Five experiences you can’t miss while visiting Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to New Zealand’s highest mountain, the bluest of blue lakes, a plethora of adventures, and a rich history that will leave you coming back for more and more… and more. It’s no secret how much I love this part of New Zealand and why I keep coming back to experience something totally new and exciting each time. 

Mount Cook National park helped Sir Edmund Hillary develop his climbing skills, is home to over 23 peaks over 300 metres high and the quaint little village provides a comfortable base for all your adventures. The National park also forms the majority of New Zealand’s only dark sky reserve. There is so much to do here, but here are five experiences you can’t miss while on holiday here in the South Island of New Zealand. 

A stay at the famous Hermitage Hotel

Nestled under the foothills of the Sealy range you will find the famous Hermitage Hotel. Renowned for its luxury, uninterrupted views of Aoraki, and genuine kiwi hospitality, your adventure really does start here. With a variety of accommodation, unique and wonderful activities, and a dining area with views that rival any other dining area view in the world, The Hermitage does not disappoint. If you are celebrating something special, feel like treating your loved ones, or just fancy a night away in one of the most pristine environments in New Zealand? Book your stay here. 

Fly high above the national park in NZ’s first ski plane 

Way back when Harry Wigley invested in the world’s first plane using retractable skis. while flying tourists around Mount Cook and over the glaciers he saw the need for a retractable ski, which would allow aeroplanes to take off from an airfield and land on the snow. In 1955 with Alan McWhirter and Sir Edmund Hillary the first flight took off and successfully landed on the Tasman Glacier. Still to this day, you can fly the same route and land high on the Tasman Glacier, one of the best, most iconic experiences with Mount Cook Ski Plane and Heli’s, in the national park is just a short five-minute drive from the Village. 

A walk on one of the finest day hikes in the world – The Hooker Valley Track 

10 short walks begin near the Hermitage in Aoraki Mount Cook villager, however, the Hooker Valley track should sit high on your walking bucket list here in the national park. Just a 10km return on a relatively flat track will lead you through the sacred Tōpuni area of the Hooker Valley, which has special significance and values to Ngāi Tahu iwi, towards Aoraki/Mount Cook. Expect three swing bridges, views over the Mueller Lake, Hooker River, and panoramic mountain vistas to lead you to the base of Aoraki, Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain. The whole track is spectacular from start to finish, however, you will reap the rewards at the end with breathtaking views of Hooker Lake, sometimes speckled with icebergs. Walk early to soak in the silence and experience the sun rising over the southern alps, you will thank me later. 

Explore the Tasman Glacier by boat 

Imagine jumping on a boat and speeding towards New Zealand’s largest glacier. The Glacial explorer boats on the Tasman Lake will get you up close, and personal (within a safe distance and exclusion zone) to the Tasman Glacier. One can’t gauge how huge the face of this glacier is until you are sitting on a tiny boat just 500m away from it. Explore and learn about the ever-changing environment as you watch icebergs float on by, broken off from the terminal face. The Tasman Glacier is melting and calving at an exponential rate With the effects of global warming and other climatic processes taking their toll on New Zealand glaciers. Explore the lake, the history and embrace mother nature’s legacy from the safety of the glacial explorer’s boat. 

Explore the Tasman Glacier on foot – heli-hike 

A heli hike adventure on the Tasman Glacier is not only reserved for experienced mountaineers. At 27kms long and 4kms wide, this is New Zealand’s longest glacier and you can experience it. Flying in with The Helicopter line after a safety and gear brief in the airport you will fly over the Tasman Lake and land somewhere high above. Venture out onto the undulating ice terrain and hike with your experienced and knowledgeable guide. Fix on your crampons and get ready to be inspired by the ice caves, ever-changing environment, and sheer size of this natural beauty, seriously it is so epic. On the return leg home, you will fly close to the 1000 metre high Hochstetter Icefall on the eastern face of Aoraki/Mt Cook. The most impressive way to round off an already awe-inspiring day of adventure. 

Thank you to the team at The Hermitage hotel for inviting us to spend a weekend exploring our favourite national park!

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Full-time​ adventure seeker, based in Queenstown NZ. Obsessed with everything outdoors. My blog is filled with all our adventures and weekly happenings, feel free to get in touch. I love meeting new people!

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