12 Best Things to Do in Mount Cook National Park: Must-See Attractions

by Emil Backup
This post may have affiliate links, where I may receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

Looking to visit Mount Cook anytime soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Mount Cook National Park. These spectacular sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Welcome to Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand, where your adventure spirit is about to be fully ignited! This isn’t your ordinary park; it’s a massive playground for anyone who’s into hiking, stargazing, or just exploring some pretty epic nature without the fluff. Right off the bat, this place is all about getting outside and diving straight into whatever activity gets your adrenaline pumping.

Hikers, you’re in for a treat with trails that deliver both in views and variety. Whether it’s a challenging trek or a casual walk, you’re covered. And for those who like their adventures a bit chillier, there’s skiing and other snow sports waiting in the winter months.

Now, if you’re a fan of the stars, the International Dark Sky Reserve here is going to be your new favorite spot. It’s all about clear, unpolluted skies that make stargazing a top-tier activity here. And let’s not forget the glaciers – because exploring those is a whole adventure in itself.

In a nutshell, Mount Cook National Park is where you go to ditch the crowds, get active, and just enjoy nature in its raw, untamed form. Let’s get into all the cool stuff you can do in this outdoor paradise! Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Mount Cook National Park.

The top things to do in Mount Cook National Park right now.
This article on the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. 

Best Places to Visit in Mount Cook National Park

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Mount Cook National Park? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this unspoiled vacation spot in New Zealand. So keep reading to discover all these unique Mount Cook National Park places to visit.

Are you looking to go hiking through pristine wilderness and stargazing under some of the clearest skies in the world? Or would you prefer to explore rugged landscapes and engage in various adventures amidst breathtaking natural beauty? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Mount Cook National Park can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Mount Cook that you should know about.

1. Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley Track is a must-visit for anyone hitting up Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand. This track is arguably one of the best things to do in Mount Cook, offering a straightforward, scenic hike suitable for all fitness levels. Spanning approximately 10 kilometers return, the route promises a half-day adventure. Visitors can enjoy some of the park’s most iconic sights without needing a high fitness level, ensuring accessibility for many.

The track takes you through the Hooker Valley, providing views of glaciers, rivers, and Mount Cook itself. It’s not a strenuous hike, which means it’s accessible for most visitors. You’ll cross swing bridges, stroll beside the Hooker River, and if you’re there at the right time, witness a landscape dotted with wildflowers.

The final destination, the Hooker Lake, is a sight to behold with icebergs often floating in it during the summer. It’s a spot where you can take a break, snap some photos, and just soak in the view of Mount Cook.

Hooker Valley Track is where you get the postcard-perfect New Zealand experience without needing to be an expert hiker. It’s straightforward, it’s stunning, and it’s waiting for you to explore it.

Traverse Hooker Valley Track's stunning landscapes, a must among things to do in Mount Cook National Park.
Traverse Hooker Valley Track’s stunning landscapes, a must among things to do in Mount Cook National Park.

2. Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is a gateway to the universe right from New Zealand. This isn’t your average stargazing spot; it’s a massive reserve that’s been dedicated to preserving the night sky. Spanning 4,300 square kilometers, it’s one of the largest dark sky reserves in the world, and it’s got the credentials to back it up. The reserve is recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association, meaning it’s a top-tier spot for stargazing.

Diving into the universe by simply looking up is undoubtedly one of the coolest activities in Mount Cook National Park. The reserve offers various stargazing tours, ensuring you get the most out of this celestial experience. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or someone who wants to gaze at the stars, the reserve has something for everyone. It’s experiencing the universe from a place that’s dedicated to keeping the skies clear and dark.

Among the unique places in Mount Cook National Park, Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve stands out prominently. More than just a place, it’s an experience that allows you to connect with the universe in a way that’s becoming increasingly rare. This is where you go to see the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies in all their glory.

Embrace celestial wonders in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, a stargazer's paradise in New Zealand.
Embrace celestial wonders in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, a stargazer’s paradise in New Zealand. | Photo credits: darkskyproject.co.nz

3. Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier, located in the spectacular Southern Alps of New Zealand is a hub for some of the unique things to do in Mount Cook National Park. This glacier, the largest in New Zealand, presents a massive icy spectacle for visitors. The glacier offers a range of activities that make it a must-visit spot in the park.

Visitors can explore the glacier in various ways, such as taking a boat tour among the icebergs on the glacier’s terminal lake. It’s a chance to get up close with the glacier, see its gigantic icebergs, and learn about its geology. For those looking for a bit more adventure, guided heli-hiking tours are available. These tours allow you to land on the glacier and explore its icy landscapes with a guide.

In essence, Tasman Glacier is more than a scenic spot; it’s an adventure waiting to happen. Whether you’re exploring by boat, helicopter, or on foot, the glacier offers a unique and accessible way to experience the icy wonders of Mount Cook National Park. It’s a chilly adventure that’s worth every moment!

Marvel at the majestic expanse of Tasman Glacier, a breathtaking natural wonder in New Zealand's Southern Alps.
Marvel at the majestic expanse of Tasman Glacier, a breathtaking natural wonder in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

4. Tasman Lake

Tasman Lake, in New Zealand’s South Island heart, offers a distinct, memorable experience in the alpine environment. This proglacial lake, formed by the retreating Tasman Glacier, provides a dynamic and ever-changing landscape that captures the essence of glacial transformation. The lake features floating icebergs and chilly waters, providing a stark, beautiful contrast to the surrounding Southern Alps peaks.

Being one of the best places in Mount Cook National Park, Tasman Lake offers a unique opportunity to witness and explore a glacial environment. Boat tours are popular here, allowing visitors to navigate among the icebergs, providing a close-up view of these floating giants. It’s a place for active engagement with the environment, understanding glacial retreat impacts and processes.

The area around the lake provides hiking opportunities. Several trails offer varying views of the lake, icebergs, and the nearby Tasman Glacier. These trails range in difficulty, ensuring that most visitors can find a route that suits their abilities and interests.

Thinking about where to go in Mount Cook National Park that you shouldn’t miss? Tasman Lake should be on your list. It’s an experience that provides insight into the park’s natural processes. Visitors are surrounded by the serene beauty of the alpine landscape.

Tasman Lake, a serene glacial jewel amidst the grandeur of New Zealand's Southern Alps.
Tasman Lake, a serene glacial jewel amidst the grandeur of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

5. Sealy Tarns Track

Sealy Tarns Track is more than a hike; it’s a rewarding workout, offering some of New Zealand’s best views. This track is often referred to as the “stairway to heaven” due to its steep, stair-covered terrain. But don’t let that put you off; it’s a challenge that many find worth the effort. Taking 3-4 hours return, the track leads you up steps, offering continuously improving views as you ascend.

The hike is straightforward but does require a decent level of fitness due to the steep climb. As you make your way up, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Hooker Valley and the surrounding peaks. It’s not just a hike; it’s a journey upward that rewards every step with increasingly impressive sights.

When considering where to visit in Mount Cook National Park, Sealy Tarns Track is a solid choice for those looking to combine physical activity with stunning vistas. It’s a place where effort and reward go hand in hand, providing a memorable experience. The journey might leave you breathless in more ways than one.

Hike the challenging Sealy Tarns Track for panoramic alpine views in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Hike the challenging Sealy Tarns Track for panoramic alpine views in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

6. Ball Hut Route

Ball Hut Route is a journey through some of New Zealand’s most impressive alpine landscapes. This route, which is approximately 11 kilometers one way, is not for the faint-hearted, offering a challenging yet rewarding experience for seasoned hikers. The track through Tasman Valley offers views of the Tasman Glacier, moraine landscapes, and towering peaks. It’s a route that demands respect, preparation, and a good level of fitness.

The flora and fauna encountered along the route add to the rich tapestry of experiences on the Ball Hut Route. Hardy alpine plants dot the landscape, and encounters with the cheeky Kea, a native alpine parrot, are not uncommon. These birds, known for their intelligence and curiosity, often engage with hikers, providing delightful interactions along the way.

Embarking on the Ball Hut Route is a compelling thing to do in Mount Cook National Park, especially for those seeking a bit of adventure. The track leads to the historic Ball Hut, providing a place to rest and soak in the surrounding alpine scenery. Perched above the Tasman Glacier, the hut offers a unique overnight adventure-extending experience.

In summary, the Ball Hut Route is an adventure through some of New Zealand’s most iconic alpine scenery. The trek offers a physical challenge, unparalleled views, and a unique overnight stay in a historic hut.

Trek the rugged beauty of Ball Hut Route, an adventurous trail in the heart of New Zealand's Alps.
Trek the rugged beauty of Ball Hut Route, an adventurous trail in the heart of New Zealand’s Alps. | Photo credits: doc.govt.nz

7. Governors Bush Walk

Governors Bush Walk is a nature-filled escape right in the heart of Mount Cook Village. This track takes about an hour to complete, and offers relatively easy and family-friendly options for those exploring the area. The walk winds through varied terrains, showcasing the region’s diverse flora and providing a serene adventure backdrop. It’s a track that’s accessible, straightforward, and offers a slice of tranquility without needing to venture far from the village.

Among the Mount Cook National Park things to do, Governors Bush Walk provides a gentle and accessible option. Suitable for families and casual walkers, it allows experiencing the area’s natural flora without a strenuous trek. The walk is not only about the destination but also about enjoying the journey through lush landscapes and peaceful surroundings.

The track also offers views of Mount Cook, providing a different perspective of the highest peak in New Zealand. Combining natural beauty with easy access, the walk is achievable for a wide range of visitors.

In the context of unique places in Mount Cook National Park, Governors Bush Walk holds its own. Immerse in nature, enjoy Mount Cook views, and experience a peaceful walk without venturing deep into the park.

Discover nature's secrets on Governors Bush Walk, a serene escape in the heart of natural beauty.
Discover nature’s secrets on Governors Bush Walk, a serene escape in the heart of natural beauty.

8. Aoraki/Mount Cook

Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, is one of the cool destinations in Mount Cook National Park. Standing at 3,724 meters, more than the height, its significance to both Maori culture and mountaineers, makes it remarkable. The snowy-capped mountain, imposing in stature, attracts climbers, hikers, and admirers of its majesty. It’s a place where adventure and cultural significance intertwine, providing a rich and varied experience for visitors.

The mountain is not only a sight to behold but also a hub for various activities. Aoraki/Mount Cook offers numerous trails, mountain climbing, and nearby Tasman Glacier exploration experiences. It’s a focal point for adventures, explorations, and understanding the natural and cultural tapestry of the region.

Visitors can explore the Mount Cook Village, which serves as a base for many explorations. The village, with its accommodations, visitor center, and Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, provides insights and comforts for those exploring the area.

When considering Mount Cook National Park places to visit, Aoraki/Mount Cook stands out prominently. It’s a symbol of natural grandeur, adventure, and cultural significance, making it a must-visit spot in the park.

Stand in awe beneath Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, a majestic icon of natural grandeur.
Stand in awe beneath Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, a majestic icon of natural grandeur.

9. Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre

When pondering what to do in Mount Cook National Park, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre emerges as a must-visit destination. Located at the Hermitage Hotel, it’s a tribute to one of New Zealand’s greatest explorers and a hub of information and entertainment for visitors. The centre provides a comprehensive look into the history and challenges of exploring the imposing and beautiful Southern Alps.

The museum within the centre is a treasure trove of information. It meticulously documents the adventures and life of Sir Edmund Hillary, providing insights into his remarkable achievements. Visitors can explore exhibits that delve into mountaineering history. These showcase the trials and triumphs of adventurers who dared to conquer these majestic peaks.

As one of the key Mount Cook National Park attractions, the centre also features a 3D theater. Visitors can immerse themselves in a visual journey, exploring the peaks and valleys of the park without leaving their seats. The planetarium is another highlight, offering a stellar experience. This guides visitors through the southern night sky, providing a closer look at stars, planets, and distant galaxies. It’s an educational and entertaining stop in the park, suitable for all ages.

Embark on a journey of discovery at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, where adventure meets education.
Embark on a journey of discovery at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, where adventure meets education.

10. Mueller Glacier

Mueller Glacier is a dynamic and accessible ice formation within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. This glacier, situated in the Hooker Valley, is known for its accessibility and the numerous activities it offers to visitors. The glacier features impressive ice formations and surrounding peaks, providing a stunning backdrop for various adventures. These adventures include guided hikes and scenic flights, offering different perspectives of this icy giant.

A visit to Mueller Glacier is a must-see in Mount Cook National Park, providing visitors with a tangible connection to the region’s glacial processes and natural history. The glacier, with its crevasses and icefalls, provides a visually stunning landscape that can be explored through various means. Whether it’s walking alongside it on one of the valley tracks or viewing it from above, the glacier provides a captivating experience. Viewing it via a scenic flight is another option.

Among the best places to go in Mount Cook National Park, Mueller Glacier ranks highly. It offers a blend of visual appeal and adventurous activities. This provides a memorable and enriching experience within the park’s diverse landscapes.

Marvel at the icy splendor of Mueller Glacier, a pristine masterpiece in the embrace of Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Marvel at the icy splendor of Mueller Glacier, a pristine masterpiece in the embrace of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

11. Kea Point Track

Kea Point Track is a route that delivers you to some of the most striking views within the Mount Cook area. This walk, which takes approximately 2 hours return, is known for its accessibility and the panoramic vistas it provides of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Sefton. The well-formed track is suitable for various abilities and takes you through subalpine grasslands and scrub. It provides a straightforward yet rewarding walking experience. This journey brings you face to face with iconic landscapes without requiring high fitness levels.

Among the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park, embarking on the Kea Point Track is a choice that combines ease with awe-inspiring views. Suitable for casual strollers and avid walkers alike, this walk lets everyone witness the park’s grandeur and notable peaks. The track concludes at a viewing platform, providing an unobstructed view of the Mueller Glacier terminal lake.

In essence, Kea Point Track is more than a walk; it’s an accessible adventure into the heart of some of New Zealand’s most iconic landscapes. The route offers a taste of the alpine world within a manageable walk, becoming a popular choice for many park visitors.

Hike the scenic Kea Point Track for breathtaking views, a nature lover's delight.
Hike the scenic Kea Point Track for breathtaking views, a nature lover’s delight.

12. Red Tarns

Red Tarns is a destination that offers one of the unique things to do in Mount Cook National Park. This track is known for its steep ascent and the stunning views it provides. It takes approximately two hours return, making it a manageable adventure for those with a decent level of fitness. The path, which is well-maintained, takes you up a series of steps, providing increasingly impressive views as you ascend. The journey culminates in a panoramic vista that includes the tarns and the surrounding peaks.

The Red Tarns, named for the red pondweed that can be seen in them during certain times of the year, provide a vibrant contrast to the surrounding landscape. The track not only offers views of the tarns but also panoramic vistas of the Hooker Valley and Aoraki/Mount Cook. It’s a popular choice for those seeking impressive views without undertaking a multi-day hike.

When considering Mount Cook National Park places to visit, the Red Tarns Track is a worthy inclusion. It’s a route that provides a blend of physical challenge and visual reward. This makes it a memorable and achievable adventure for a wide range of visitors.

Climb to the enchanting Red Tarns, a reward of vibrant beauty on the slopes of Mount Cook.
Climb to the enchanting Red Tarns, a reward of vibrant beauty on the slopes of Mount Cook.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Mount Cook National Park

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Mount Cook National Park? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Mount Cook National Park:

What is the best time to visit Mount Cook National Park?

Ideal visits occur from December to February, during summer, where visitors can fully engage with numerous trails and activities thanks to the favorable weather. The blossoming alpine flowers and accessible routes provide a vibrant and convenient exploration experience, making the journey through the park exceptionally enchanting.

Is Mount Cook National Park suitable for family visits?

Absolutely, families find a haven in Mount Cook National Park due to its array of activities suitable for all ages. From gentle walks to engaging educational programs, the park ensures that every family member, regardless of age, can immerse themselves in the natural wonders and create lasting memories together.

How do I get to Mount Cook National Park?

Mount Cook National Park is accessible via a scenic drive from Christchurch or Queenstown, each approximately 4 hours away. The routes are not only well-signposted but also unfold a visual treat of New Zealand’s diverse landscapes, making the journey towards the park a preliminary adventure in itself.

Are there accommodation options within Mount Cook National Park?

Yes, the park offers a variety of accommodation options, ensuring visitors can choose according to their preference and budget. From hotels and motels to a well-equipped campground, Mount Cook National Park provides comfort amidst the wild, allowing you to be in proximity to your next adventure.

Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of Mount Cook National Park, a haven for nature enthusiasts.
Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of Mount Cook National Park, a haven for nature enthusiasts.

Is it possible to explore Mount Cook National Park without guided tours?

Indeed, Mount Cook National Park is visitor-friendly with its well-marked trails and clear signage, facilitating self-guided exploration. While independent exploration is entirely possible and often chosen, opting for guided tours can provide additional insights and stories that enrich the overall experience of the park.

Is it worth visiting Mount Cook?

Absolutely, visiting Mount Cook National Park is a rewarding experience, offering stunning alpine scenery, diverse outdoor activities, and unparalleled opportunities for exploration and adventure. The park’s majestic landscapes, rich biodiversity, and clear, starry nights provide a unique and unforgettable destination for travelers seeking both tranquility and adventure.

Why is Mount Cook so famous?

Mount Cook is renowned for being New Zealand’s tallest mountain, offering breathtaking landscapes and a myriad of outdoor activities. Its significance in Maori culture, coupled with its challenging terrains for mountaineering, make it a symbolic and adventurous destination. The park’s diverse ecosystems and clear night skies further enhance its fame.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Mount Cook National Park

Exploring Mount Cook National Park is a straightforward, rewarding adventure, offering a mix of easy and challenging activities for all. Whether you’re hiking the numerous tracks, taking a scenic flight, or simply soaking in the views, there’s something for every type of traveler.

The park does a fantastic job of blending accessibility with raw, natural beauty, ensuring you get to witness the best of New Zealand’s landscapes without needing to be an expert outdoorsman.

It’s a place where every path leads to a new adventure, ensuring your trip is packed with memorable, postcard-perfect moments. So, lace up those hiking boots, pack a camera, and get ready to explore the natural wonders that await in Mount Cook National Park.

Best things to do in Mount Cook National Park for all types of travelers.
Enjoyed reading about the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park? Pin it! 

You may also like

Leave a Comment