Hooker valley walking trek in Mount Cook National Park. © Mawardibahar

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park: the symbolic, iconic peak that is the snapshot of the south.

View the map


Aoraki Mount Cook is the symbolic, iconic, singular peak that snapshots the south in no uncertain terms.

‘Aoraki’ is Maori for ‘cloud piercer’, which requires no explaining, right? At 3755m it’s spectacular, but there are another 21 mountains over 3050m in the 700 sq km park. And the park’s the point, even if the peak is an actual point, if you get the point: don’t just get your snap of the top on a clear day and head back to Queenstown for a bungy. There are heaps of brilliant walks around this amazing place and unique wildlife to coax out from behind bushes and frolic with. (OK, stretching it, but, we’re just saying — don’t disappear. Stay for days).

Glaciers abound, lakes the colour of which you’ve never seen before slide into view and mesmerise your weary eyes, and the tussock floor is delightfully springy beneath your feet.

Once you’ve dodged the kea, head back to the Hermitage for a regroup. Heaps of walks emanate from this legendary hotel — along the Tasman Glacier, up the Hooker Valley, or check out the Blue Lakes if you have the time and the puff. A word of warning: unless you’re uber-experienced, a Hillary in the making, don’t attempt the true alpine tracks and longer, more significant walks.

With that out of the way, be assured the views from the more approachable tracks are utterly stunning to the point of bewildering. How do you get that close to these mountains, you may well ask yourself? One foot in front of the other, course!

Or, course, one ski in front of the other. This is mountain territory and there are world-class skifields within a pole’s reach. Snowboard if you’re the speedy kind, or go glacier heli-skiing, a heady combo that scoots you down some of the country’s highest peaks.

There are alpine tours and guides if you want to get your crampons on, but loads of stunning stuff to attack with nothing more than sturdy boots, a stout heart and loads of layers.

Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Things to do > Must-Do's

Must-Do's Hawke's Bay: art deco, wine and the largest gannet colony in the world

Traverse beautiful coastline, riverbeds, rolling pastures and native bush before taking in panoramic views and experiencing the exhilarating sight and sound of 20,000 gannets.

Find out more

Things to do > Must-Do's

Must-Do's Auckland: the show never stops

Summit the city's most iconic volcano, as well as its youngest and largest.

Find out more

Things to do > Must-Do's

Must-Do's Queenstown: New Zealand's adventure capital

Queenstown Hill, just out of town, is more than worth a peek, and you can make its peak in an hour if you get a wriggle on, and check out the series of information panels showcasing the past, present and predicted future of this stunning part of the world.

Find out more

Things to do > Must-Do's

TranzAlpine: the rail journey considered one of the best in the world

Feast on one breath-taking view after another as you travel from Christchurch to Greymouth on one of the greatest rail journeys in the world, drinking in rolling farmland, snow-capped mountains, deep gorges, serene, ice-fed rivers and lush rainforests, all from the comfort of your seat.