Just being in Mt Cook is pretty awe inspiring, but to us, nothing beats the Tasman Glacier. There’s nowhere else in New Zealand it’s so easy to get up close or on to glacier like this, and as we all know, these glaciers will not be around forever! There are some great short walks in the Tasman valley to one of glacier viewpoints or even better, get out on the terminal lake in a kayak or an inflatable boat!
Our other favourite things to do in Mt Cook
Walking & Hiking - Mt Cook as an excellent network of tracks leaving right from the village, and they’re making new ones all the time. Day walks we love are the Hooker Valley, Kea Point and the Red Tarns. For a bit more of a grunt, climb the switchbacks to the Sealy Tarns.
Harder Hikes & Day Peaks - Walking up to the Mueller Hut in summer doesn’t require any special gear and is the best view around, but check the weather and don’t go alone. For a real scramble up and down, Sebastopol peak is great fun, a long slog up and really fast run down the gravel slopes if you’re up for it and have good ankles.
Mountaineering - Of course, Mt Cook is a climber’s haven, all of New Zealand’s highest peaks are right here. Don’t be fooled by the lower altitude of the peaks here, this is serious mountaineering and requires experience, equipment and guidance.
Scenic Flights & Snow Landings
There’s nothing like soaring above the glaciers and peaks of Aoraki Mt Cook, if you’re coming to New Zealand to tick a few items off your bucket list then here’s a few for you. Do an image search for ‘Tasman Glacier New Zealand’ and see what we mean! You can even land on the glacier in a ‘ski plane’, a canny Kiwi invention which allows small planes land on ice fields and glaciers, created right here in Mt Cook.
Visitors Centres & Musems - The first two are easy to find - the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre (this one’s free) has recently been upgraded and is excellent, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre in the Hermitage Hotel is great too, but where’s the third? It’s a little alpine museum and gallery, run by locals Charlie and Mary, inside the Old Mountaineer Cafe. A bit more homely than the other two, a real slice of Kiwi alpine history run by really nice people!
Stargazing in the Aoraki Mackenize Dark Sky Reserve
We’ve got to tell you about this, you’ll love it! Kiwis have always know that the Mackenzie Country has the very best night sky in New Zealand, and for a long time now visitors have been enjoying the stellar displays too. Since 2012, the night sky above Mt Cook, Tekapo and Twizel has been officially designated as a Gold Standard International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only a handful in the world. It’s like a national park in the sky, and there are strict building rules in place now to limit light pollution. In our years visiting Mt Cook, we’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been blown away by the Mt Cook night sky and we bet you will too! When was the last time you wished upon a shooting star? From Mt Cook village you can just wander outside at night for a look by yourself, or there’s a Stargazing tour you can go on, which starts with a planetarium show then takes you outside with some expert guides and telescopes.
In summer time the days are long, so sunset is late, and if you’re anything like us after a fun day out exploring it can be hard to keep your eyes open till dark, but we promise it’s worth it. The night skies in Queenstown and Wanaka are great too, but there are very few places you’ll stay where you can walk for a few minutes and get right away from the lights like you can here at Mt Cook.
Something you can only do in Mt Cook
There are a couple we love, and to do them both makes for a red letter day on your tour. It’s the only place in New Zealand you can fly on a ski-plane and land on a glacier and it’s also the only ‘Dark Sky Reserve’ in the country. How about a night out stargazing before your glacier landing the next day? Post those pictures on Facebook and see all the jealous comments you get from home!