Twenty-two of New Zealand’s highest mountains stand proud in the Southern Alps. Magnificent Mt. Cook (Aoraki) rises 12,217 feet (3,724 meters) tall, making it the country’s highest peak and one of the South Island's most prominent natural features. The Maori name Aoraki is aptly translated as “cloud piercer.”
Mt. Cook’s glacial lakes are popular with people wanting to fish and sail. Guided ski trips are offered on Tasman Glacier, which falls down the east side of the mountain, while Hooker Glacier has some excellent walking tracks. The snowfields above Tasman and Richardson glaciers make good snow-landing sites during a scenic helicopter flight, with aerial views of the Ben Ohau Range and Lake Pukaki in the Mackenzie Basin.Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Mt. Cook is a popular draw for active travelers who appreciate the outdoors.
- Scenic helicopter tours typically last 20–35 minutes, with transfers included between Mt. Cook Village hotels and the helicopter base.
- Alpine guides lead climbers to the summit; the moderately technical route requires prior experience and a high level of aerobic fitness.
- The Department of Conservation (DOC) operates a visitor center with info on hiking tracks and excellent views of the mountain.
Mt. Cook Village, also referred to as "The Hermitage," is situated 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) from the summit. A popular base with mountain climbers and tourists, it is about a 3.5-hour drive from Queenstown via Lindis Pass and a 4.5-hour drive from Christchurch via Burkes Pass. One-way coach transport often takes passengers directly to hotels.
When to Get There
Late January until March are the warmest months, with high temps around 67°F (19°C). Climbing season typically runs from late October to mid-January. Book accommodations well ahead of time, especially during high season.
The excellent mountain climbing offered by the famed peak, situated in Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park—part of a UNESCO World Heritage Area—is reserved for experienced climbers. Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mt. Cook in 1948 before climbing Mt. Everest in 1953. The mountain’s striking beauty makes it a standout amid a mountain range showcasing a spectacular display of snow-capped peaks and forested slopes.