Mt Cook Village

Visit Mount Cook Village, Mackenzie Country, NZ

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  • Mount Cook Village is nestled in the Hooker Valley in Mount Cook National Park. The village is dominated by New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook, standing 3,540 metres tall (11,600 feet), and flanked by glaciers.

    The Tasman Glacier, 27 km long and up to 4 km wide, flows from the sides of Mounts Cook and Tasman, joining with the Murchison Glacier to flow into Tasman Lake. On the other side of Mount Cook, Hooker and Mueller Glaciers join the Tasman River to flow into Lake Pukaki.

    The alpine landscape of the Mount Cook region is popular in winter for skiing, climbing and snow-based activities. In summer, the glacial valleys are alive with flowering plants including lupins, daisies and the iconic Mount Cook Lily. Unique insect, reptile and bird life is also of interest to naturalists.

    Accommodation in Mount Cook Village (NZ)

    Mount Cook Village has some international-style hotels, a number of motels andchalets for rent.

    Backpacking and camping travellers are well catered for. There are several hotels andbudget lodges in Mount Cook Village, and a camping ground minutes further up the valley.

    “Freedom camping” is permitted at Mount Cook National Park, with certain restrictions (eg, not to camp within 200 metres of a road). Restrictions are set by the Department of Conservation and can be checked at the DoC office at Mount Cook Village.

    Transport around Mount Cook Village

    Mount Cook is accessed via road on State Highway 8, which starts on the east coast at Timaru and crosses the Mackenzie basin to reach central Otago at the town of Cromwell. A branch from this highway leads north along the western shore of Lake Pukaki to reach Mount Cook Village.

    Travel times from Wanaka in the south, and Timaru in the east are about 2.5 hours. The village is about 45 minutes’ drive from Twizel, in central Mackenzie District, or 1 ¾ hours from Tekapo at the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin.

    Inter-city coaches and guided tours connect Mount Cook with major centres and local towns. There are also local transport shuttles.

    Mount Cook Airport no longer has scheduled passenger services to Christchurch and Queenstown, after the destruction of the airport terminal by fire in 2002. However, the airport is still busy with charter aircraft and can be reached from many South Island airfields, including Wanaka, Hokitika and Nelson.

    Mountain bikes can be hired at several outlets, including nearby Glentanner Station, which offers a heli-biking service.

    Tourist Activities around Mount Cook Village

    There are many options for guided tours of the Mount Cook region, including tours by cycle, horse or 4-wheel drive, boating and sea-kayaking tours along Tasman Lake to see the ice cliffs that form the terminal face of the glacier, and helicopter or ski-plane based trips to snowfields and the upper Tasman Glacier.

    The national park has many features of scientific interest, from the relatively recent glacially-formed landscape to the unique flora and fauna that includes rare species of flowering alpine plants, geckos and skinks that feed on unusual insects, and native birds such as kea, New Zealand’s curious alpine parrot.

    The Department of Conservation’s visitor centre at Mount Cook Village, and the nearby Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre have exhibits and displays, including 3D movies that explain the geology, biology and history of the area. The Edmund Hillary centre has a full-dome planetarium, which complements the informal star-gazing evenings held at the village on clear evenings.

    Hiking is one of Mount Cook National Park’s most popular activities, and a network of well-maintained trails with overnight huts is open to all walkers. Guided walks are recommended for less experienced trampers. Experienced climbers can walk across glaciers to ascend Mount Cook or Mount Tasman. However, only experienced and well-equipped climbers should attempt to summit these peaks. A heli-hiking option that allows visitors to walk to the summit of Mount Dark from a high altitude starting point is an option for those who wish to experience the feeling of ascending to a snow-capped mountaintop.

    Scenic flights are a very popular way to see the mountain up close. Ski-plane flights usually include a snow landing, providing a chance to walk about and take photographs. Some flights land on the upper Tasman Glacier, from where passengers can ski to the bottom of the valley. Helicopter charters can take passengers to any location recommended for skiing, mountain biking or hiking.

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    Mt Cook Village