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Exploring New Zealand's Mount Cook National Park

- Wild Weekend -

If you want to experience pure alpine glory, put Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on your to-do list. As you hike through this spectacular wonderland, the landscape unfolds before you to reveal snow-capped peaks, glaciers, snow fields and impossibly star-studded skies. Mount Cook sits monumentally at the heart of the park, proudly holding the title of the highest peak in New Zealand. See Wild Weekend’s adventure below… 

Wild Weekend Suggested Itinerary

Day 1                  Fly into Wellington and take the Ferry to Picton (it’s a 20 minute trip from the airport to the Ferry Terminal). Drive to Reefton and camp at Slap Hut Creek for the night.
Day 2Leave Slab Hut Creek for Geraldine and stop to hike Mount Sunday Track (1.5km) in Canterbury. Fun fact: this area was the film site for Edoras in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Drive to Waihi Gorge campground and stay the night. 
Day 3Drive to Tekapo and explore before heading to Lake Pukaki. Set up camp for the night at White Horse Hill Campground. 
Day 4Hike Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook National Park, Christchurch. Drive to Mount Cook accommodation. 
Day 5Hike Mueller Hut Route.
Day 6Leave Mount Cook National Park and stay overnight in Queenstown. 
Day 7Wave goodbye and fly back from Queenstown Aiport.

Hiking in Lord of the Rings Territory

Whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not, Mount Sunday Track is a true stunner (3km return). There’s something enchanting about walking through a vast, open landscape surrounded by towering mountains and when you get to the end you’re rewarded with expansive views of Rangitata River from the top of Mount Sunday.

Water, Water, Everywhere: Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki

Rest your weary legs and take a scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki. By day the remarkable turquoise lakes lay before a back-drop of snow-capped mountains and by night the skies fill with countless stars. Soak in that nature and take a holiday snap.

Getting Up Close and Personal with Mount Cook

There are different ways to experience a mountain – climbing to the top, seeing it from afar, or getting a closer look from a neighbouring peak. We took option 4 and soared over Mount Cook in a helicopter, so close it felt like we could almost touch it. Many wanderers, climbers and mountaineers have touched Mount Cook. In fact, Sir Edmund Hillary practiced his mountaineering skills on the slopes of Mount Cook before his famous Everest climb!

The helicopter also took us over Mueller Glacier – a truly unforgettable experience. The vastness of the glacier and the sheer scale was unlike anything we have seen before.  

Unforgettable Mount Cook National Park Tracks

Hooker Valley Track
It’s not hard to see why Hooker Valley is one of the most popular walks in Mount Cook National Park. The walk takes 4 hours return, starting at White Horse Hill campground or the Visitor Centre and leading to a glacier lake with incredible views of Mount Cook.

Mueller Hut Route
Seeing Mount Sefton up close and hearing the Mueller glacier moving and rumbling will make you feel an energy that’s hard to describe. Once you’ve navigated the rocky terrain and zig-zagging track you ascend 50 metres to one of the most magnificent views you will ever see. Sit back and relax as you look down on Mueller Glacier, the sweeping valley and look across at New Zealand's highest peaks.

For information about the range of other tracks in Mount Cook National Park visit the Department of Conservation website.

Places to stay

Mount Cook Village has a range of accommodation options from campgrounds like White Horse Hill campground to motels and lodges.

What We Packed

A Multi-Functional Jacket
The button connection between the fleece and rain jacket of the Berghaus 3 in 1 Hydroshell™ Jacket is a very practical design. It’s easy to detach the rain jacket to use only fleece and vice versa. The colour is great for standing out in a natural landscape.

Waterproof Boots
Zamberlan is a great brand and we found the men’s and women’s Zamberlan Vioz GORE-TEX® Hiking Boots incredibly comfortable for the week of day hikes. They gave us great footing and stability especially on rocky terrain. Would not hesitate to recommend these for the New Zealand’s South Island terrain.

Anti-Odour Shirts
Over multiple days of high intensity exercise, the Kimber and Anton polos were very comfortable and maintained a fresh smell. 

Convertible Pants
The Fraser and Sandy Convertible Pants were very breathable and lightweight. They were easy to unzip into shorts when it got warm and I liked being able to take them off while wearing shoes. 

A GPS and Altitude Watch
The Suunto Traverse Watch was great and ultimately helpful for altitude readings. It also has a handy ‘bread crumb trail’ feature that lets you back track easily.

A Portable Washing Machine
If you’re going on a multi-day hike or road tripping, you’re probably not going to have time to wash your clothes properly. The Scrubba Wash Bag is a great solution, allowing you to wash anywhere.

Power on the Move
The Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Recharging Kit allows you to keep your camera, phone and other devices powered up when you’re exploring the great outdoors or travelling. 

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