Looking to find out where to see Mount Cook? Aoraki/Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain and her distant peak always dominates those incredible South Island backdrops. However, there are a few select spots that are the best places to see Mount Cook and to 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. And nobody is asking “why”? This mountain is absolutely incredible and one of my personal favourites to photograph in New Zealand.
After exploring the South Island’s best hikes and viewpoints, I’ve formulated this list to share some of the best places to see Mount Cook in all her glory.
- First: Experience Mount Cook on These Epic Day Trips
- Where Can You See Mount Cook From? – The Best Places to See Mount Cook
- Where to Stay Near Mount Cook Village
- More Things to do in South Island New Zealand
First: Experience Mount Cook on These Epic Day Trips
In a rush and prefer to have your trip to Mount Cook organized in advance? Check out these three unmissable Mount Cook experiences!
- From Queenstown: Mount Cook Small Group Tour - the best way to experience the best of Mount Cook National Park on an epic day trip from Queenstown and includes the Hooker Valley Track.
- 45-minute Mount Cook Ski Plane & Helicopter Combo - surprisingly affordable experience including a thrilling aerial tour by both ski plane and a helicopter!
- Tasman Glacier Heli Hike - See the Tasman Glacier from above and land on the Franz Josef or Tasman Glacier for an epic Glacier Hike (all gear provided)
Where Can You See Mount Cook From? - The Best Places to See Mount Cook
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 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!
2. Mount Cook Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing
You can't really beat a helicopter flight and snow landing when it comes to epic views of the New Zealand alps.
This helicopter tour on Get Your Guide is very affordable and flies directly past Aoraki Mt Cook, over the icebergs of Tasman Terminal Lake and the Tasman Glacier before landing on an adjacent mountain.
The aerodrome is conveniently positioned just 5 minute's drive from Aoraki Village. I'd suggest taking the first flight of the day after breakfast at one of the hotels nearby.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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!
6. 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 car park.
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 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.
7. 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 hike 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!
8. 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.
9. 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.
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10. 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.
Tip: How to Get Around in New Zealand
Rent a car! New Zealand is very safe for motorists & driving is the best way to explore the country.
Make sure to book in advance using a comparison site like DiscoverCars to get the best deals. Or, if you want a camper, my favourite in NZ is Spaceships.
11. Lake Pukaki Lookout
The most beautiful lake in New Zealand - the otherworldly turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki is the perfect foreground to complement New Zealand's tallest mountain.
The lookout at Lake Pukaki is also a large campsite that is completely free for self-contained campers. We stayed here overnight during our recent road trip around the South Island and the sunset views did not disappoint!
HEADING TO QUEENSTOWN?: 8 BEST HIKES IN QUEENSTOWN
12. 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.
Where to Stay Near Mount Cook Village
With so many amazing hiking opportunities in Mount Cook National Park, it's worth staying at least a night in the nearby Mount Cook Village. Below are the 3 top-rated options with links to check availability & pricing.
- Aoraki Court Motel - a spacious motel offering small, affordable rooms and large, two-bedroom apartments in the Mount Cook Village.
- Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge - beautiful lodge with spacious rooms accommodating everyone from couples to large families, just 5 minute's walk from the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.
- Aoraki Alpine Chalet - an incredible chalet with mountain views & a warm fireplace, just a short walk to the start of the Hooker Valley Track.
Alternatively, if you'd like to camp you can stay at the White Horse Hill Campsite near the Mount Cook National Park walking tracks.
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.
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, check out this guide to the Best Hikes in South Island New Zealand.