Mt Cook + Lake Tekapo Travel Guide

Are you going to Mt Cook or Lake Tekapo in New Zealand?

I live in Wanaka, which is only a couple of hours from Mount Cook and Tekapo. I’ve been there multiple times, and I’ve done basically everything there is to do in the area.

It’s one of my favourite places in New Zealand, which you shouldn’t miss.

Keep reading for my ultimate guide to Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo: the best places you should go, where you should miss, and all my top tips.

RELATED: Ultimate Wanaka Travel Guide, Queenstown Travel Guide , Central Otago Travel Guide, Fiordland Travel Guide, West Coast Travel Guide

TOP PLACES YOU SHOULDN’T MISS

Wondering where you should go in Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo? These are the top places you shouldn’t miss:

Mt Cook:

  1. Scenic Helicopter Flight: Without a doubt the best thing to do in Mt Cook. Make sure you do this. Feeling overwhelmed about what scenic ride to choose? Read my Ultimate Guide to Choosing The Best Mt Cook Helicopter Flight here.
  2. Hooker Valley Track: Very busy and touristy, but one of the best walks in Mt Cook for a reason. Don’t miss this walk. Read my Ultimate Guide To The Hooker Valley Track here.
  3. Sealy Tarns Viewpoint: One of my favourite walks in Mt Cook. The photo above is from this viewpoint. Read my Ultimate Guide to the Sealy Tarns Track here.
  4. Tasman Glacier: There’s a few walks that go to Tasman Glacier. The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walk is the easiest and most popular. The Ball Hut Road Walk isn’t very well known but is a million times better.
  5. Tasman Glacier Boat Trip: One of the best ways to see Tasman Glacier. There’s often icebergs on Tasman Lake and you can get really close to them on the boat. Read my Tasman Glacier Boat Trip Ultimate Guide here.
  6. Skiing at Ohau: Small club ski field with incredible views over the beautiful blue Lake Pukaki. This is where everyone in Wanaka and Queenstown go on a powder day.
  7. Lake Pukaki: Lake Tekapo is the famous blue lake in New Zealand, but Lake Pukaki is just as (if not more) beautiful. The best viewpoints are at the end of the lake on the main highway from Tekapo to Pukaki, or at Peter’s Lookout.

Lake Tekapo:

  1. Mt John Observatory: Drive up this hill for the best views of Lake Tekapo. You’re up quite high, so you get a panoramic view and the lake looks extra blue from that high.
  2. Church of the Good Shepherd: Most popular stop to view Lake Tekapo. It’s super touristy, but beautiful and worth going. Pretty stone church with the bright blue lake and Mt Cook in the background.
  3. Skiing at Roundhill and Mt Dobson: Small club fields with beautiful views of Lake Tekapo in the background.
  4. Ice skating in Winter: If you’re visiting in Winter, make sure to visit the outdoor ice skating rink. It’s at the same place as the Tekapo Hot Springs.
  5. Tekapo Peninsula Walkway: Beautiful walk along Lake Tekapo.

Still not sure what to do? Read my guides about the best things to do in Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo:

OVERRATED PLACES YOU SHOULD MISS

I love Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo, so I wouldn’t really say there’s too many overrated places to skip. But if I had to choose…

  1. Twizel: Twizel is the biggest town near Mt Cook. There’s nothing to do there so I wouldn’t bother going, unless you need to stop at the supermarket or petrol station.
  2. Red Tarns Track: Pretty walk with views of the Mt Cook Valley and Mt Cook. It’s only on this list because there are better walks in Mt Cook (do Sealy Tarns instead), but if you have extra time it’s still worth doing. Read my Ultimate Guide to the Red Tarns Track to help you decide if you should do it.
  3. Kea Point Track: Short walk in Mt Cook with lovely views. Again, only on this list because there are better walks in Mt Cook. Do Sealy Tarns instead.
New-Zealand-Travel-Guide

BEST OF MT COOK AND LAKE TEKAPO

Not sure where to start? Read my curated collection of the best things to do in Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo.

Best of Mt Cook

7 BEST Walks in Mt Cook

7 BEST Walks in Mt Cook

9 BEST Things to Do in Mount Cook

9 BEST Things to Do in Mount Cook

Tasman Glacier Boat Trip: Review + Ultimate Guide 

Tasman Glacier Boat Trip: Review + Ultimate Guide 

Best Mt Cook Walks

7 BEST Walks in Mt Cook

7 BEST Walks in Mt Cook

Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walks: The Ultimate Guide

Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier Walks: The Ultimate Guide

Red Tarns Track, Mount Cook: The Ultimate Guide 

Red Tarns Track, Mount Cook: The Ultimate Guide 

WANT MORE SUGGESTIONS?

Going to Wanaka too? Download my Wanaka Bucket List for free – find out my very favourite things to do and places to eat and drink in Wanaka.

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING IN MT COOK + TEKAPO

HOW TO GET AROUND MT COOK + LAKE TEKAPO?

There is no public transport to Mt Cook. The only way to get there is driving.

The nearest airport is Queenstown (3 hour drive) or Christchurch (4 hour drive).

If you need a rental car, I recommend using rentalcars.com. It’s what I always personally use. You can easily compare every rental car available from every company and find the best deal.

MT 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 HotelThe Hermitage Hotel is the best and most luxurious place to stay in the Mt Cook Village, and also has incredible food. 
  • Aoraki Court MotelI 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 RetreatBeautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki. 
  • Lakestone Lodge TekapoAnother beautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki. 

WHEN TO GO TO MT COOK + TEKAPO?

  • If you want to see the lupins (the pretty purple flower you’ve probably seen in lots of photos), you’ll need to visit during lupin season which is September to February.
  • Avoid Christmas school holidays (mid-December to late January) if you don’t like crowds. (Although unfortunately this is the best time for lupins).
  • If you’re going on a ski holiday, August to mid-September is best.
  • If you want to do Mt Cook walks, avoid Winter. The easy short walks like Tasman Lake and Hooker Valley Track are open year-round, but you won’t be able to do Sealy Tarns, the Ball Hut Walk, or a Tasman Glacier Boat Cruise in Winter.

HOW LONG TO SPEND IN MT COOK AND LAKE TEKAPO?

  • Allow 30-60 minutes if you’re passing through on a road trip and only visiting Lake Tekapo (i.e. not Mt Cook).
  • Allow 1-2 days if you want to stay in Lake Tekapo to relax or explore the area more (again, not including Mt Cook).
  • Allow at least 2-4 days if you’re going to Mt Cook. Even if there’s not much on your bucket list, you should make an allowance for bad weather. I have seen so many people do a day trip to Mt Cook, and they couldn’t see (or do) a thing because the weather was bad. They literally drove there, saw clouds, and drove back again.

This is just a rough outline. Obviously it will depend on your particular circumstances and what you want to see.

Mt-Cook-Travel-Tips

VIEW ALL MT COOK + TEKAPO POSTS

7 BEST Walks in Mt Cook

7 BEST Walks in Mt Cook

9 BEST Things to Do in Mount Cook

9 BEST Things to Do in Mount Cook

Tasman Glacier Boat Trip: Review + Ultimate Guide 

Tasman Glacier Boat Trip: Review + Ultimate Guide 

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