Aoraki Mt Cook location

Aoraki Mt Cook Travel Guide

Aoraki Mt Cook is a special place for all New Zealanders and somewhere most Kiwis dream of visiting at least once in their lives. If Aoraki Mt Cook is on your NZ bucket list tour then this handy guide is for you, with history and legends, where to stay, the best short walks and activities, weather and answers to the most common questions we get about visiting Mt Cook. 

We’re MoaTrek and we’ve been travelling to Aoraki Mt Cook on our New Zealand small group tours since 1971 and over the decades have learnt a few tricks to help make your Mt Cook visit extra special.

Where is Aoraki Mt Cook and how do I get there?

Aoraki Mt Cook is right in the middle of the Southern Alps (Tiritiri o te Moana), deep down in the heart of the South Island. There’s only one way to get to Mt Cook and that is to drive on State Highway 80. From the turn off at the southern end of Lake Pukaki you drive 30 miles (50km) on Highway 80 to Mt. Cook Village, which is at the end of the road the one and only entry point into the national park. 

From Christchurch, the drive is around 5 hours and you can stop at the beautiful big blue lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki on the way. Coming the other way, the drive from Queenstown will be around 4 hours and there are some very windy mountain roads. 

There is a small airfield at Mt Cook but this is used only for scenic and glacier flights, there are currently no domestic flights to Mt Cook.

Where to stay in Mt Cook?

Aoraki Mt Cook village is a tiny settlement of about 200 people at the end of State Highway 80 with just the Hermitage Hotel, the National Park Visitor Centre and a few other cafes and motels. Which is perfect because the reason you’re coming here is to experience the alpine environment, not for city amenities!

The village is definitely the best place to stay as you’re right there in the heart of the National Park, Aoraki Mt Cook is right there and you just need to step out the front door to be in an outdoor paradise. We like to stay at the Hermitage Hotel for the history and comfort, why not spoil yourself at such a bucket list destination?

Map showing short walks in Mt Cook
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