Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3,724 metres high. It lies in the Southern Alps mountain range, which runs down the middle of the South Island like a backbone. A popular backpacker destination, Mount Cook is also a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. The Tasman Glacier and Hooker Glacier are situated in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park.
According to Māori legend, Aoraki was a young boy who was out in a canoe with his brothers when it struck a reef. The canoe tilted and Aoraki and his brothers climbed to the high side. The cold south wind froze them and turned them into stone. Now Aoraki and his brothers form the Southern Alps.
Mount Cook Day Tour
You can visit Mount Cook on a day tour from Christchurch or Queenstown, or travel there one-way and stay the night. Along the way you might see:
- The rugged Kawerau Gorge
- Lindis Pass and the manmade hydro lake of Ruataniwha
- Stunningly blue Lake Pukaki
- Lake Tekapo with the Church of the Good Shepherd on its shores – the most-photographed building in New Zealand!
- The Mackenzie Basin and long flat Canterbury Plains
When you arrive at Mt Cook you can explore the village, have a fancy lunch at the iconic Hermitage Hotel or go on a scenic flight. The village has some basic accommodation as well as fancy hotels, and it’s a good base if you’re wanting to stay longer to go hiking, fishing, skiing or boating on the glacier lakes.
Handy tip: If you want to travel from Mount Cook to Wanaka, be aware that part of this route can’t be booked on a FlexiPass. This is because the route from Tarras to Wanaka is operated by a different bus company.