Exploring Aoraki National Park
Offering untouched, unbelievable beauty as far as the eye can see, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is the perfect place for adventurers, hikers, and anyone who enjoys the tranquillity of all nature has to offer.
This park was formally established in 1953 and is home to 19 peaks over 3,000 meters all part of the stunning Southern Alps including the iconic Aoraki or Mount Cook, which holds the title as New Zealand’s tallest mountain and where Sir Edmund Hillary perfected his mountaineering skills before becoming the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Trails range from easy short walks to challenging alpine expeditions providing something for everyone whether you are an introductory walker or a seasoned hiker.
Covering 40% of the land is massive glaciers including the four major valley systems of the Godley, Murchison, Hooker, and Mueller as well as New Zealand’s largest glacier, the Tasman Glacier. Many companies offer glacier experiences that will allow you to get up close and personal with these ancient natural phenomena that must be seen to be believed.
Long untouched swaths of powder allow skiers and snowboarders a unique experience unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the ski fields of New Zealand. Only reachable by helicopter, Ben Ohau is a ski site on the Tasman glacier that calls to all winter sports enthusiasts.
Created from the water trickling down from the glaciers are stunningly blue glacier lakes that allow for incredible kayaking. Experienced kayakers can pass by icebergs as they glide in the impressive Tasman Glacier lake while those with less experience will prefer the serene Mueller Glacier Lake surrounded by the mountain peaks. If paddling does not appeal, several companies also offer MAC boat tours allowing visitors to get up close with the icebergs and even have the opportunity to touch them.
As a part of the largest International Dark Sky Reserve, Aoraki National Park provides one of the clearest stargazing experiences in the world. This mountainous wilderness is almost completely clear of light pollution which makes the clarity of the sky almost untouchable. Visitors looking to learn more about the stars and constellations they are seeing can take part in programs offered with astronomy guides who will use telescopes and astronomy binoculars to introduce them to the southern sky.
To learn more about the history of the park, stop by the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center or the Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park Visitor Center. At the Sir Edmund Center, you can learn about Sir Ed’s various expeditions and eventual conquest of Everest through multimedia presentations and memorabilia including things from the famous Hermitage hotel. The Visitor Center houses educational displays on the park’s history both natural and human, creating a lovely place to experience nature in the park, even on a rainy day. This centre is also an excellent resource for advice and information on hikes, weather conditions, and what to see in the park.