Aoraki/Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain and her distant peak always dominates those incredible South Island backdrops. Here are the best places to see Mount Cook and capture epic Mount Cook view photos.
Aoraki/Mount Cook was recognised for its splendour and beauty by both traditional Maori settlers and European explorers. Due to Mount cook being significant to both parties, the official name has been combined to reflect the unified history that is shared by all New Zealanders.
Even today, people flock from all over the world to catch a glimpse of this impressive 3 724 metre peak.
In this guide, I’ll share some of the best places to see Mount Cook in all her glory.
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Where Can You See Mount Cook From? – The Best Places to See Mount Cook
With that out of the way, let’s get straight into this list of the best places to see Mount Cook.
Remember that Mount Cook’s faces are visible from the interior and from the West Coast. To help you find the locations, I’ve included links to each independent article below for a complete guide on each hike and Mount Cook view location.
1. Hooker Valley Track
Known as one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand, the views from the the Hooker Valley track simply has to be seen to be believed.
Following the Hooker Valley, this hike leads to the very edge of the Hooker glacial lake, where Aoraki/Mount Cook stands tall.
The best part is, you’ll have epic Mount Cook views along the entire length of this hike!
FULL HIKING GUIDE: Hiking the Hooker Valley Track in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
2. Mueller Hut Route
One of my personal favourite hikes in New Zealand also arguably offers the best views of New Zealand’s tallest peak!
This popular overnight tramping route leads to the Mueller Hut, which is widely considered as one of New Zealand’s most scenic alpine huts. Aoraki/Mount Cook and the glacial lakes and valleys below, seem to make up an epic, constant backdrop during the entire hike.
Tip: Freedom camping or staying in the Mueller Hut overnight is the best place to see Mount Cook during sunset.
FULL HIKING GUIDE: Complete Guide to Hiking the Mueller Hut Route
Sealy Tarns Track
If the Mueller Hut route is too long or steep for you, then I’d suggest climbing up halfway to the Sealy Tarns. This track actually makes up the first section of the Mueller Hut hike and therefore offers a very similar view (albeit from a lower point).
The tarns themselves are also a great place to capture Mount Cook reflections! Aim to get here just after sunrise or just before sunset to get the clearest reflection photos.
3. Kea Point Track
Another shorter option for hikes in Aorkai/Mount Cook National Park is the Kea Point Track.
Departing from the main hiking area in the National Park, this roughly 1-2 hour hike leads to an impressive viewpoint looking over Mount Cook and the Mueller glacial lake and moraine.
Although views are arguably more impressive from the steeper hikes, the Kea Point track is a good option for those with little time!
4. Peters Lookout
Ahh, the iconic Mount Cook road photo. Peter’s Lookout on the road to Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki is arguably the most scenic view of Aoraki that you’ll get.
The lookout is perfect for those on a New Zealand road trip, since it’s just a simple matter of pulling up to the lookout carpark.
If you continue further up the road, there are also more iconic Mount Cook road photo opportunities, so get creative!
Is it Worth Driving to Mount Cook?
Driving the Pukaki to Mount Cook Village road is definitely worth it. Not only is the road itself incredibly scenic, it also ends at the Mount Cook National Park. This is the area where you will need to come for some of the best hikes in New Zealand including the Hooker Valley track and the Mueller Hut route.
5. Tasman Valley
The Tasman Valley runs from the Aoraki/Mount Cook range on the other side of the Hooker Valley.
Although the Hooker Valley is much more popular, the Tasman Valley is also one of the best places to see Mount Cook.
Furthermore, there are a few short hikes that allow visitors to check out the largest glacier in New Zealand; the Tasman Glacier!
6. Lake Matheson
Located on the South Island’s West Coast, Lake Matheson is very popular due to its perfectly positioned reflections of Mount Cook.
During a short walk around the lake, you’ll find a wooden viewing platform known as Reflection Island.
From here, Mount Cook reflects magnificently in the calm waters of the lake. Again, for clearest reflection photos, make sure to visit during golden hour, either just after sunrise or just before sunset.
7. Fox Glacier Village
Beside from opportunities to spot the Fox Glacier, the village and surrounding countryside also offers great views of Mount Cook’s western face.
If you have a car or camper, I highly recommend driving towards Lake Matheson, just outside the village. Here, you’ll get to experience some of the best countryside landscapes with Mount Cook backdrops.
8. Mount Fox Route
My personal favourite hike in New Zealand is the Mount Fox route. This challenging and steep climb to the summit of Mount Fox ends with breathtaking views of Mount Cook and the Fox Glacier.
Similarly to Lake Matheson, this Mount Cook view location is located on the West Coast. Therfore, a good itinerary idea is to hike up to the Mount Fox summit for sunrise, and finish the day with a sunset at Lake Matheson.
Tip: For the best chances of having a clear view, leave before sunrise to avoid midday and afternoon fog. Make sure to read the hiking guide to find the way.
COMPLETE HIKING GUIDE: Hiking the Mount Fox Route
9. Lake Pukaki Lookout
The most beautiful lake in New Zealand – the other-worldy turqoise waters of Lake Pukaki is the perfect foreground to complement New Zealand’s tallest mountain.
The lookout at Lake Pukaki is also a large camp site which is completely free for self-contained campers. We stayed here overnight during out recent road trip around the South Island and sunset views did not disappoint!
HEADING TO QUEENSTOWN?: 8 BEST HIKES IN QUEENSTOWN
10. Helicopter Flight Snow Landing
Okay, you can’t really beat a helicopter flight and snow landing when it comes to epic views. There are several helicopter and skiplane companies operating on the South Island. Consequently, they all compete to offer great deals for those wanting to get up-close-and-personal views of Mount Cook.
I’d suggest comparing prices and booking online with Klook to get the best deals. To save you time, I’ve already done the research work for you. The link below is currently the cheapest and best-rated helicopter flight near Mount Cook online in May 2020.
11. Twizel to Pukaki Road
Another great location to see Mount Cook from the road is the road from Twizel, SH8 (Tekapo-Twizel Road). I’ve taken this road several times during my visits to New Zealand and every time the views have blown me away.
Then again, cloud cover tends to spoil the view in the afternoons. For the best road views, I’d suggest heading here in the early morning.
Camping and Accommodation Near Mount Cook Village
By far, the best place to stay overnight at the Mount Cook National Park is the White Horse Hill Campsite.
Here, there are 60 unpowered sites and you’ll need to arrive early in peak season to secure a spot. It’s not possible to book online as it operates on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Fees are $15 per night per person.
More Things to do in South Island New Zealand
I hope that you have enjoyed this quick guide to the best places to see Mount Cook (Aoraki). If you’re looking for more things to do other than epic Mount Cook views, check out the list of free travel guides and blogs below.
If you’re into hiking, I recommend starting with the Complete Guide to the Best Hikes in Mount Cook National Park or this guide to the 31 Best Hikes in South Island New Zealand.
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