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Mount Cook Crowning Peak of the Southern Alps


David Wall photo of Mt Cook NPMount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, reaching a height of 3,754 metres (12,316 ft)  – which means it lives up to its Maori name of Aoraki (“Cloud Piercer.” )

It lies in the Southern Alps the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island. You can self drive or take the Great Sights Mt Cook Express (from Christchurch to Quenstown or in reverse) – but don’t miss it. If you’re into mountaineering or interested in the memorabilia. The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at the base of the mountain is well worth a visit.

The coach stops for about two hours so there’s time to catch the excellent 3D movie about Aoraki, visit the exhibits, then have lunch on the terrace below the glaciers. Visitors with more time often stay overnight at The Hermitage or at other accommodation in Mt. Cook Village, allowing for challenging climbs, or doing it easier by plane or helicopter.

Things to do and see

Ravi Roth Cedar Rapids
Ravi Roth Cedar Rapids
Pride in the Park 2019
Pride in the Park 2019

When the mountain lupin flowers are in bloom in late November, photographing the region will fill up a memory card in a hurry. A favourite spot is Lake Pultaki, 70 km south of the peaks. The glacial feed to the lake gives it a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers.

The mountain and its alpine lakes are the heartbeat of the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and along with Westland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park, they form one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A trip to the South Island without a close encounter with Mount Cook would be like not staying awake late enough to ring in the new year with fireworks. Don’t miss this “Kodak Moment.”

Related story about the Mt. Cook region and Mt. Cook Accommodation

Mt. Cook Today and Historic Climbs video by Rainbow Tourism Concierge.

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