Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by ashleighsatlas
Are you looking for the best things to do in Mount Cook?
Mt Cook is one of my favourite places in New Zealand.
I’ve done nearly all of the Mt Cook activities (including a Mt Cook helicopter flight and boat trip) and all of the most popular Mount Cook walks. I know the best things to do in Mt Cook (and also the most overrated).
Keep reading to find out what to do in Mount Cook?
9 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MT COOK
Wondering what to do at Mount Cook? These are the 9 best things to do in Mount Cook.
1. Mt Cook Helicopter Flight or Ski Plane
One of the best things to do in Mt Cook is a helicopter flight or ski plane. They’re expensive, but definitely worth it and one of the best experiences in my life.
The flights range from 25-60 minutes. They all fly a roughly similar route, but the longer the flight, the more you’ll get to see. Most of them fly over Lake Tasman, up to the Tasman Glacier, and then circle back past Mt Cook.
I did a 45 minute flight with Mt Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters and couldn’t recommend it more. You can read my full review here.
I found it very overwhelming trying to choose a Mt Cook scenic flight. If you’re not sure which one you should book, read my Ultimate Guide to How To Choose a Mt Cook Helicopter Flight.
2. Hooker Valley Track
There are beautiful views of snowy mountains and glaciers the whole way. You end up at Hooker Lake, a beautiful glacial fed lake which is a milky blue. It often has icebergs and beautiful reflections of Mt Cook on the lake.
It’s an easy fairly short walk (10km/3 hours return). You don’t need to be an experienced hiker, and most people with reasonable fitness will be able to do it fine.
RELATED: Read my Ultimate Guide to the Hooker Valley Track
3. Sealy Tarns Track
There are beautiful views the whole way, but they are amazing from the top. You look down over Mueller Lake and Hooker Lake, which are a strange blue-grey colour from the glaciers, and snowy Mt Cook is in the background.
It’s 5.8km/3-4 hours return. It’s uphill the whole way and has 2,200 stairs, so it’s a step-up from the Hooker Valley Track, but not as difficult as Roys Peak in Wanaka.
If you don’t want to walk the whole way, there are beautiful views from the halfway point.
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RELATED: Read my Ultimate Guide to the Sealy Tarns Track
4. Tasman Glacier Boat Trip
One of my favourite things I’ve done in Mount Cook is a Tasman Glacier Boat Trip. If you have time, I’d highly recommend doing it.
It’s one of the best ways to see Tasman Lake. You’ll get much closer to Tasman Glacier than the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint, which is actually quite far away from the glacier. You can often see the glacier breaking off and falling into the lake.
There’s usually icebergs in Tasman Lake. Although you can see them on the Tasman Glacier Walk, you’ll get much closer to them in the Tasman Glacier Boat. It’s a once a lifetime experience to get that close to the icebergs on a glacial lake.
RELATED: Read my Ultimate Tasman Glacier Boat Trip Guide
5. Ball Hut Road + Tasman Valley Walk
Not many people have heard of the Ball Hut Road Walk, but it’s one of my favourite things to do in Mt Cook.
Most of the walk is really boring, but then there is a beautiful viewpoint of Tasman Glacier at the end. You are up quite high looking down on where the Tasman Glacier face meets the lake. There are also panoramic views of Tasman Lake.
The Ball Hut Walk has the best view of Tasman Glacier (other than a helicopter ride). It’s the closest walk you can get to the glacier. It’s much better than the Blue Pools and Tasman Glacier Walks, which are really far away from the glacier and you can’t see much.
The DOC website says this is an advanced and dangerous hike, but the first part of it (to the viewpoint) is on a road and is an easy walk. Just make sure you check with DOC before doing it because there’s an avalanche risk in December.
It’s a 10km/2.5 hour walk to the viewpoint. There’s not much about this walk online, so make sure you read my Ultimate Guide to the Ball Hut Road Walk.
RELATED: Ultimate Guide to the Ball Hut Route
6. Blue Pools and Tasman Glacier View Track
It goes to the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint, which looks out over the Tasman Lake and you can faintly see Tasman Glacier in the distance.
It’s not my favourite thing to do in Mt Cook, but I still recommend doing it since it’s a really easy and short walk, and still has beautiful views of Tasman Lake (just not as good views as the Ball Hut Track).
If you have limited time in Mt Cook, I’d recommend prioritising a helicopter ride, Hooker Valley Track, Sealy Tarns, and Tasman Glacier boat trip. But you should have time to quickly fit in the Blue Pools and Tasman Glacier Walk too.
RELATED: Ultimate Guide to the Blue Pools and Tasman Glacier View Track
7. Tasman Lake Walk
Instead of turning left, follow the track to the right to the Tasman River and the jetty where the Tasman Glacier Boat Trip leaves from.
A lot of people said this was the best Tasman Glacier walk, but I found it a little overrated.
You are even further away from the glacier than the Tasman Glacier Viewpoint.
But you can walk right down to the lake edge so it’s a good place to get close to icebergs. (Although you will have much better views of the icebergs if you do a Tasman Glacier Boat Trip, which gets right up close to them).
It’s a quick and easy walk, so I’d do it if you have time, but if you have to prioritise the very best things to do in Mt Cook it wouldn’t be at the top of my list.
8. Red Tarns Track
It’s similar to Sealy Tarns in that you walk up a lot of stairs, but it’s shorter and not so high (4.8km/1.5-2 hours return). At the top there are lovely views overlooking the Mt Cook Village and valley, with Mt Cook peeking out in the background.
The main reason people walk up here is because you can pretty photos of Mt Cook reflecting on the tarns (alpine lake).
If you have lots of time I’d recommend doing it, but Sealy Tarns is better. If you have to choose one hilly walk, do Sealy Tarns instead.
9. Kea Point Track
The Kea Point Track is a pretty walk, but it’s not my favourite thing to do in Mount Cook.
Kea Point is a viewpoint just off the Sealy Tarns Track. Before you start the never-ending climb to Sealy Tarns, you turn off the right and come to a lookout after a short walk (it’s 3km/40-60 minutes return from the carpark).
The Kea Point Lookout overlooks Mueller Lake, which is a pretty teal-grey glacial lake. It’s a pretty viewpoint, but you’re not as high up as Sealy Tarns, so the view is nothing compared to Sealy Tarns.
I would highly recommend doing the Sealy Tarns Track instead if you can, because the view is a million times better. If you can’t walk the whole track, you could still walk to the viewpoint halfway which has views which are way better than Kea Point.
MOUNT COOK ACCOMMODATION
I recommend staying in the Mt Cook Village. The accommodation is very expensive and there are only a few options, but it’s worth it.
The weather in Mt Cook is very changeable, so it’s worth staying in the village so you can see when there is a break in the weather (and have somewhere to hang out when you’re waiting for the clouds to leave). There are also beautiful views of Mt Cook from the village.
There are also a few beautiful luxury boutique hotels with amazing views of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook. Just be aware they are about a 40-minute drive from Mt Cook Village.
You could also stay in Twizel or Lake Tekapo. Personally I don’t love Twizel (it’s a fairly uncharming small town), but Lake Tekapo is one of my favourite places in New Zealand.
Looking for the best places to stay in Mt Cook?
- Hermitage Hotel: The Hermitage Hotel is the best and most luxurious place to stay in the Mt Cook Village, and also has incredible food.
- Aoraki Court Motel: I stayed here on my last trip, because the room had a spa bath and I wanted cooking facilities. It was a lovely modern apartment, and I would definitely recommend it and stay again. It’s in the Mt Cook Village.
- Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat: Beautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki.
- Lakestone Lodge Tekapo: Another beautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki.
BEST THINGS TO DO NEARBY?
Looking for other things to do in Mt Cook? Read my guides to find the best things to add to your bucket list:
- Ultimate Mt Cook + Tekapo Destination Guide
- 7 Best Mt Cook Walks
- Mt Cook Helicopter Flight
- Hooker Valley Track
- Sealy Tarns Track
- Tasman Glacier Boat Trip
- Ball Hut Road + Tasman Valley Walk
- Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walks
- Red Tarns Track
- Kea Point Track
Planning a trip to other places in the South Island? Read my Ultimate Destination Guides for: