All about Mount Aspiring National Park

Named after New Zealand’s ‘Matterhorn’, this national park contains some of our natural crown jewels, awesome spots that Kiwis have known about for ages and they’re now on the bucket list of millions of people all round the world since Lord of the Rings put these landscapes up in lights (thanks for that Peter Jackson!). Mt Aspiring is our third largest national park, part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area and includes some of our best walking tracks. It's so awesome we almost reckon there needs to be a law making it compulsory to visit when you come to New Zealand. When you’re here you’ll agree, it would be a crime to miss it!

Where is Mount Aspiring National Park?

Mount Aspiring National Park Location Map

Our favourite activity in Mt Aspiring National Park

With all the amazing countryside there’s a lot of choice, but we’ll go out on a limb and tell you our favourite activity in the park, which will be one of the most memorable days of your whole New Zealand Trip, promise! Jet boating on the Dart River, right into the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park, what makes this trip so cool is that there’s no road up here at all, this is what jetboats were invented for, getting into the amazing Kiwi back country. Google some pictures of ‘Dart River Jetboat New Zealand’ and see what we mean! It actually been quite a few years since I went up the Dart River and it still stands out as one of the best days out I’ve ever had in New Zealand.

Lord of the Rings Scenes in Mt Aspiring 

Even if you’re not an LOTR fan you’ll recognise the twin peaks of Mt Earnslaw from the early movies immediately. Turning the corner on the Glenorchy Road at Bennet’s Bluff really feels like you’re entering another world, Middle Earth even. The locations for Isengard and Lothlorien are both right up the Dart Valley, not par from Paradise in fact. If the films are your thing, you can even jump on a locations tour from Queenstown!

Something you didn’t know about Mt Aspiring National Park

The Haast Pass was discovered by the German explorer Julius von Haast.  His second wife, Mary Dobson, was the sister of Arthur Dobson, who discovered the other main route over the Southern Alps, called Arthur’s Pass. Everyone knew everyone back then in the discovery days!

Kiwi Tip for Mt Aspiring

If you’re travelling in summertime (or are just a brave soul), take your togs with you for a dip in the Blue Pools on your way to the Coast!

Jetboat on the Dart River - Mt Aspiring National Park Tours

Kiwi Favourites in Mt Aspiring

Really tough to play favourites here, but for us, no trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the head of Lake Wakatipu and the Glenorchy side of Mt Aspiring. The Routeburn Track, the Dart River, Mt Earnslaw is all right here, when you turn the corner at Bennet’s Bluff on the Glenorchy Road you’ll die and think you’ve gone to heaven. Pretty close actually, there’s even a place called Paradise in this neck of the woods. Warning - You’ll probably fall in love with this area, all your retirement plans will go out the window and you’ll want to move here instead, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Other Mt Aspiring Spots we love

There’s so much to Mt Aspiring and on a trip around the South Island you can actually visit different parts of the park over a few days! We love the drive over the Haast Pass from Wanaka, our favourite spots are walks at the Blue Pools and Fantail Falls on the way to Haast. Another favourite of ours are the views looking north into the Mt Aspiring from the shores of Lake Wanaka.

Beautiful blue water, the Blue Pools - Mt Aspriring National Park Tours

How to fit Mt Aspiring into your New Zealand holiday

‘Land Aspiring’ is really big and touches quite a few different parts of the South Island, giving you lots of chances to visit and discover for yourself. You’ll find it will just slot in really easily to most South Island itineraries. Here’s what we like to do:

Spend a couple of days in Queenstown and head up to the head of Lake Wakatipu for a full day around Glenorchy, the Dart River and the Routeburn Valley. You can also visit from Wanaka, up the Matukituki Valley towards Mt Aspiring itself and of course if you’re travelling onto the Coast you’ll travel right through the heart of the park, following the ‘World Heritage Highway' up and over the Haast Pass and down to the West Coast itself.

Suggested Mt Aspiring National Park Itinerary

We’ve been travelling through this area for years now, from holidays as kids to our small group tours every season, here’s our pick for the best of Mt Aspiring as we travel to through the Southern Lakes and on to the West Coast. Whether your starting your trip in Queenstown, or coming from another part of the country we say it’s worth at least 3 nights here so you won’t miss out on anything. On one of your days in Queenstown, you MUST get up to the head of Lake Wakatipu (do you hear us, you MUST!) and into the Glenorchy side of Mt Aspiring. After your Queenstown stay, head over to Wanaka for a night at least, where you can either get up into the park again or at least enjoy the views from Wanaka. Your Kiwi adventure continues on to the West Coast, traversing right across Mt Aspiring National Park again on the ‘World Heritage Highway’. We don’t want to rush through here, and take the whole day to make the trip to Glacier Country with plenty of time to take in all the short walks and beaut little spots on the way.

Small group walking in beech forest - Mt Aspiring National Park Tours

How to get to Mt Aspiring National Park

Just get yourself to one of the three main entry points into the park and it’s an easy hop skip and a jump from there.

Queenstown. Jump on a domestic flight from Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, there are lots of flights every day. From Queenstown you’ll need a shuttle or arrange with your guide to take you up to Glenorchy and the Head of the Lake.

Wanaka. The easiest way to Wanaka is from Queenstown, there are no more domestic flights into Wanaka any more so fly to Queenstown and it’s just over an hour over the hill from here. From Wanaka you need transport up the Matukituki Valley.  From Wanaka on to the coast takes you through the heart of Mt Aspiring, best way to see everything on the road is with the flexibility to make plenty of stops. Take your time!

Getting into Mt Aspiring National Park

From Queenstown / Glenorchy. This is the South Western entrance to the park, taking you into the country around Mt Earnslaw - Isengard in the original Lord of the Rings movies. The Dart, Rees and Routeburn Valleys are all scenic gems that even Kiwis have on their bucket lists.

From Wanaka. Up the Matukituki Valley to the end of the road is the access point all the serious climbers take, plus those heading to Rob Roy Glacier and the Cascade Saddle Route.

To / From the West Coast. If you’re travelling between Wanaka and the West Coast, you follow State Highway 6 right through the national park. From Makarora there’s the Kiwi favourite the Young and Wilkin circuit, countless short walks and tracks on the Haast Highway and even more expansive country like the wilderness of the Lansborough River on the western side of the pass as the Haast river flows down to the Tasman Sea.

Happy couple by the Haast River - Mt Aspiring National Park Tours

Weather in Mt Aspiring

With an area of 355,000 hectares (880,000 acres) Mt Aspiring National Park covers a lot of land from the lowland valley floors near the west coast, New Zealand’s only 3000 metre peak outside of Mt Cook and drier valleys like the Dart and Matukituki on the eastern side of the Divide.  So it can be very different in different parts of the park on the same day. Get some local advice or ask your guide to check on the weather for you before you head into the park.

Mt Aspiring National Park Temperatures

• Summer, December - February. High:. 52F, 11C Low: 32F, 0C.

• Autumn / Fall, March - May. High:. 48F, 9C, Low: 28F, -2C

• Winter, June - August. High:.26F, 2C Low:23F, -5C.

• Spring, September - November. High: 41F, 5C Low: 25F, -4C

Jetboat on the Dart River - Mt Aspiring National Park Tours

Mt Aspiring with MoaTrek

We touch Mt Aspiring on three different days of our trip, starting during our three nights in Queenstown when we head up to Glenorchy and the head of Lake Wakatipu, most people opt for the Dart River Jet Boat here and love it. Our lakeside accommodation in Wanaka gives us beautiful views north across the lake and into the park, before the crossing the entire park from east to west the following day on our journey to the West Coast, with heaps of time for all our favourite little spots on the way.

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