Exploring The Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand

Updated on Jan 16, 2024 | New Zealand eTA

Mount Cook is destination meant to be on everyone’s bucket list, get ready to be overwhelmed by the plethora of breathtaking views, adventures, and serenity this place has to offer.

A reminder to get New Zealand eTA to visit Mount Cook

If you are intending a visit to New Zealand as a tourist, visitor or in general for any other reason, do not forget to obtain a New Zealand ETA  (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority or NZeTA). New Zealand ETA is a special boon for visitors of 60 countries who not longer require New Zealand Visitor Visa which is otherwise time consuming. The New Zealand ETA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority or NZeTA) can be applied on this website and completed in under 5 minutes. New Zealand Government has allowed New Zealand ETA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority or NZeTA) since the Year 2019.

If you are arriving by Cruise Ship then you can apply for  New Zealand ETA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority or NZeTA) regardless of your country of origin, in other words anyone from any country can apply for New Zealand ETA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority or NZeTA) regardless of your home country, if coming by Cruise ship mode of travel . You can check theNew Zealand Visa Types for further details on the appropriate type of New Zealand Visa or New Zealand eTA.

What you need to know about Mount Cook

Fear not if you are not a professional mountain climber as basic fitness and the zest for adventure is all you need to undertake the exploring.

The mountainous region was announced as a national park in the year 1953 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990 to protect the abundance of natural vegetation and species. The park is an alpine environment in its true form.

Fun fact about the place, the fastest ascent of Mount Cook by a woman, Emmeline Freda Du Faur in 1910 remains an unbroken record! So, here is a challenge to take up if you love mountaineering!

Mount Cook

Locating the park

Situated at the centre of the southern island in New Zealand, it is located en route the way to Queenstown in the southern direct and Christchurch towards the east. The National Park also has its own Mount Cook Village located within the park. Mount Cook which is the abode of the national park is the highest in New Zealand. It shares a common border with the Westland National park on its western end.

Getting there

The only way in and out of the park is through the State-highway 80 which offers scenic views of flora and lakes. The nearest towns are Tekapo and Twizel for stocking up on essentials before you get to the National park. On the way, you will not want to miss stopping at Lake Pukaki and get mesmerised in its clear blue waters.

Mount Cook

State Highway-80 and Lake Pukaki

Must have experiences

Hooker Valley Track is an easily accessible hike that has three picturesque suspension bridges on the way.

One should not miss out on this hike as the spectacular landscape of the Hooker lake, Mueller lake, and glacier climaxing with the view of the tallest mountain will leave you spellbound. The hike will offer you many Instagram-worthy pictures.

It comes highly recommended that the best time to take this walk is at sunrise or sunset.

Hooker Valley Trek

Hooker Valley Trek

A Helicopter ride soaring above Mount Cook provides out of this world sightings of the Franz Josef, Fox, and Tasman glaciers.

Lovers of heights and adventures need to enjoy the heli-skiing, heli-hiking, and glacier hiking.

Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Stargazing in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve which gives a pollution-free view of the sky is the only Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere.

The spectacle of stars shimmering in the night sky is a delight to the eyes

Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre

Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is a place one should visit to gain as much knowledge to fuel and inspire the explorer in you.

The theatre in the Alpine centre’s digital dome ensures that videos and pictures are life-like. The museum within the centre will leave art enthusiasts awe-inspired with their pictures, displays, and memorabilia.

Sir Edmund Hilary Centre

Kea Point

Kea Point is a rewarding and short track for those willing to take the road less traversed. For nature lovers, it is a great hike as lovely wildflowers will guide you throughout the hike.

The views of the Mueller Glacier and Mount Cook in the background are splendid.

View From Kea Point

Glacier kayaking and cruising

Glacier kayaking and cruising both offer up-close views of all the glaciers but they are costly on the pocket and the lower age limit for the activity is set at 15 years of age. But the enthralling adventure the venture offers is unparalleled.

Glacier Kayaking

Glacier Kayaking

Sealy Tarns

Sealy Tarns is a track almost halfway to the Mueller Hut but is often taken as a hike on its own. The route involves many steps and could be hard on the knees for individuals and calls for hiking poles for an easier hike.

There are picnic benches placed at strategic points to take in the beauty of the place, so don’t forget to relax on them and absorb the beauty.

Sealy Trans Track

Hermitage hotel and Mountaineer’s Café

Hermitage hotel and Mountaineer’s Café are the go-to places for foodies for great food with a view. Both the joints are popularly visited during sunset hours to relax after hikes.

The Hermitage hotel’s home-made pies are not to be missed and sell like hot-cakes. The Mountaineer’s café is a tribute to mountaineering and supports local suppliers for all their produce.

The Hermitage Hotel

Old Mountaineer’s Café

Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut is one of New Zealand’s best backcountry huts and it witnesses a heavy foot-fall among tourists and locals.

The track beyond the Sealy Trans is steep and rocky and taking time to go up and coming down is essential to stay safe as the track gets slippery.

Bookings for the hut must be done well in advance as they are packed during the peak tourist season between November to April.

Mueller Hut In Winter

Staying there

There are huts available for accommodation provided by the Department of Conservation but they are recommended only to mountaineers as one must take on some climbing to get to them.

My first recommendation is for those who would like to live amidst nature and experience it in its true self, for which I recommend camping at the Whitehorse Hill Campground. It costs around 15/$ a night with the provision of bathrooms and a kitchen. The campground is a great starting point for all the treks. The rule at the campground is a first-come-first basis for registering.

For those on a budget, the YHA is the go-to option.

For a middle-range budget, you could opt to stay at Aoraki Court Motel or Aoraki Pine Lodge

For the experience of luxurious living stay at The Hermitage Hotel Mount Cook

A view of Mount Cook

On the whole, Mount Cook National Park is not a place where you just drop by spend a few hours and leave, the park is a location that is meant to be enjoyed over a minimum of 2-3 days where one explores its natural beauty, flora, and fauna in a relaxed manner. The Alpine environment and the pleasant weather and breathtaking views and scenery put your mind at ease. I would suggest you lose yourself to the spot and let it take control over you and it would truly be immersive and tranquilising. When one does this at their own pace, they are guaranteed an immensely serene feeling when they leave the place.

New Zealand Visa is useful if you want to stay in New Zealand for more than six months, but if you want to stay in New Zealand for less than 90 days, then New Zealand eTA is sufficient. Also, note that you must be from one of the 60 New Zealand Visa Waiver countries if coming by air route, whereas you can be from any of the worlds 180+ nationalities if coming by cruise ship. You are encourage to apply online 72 hours in advance, although vast majority of application are approved in the same day.

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