Add Mt Cook or not.

Old Aug 20th, 2017, 10:37 AM
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Add Mt Cook or not.

We will be on a guided tour of New Zealand the beginning of March. Although the tour visits Franz Josef glacier, it doesnt go to Mt Cook. Is it worth extending out tripto include this sight? Our last destination is Queensland. Can we get to Mt Cook from there should we stay?
DianeCHS is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2017, 03:58 PM
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I guess it depends on how much time you have and your particular interests. What's worth it for one is a waste of time for another.

Mt Cook isn't exactly a day trip from Queenstown. It's about a 3.5 hour drive each way.

To fully experience it, you would probably need to spend a couple of nights there, which would give you one full day to explore the area. Mt Cook weather is fickle (like most of NZ actually), so the longer you stay, the better chance you'll have of actually seeing the top of Mt Cook.
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Old Aug 20th, 2017, 11:35 PM
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Where else are you going in New Zealand and how much time will you have for your trip? Are your roundtrip tickets already booked, or can you extend your trip by a few days (or more). What time of the year will you be here? Do you enjoy walking/hiking (here known as "tramping"). Do you like looking at mountains and lakes?

I agree with Melnq8 that it'd be best to spend a night or two in Aoraki Mt. Cook village. However, if I could only visit Mt. Cook on a day tour, I'd do it, even with the long time spent on the bus. Aoraki Mt. Cook can sometimes be seen from Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier (perhaps your tour will stop for a walk there, as it's a major attraction).

But a trip to Aoraki Mt. Cook village is more than just being able to see the eponymous mountain (when clear). The road to Aoraki Mt. Cook and the village itself are highly scenic, more so if the weather is fine.

Aoraki Mt. Cook is NZ's highest mountain, with its summit at 3724 metres (a midget compared to Himalayan peaks), but the village is at an elevation of 747 metres. So you're in a valley surrounded by 19 peaks that rise more than 3000 metres (or 10,000 feet) around you. Imagine sitting in a bowl whose sides are composed of high glaciated mountains.

Its landscape is different from the lush temperate rainforest around Franz Josef. There's little forest here, but more than 300 types of alpine plants. You can learn more about the biology of this region here:

The mountain also has tremendous historical and spiritual significance. Kiwi Sir Edmund Hillary prepared for his historic Mt. Everest Climb by practicing on Aoraki-Mt. Cook and these neighboring mountains. The Ngai Tahu, the main tribe (or iwi) of the South Island regard Aoraki Mt. Cook as the most sacred of their ancestors. You can read more about their beliefs here:

If going from Queenstown to Cromwell to Mt. Cook, you'll travel through scenic Kawarau Gorge (historic gold mining area), through scenic Lindis Pass, through Mackenzie Basin, and last but not least Aoraki Mt. Cook Road. This 45-minute drive from the main highway (SH8) along Lake Pukaki to Aoraki Mt. Cook Village is as beautiful as is the village itself. Looks like this photo (in clear weather):
Lake Pukaki, along with nearby Lakes Ohau and Tekapo, is an alpine lake, colored a distinctive blue due to its content of glacial flour (finely ground rock particles from the glaciers).

Activities in and around Aoraki Mt. Cook include walking/hiking, stargazing, scenic flights, scenic boating and kayaking.

Some of its walking tracks traverse swing bridges over fast-flowing rivers, offer views of glaciers and glacial lakes (with icebergs) and fauna and flora unique to NZ's alpine ecosystem. Here's a link to a brochure for its walking tracks.
Most are easy.

You can take a Zodiac boat ride or kayak onto Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake (dotted with small icebergs) at the base of Tasman Glacier. Here's a link to one of the tour operators:

Aoraki Mt. Cook is part of New Zealand's International Dark Sky Reserve. Stargazing is great under optimal conditions (clear night, not a full moon).

This You Tube video shows Aoraki Mt. Cook in both rainy and sunny conditions, features Aoraki Mt. Cook Road, one of its most popular walking tracks; the camerawork is not shaky and the soundtrack is not obnoxious.
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Old Aug 21st, 2017, 04:24 AM
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That is an excellent video Diamantina. In all my visits to Mt Cook I don't think I've ever seen it quite like that.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 12:11 PM
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I liked Mount Cook a lot, and we did it as a single day trip from Twizel rather than staying in the Mt. Cook village (due to the distance from where we started). But a night in the Mt. Cook village would be good if the driving distance to get there is not too long. But I think one day is enough for most people if not doing major hiking. We did two shorter hikes, one with a good view of the mountain over a lake and one to a smaller glacier. Of course, I can't remember the names of the trails, but the first one was right at the main visitor center. It was beautiful, and for me, a highlight of out 2.5 weeks in New Zealand. Note, the scenery here is much different than the west coast, drier and the location at the head of a lake is quite lovely. Personally, I'd do it over the west coast glaciers, but sounds like too late to drop that.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2017, 03:39 PM
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Glad you enjoyed the You Tube link. Melnq8. The videographer captured it under ideal conditions (and caught a bit of rain). Filmed in January 2012. I'm surprised it's had relatively few views
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Old Aug 26th, 2017, 12:18 PM
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I agree that it's worth a trip, especially given that you can get up close to Mt. Cook on a couple of relatively easy walks/hikes. We got lucky both times we were there with clear skies and no rain at all. On our latest trip we even had 75-80F temp and sunny skies, as you can see in my profile picture. It was warm enough that some people (not us!) even went swimming in Hooker Lake. But I understand that staying multiple days would certainly increase chances of getting good weather.
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