaks of Mount Cook, massive glaciers, and gorgeous lakes below.

While there are several operators both in and outside the National Park, the easiest way is probably to stay at Glentanner Holiday Park. Here they actually have the company Helicopter Line onsite. Our friends we were traveling with woke up one day in the campervan and were itching for an adventure.

Before they could even eat breakfast they were booked for a helicopter ride, and taking off above the Southern Alps! While the flight only lasts 20-25 minutes it is truly something you’ll never forget while visiting Mount Cook NZ. 

Book a Mount Cook Scenic Helicopter Flight with Alpine Landing

New Zealand Helicopter Ride

9. Endless Mount Cook Trails and Hikes 

The Hooker Valley Track is the undisputed the most popular, but there are countless other trails to explore in Mount Cook National Park. From long 4-6 hour hikes to short paths and viewpoints of the glaciers, there’s something for every age and skill level here.

One of the most beautiful Mount Cook trails is the Mueller Hut Route. This hike will take you 3 to 5 hours one way, and you’ll want to pre-book the hut to stay there overnight. Not up for a multi-day trek? Check out some of our favorite day hikes in Mount Cook below! 

  • Hooker Valley Track3 hours / 5 km
  • Red Tarns Track2 hours / 4 km
  • Governors Bush Walk45 min / 1.5 km
  • Kea Point Track1 hour / 3 km
  • Twizel Walkway3 hours / 9 km
  • Tasman Glacier View Track1 hour / 2.6 km
  • Sealy Tarns Track 3.5 Hours / 5.8 km

Aoraki National Park Map

10. Length of Your Mount Cook NZ Trip

With the abundance of great hikes in Mount Cook we mentioned above, you can really spend an unlimited amount of days at this amazing National Park. Most travelers stay between 2 and 4 days, but it really depends on what you want to do.

Also, how much time you have on your New Zealand itinerary will obviously play the biggest part in your decision. Prior to researching you may of thought to just come and do the Hooker Valley Track and then leave.

Hopefully after reading our guide you now know how many other great things to do in Mount Cook there is! On our most recent trip we spent 3 nights, but we really could have spent more time exploring the tremendous Mount Cook National Park.

→ 10 Easy & Helpful Tips For Traveling in New Zealand

Mount Cook NZ

Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for Mount Cook New Zealand? Leave us a comment at the bottom of this post! 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

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Mt Cook

New Zealand Travel Planning 

Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.

 Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll still need a vehicle to get around. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

South Island New Zealand

Travel Tips & Guides:  North Island Itinerary – 25 Beautiful BeachesWellington to Picton Ferry15 Freedom Camping Tips27 Delicious Food & Drinks7 Milford Sound Tips

Queenstown: Ben Lomond TrackFergburger (Is it Worth It?)Tiki Trail HikeFun Wine TourQueenstown Hill HikeQueenstown RestaurantsArrowtown NZ

North Coast: Abel Tasman Day HikeWharariki Beach & Archway Islands6 Picton Things to Do 

East Coast: Banks PeninsulaFrench Town of AkaroaTunnel Beach DunedinHanmer SpringsKaikoura

Explore all our North Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides

South Island New Zealand

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