Driving the Scenic Road to Mount Cook

In a country full of scenic roads, the road to Mount Cook stands out as one of the most spectacular. The Southern Alps, including Mount Cook, are on full view as you skirt the bright blue waters of Lake Pukaki. Thinking of driving the scenic road to Mount Cook? Keep reading for more information (and lots of photos).

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Driving to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook starts just outside of Twizel. It takes around 45 minutes to reach Mount Cook Village, but you’ll probably spend longer on the journey. The road is fairly straight and easy to drive, although you may need chains if it has snowed recently. Need to check the weather in New Zealand? Check out the Metservice website.

RELATED POST: Driving From Christchurch to Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook: The Best Places to Stop

The scenic road to Mount Cook, New Zealand

Lake Pukaki Lookout (Peter’s Lookout)

There aren’t many “official” viewpoints on the road to Mount Cook, which means most people stop at Peter’s Lookout above Lake Pukaki. The view from there is great and if you want to get that typical road / mountain / lake shot this is the place to do it. Who is Peter? I have no idea — he must have done something cool to have a lookout like this named after him though.

Stunning view of Lake Pukaki, New ZealandNew Zealand's most scenic road...?

Road Photos

When driving to Mount Cook you’ll notice people parking by the side of the road and taking photos. It’s a relatively safe thing to do as you can usually see way off into the distance, Obviously be careful though. It’s a great place to take photos, especially when there’s lots of snow around.

The drive to Mount Cook, New ZealandBeautiful views on the road to Mount Cook, New Zealand

Hooker Valley / Tasman Valley

Close to the end of the Mount Cook road sits two detours — one to the Hooker Valley (where one of New Zealand’s best short hikes is located) and one through the Tasman Valley. Definitely drive down these roads. There are shorter walks near the Hooker Valley Track and the walk to see Tasman Lake / Glacier is easy and rewarding.


Mount Cook Village

Mount Cook Village signals the end of the road. You can stay the night there if you want or grab a bite to eat. There are some nice walks which start in Mount Cook Village, including the Red Tarns Track, which is one of my favourite short hikes in New Zealand. Even if you’re not planning on doing any hikes the drive to Mount Cook is still worth doing.

The Red Tarns Track, Mount Cook National Park

Where to Stay in Mount Cook Village?

There are a few options for accommodation right in Mount Cook Village, majority of these places have rooms with views of the mountains. Check out The Hermitage Hotel Mt CookAoraki Mount Cook Alpine LodgeAoraki Court Motel |  Mt Cook Lodge and Motel — you’ll find an option for every budget!

Map with Best Places to Stop: Scenic Road to Mt Cook

Other Things to See in the Area

Lake Tekapo, with its famous church, is nearby and there are some good walks in the area. Twizel is a nice enough town and a good base for exploring the area. From Mount Cook you can continue to Queenstown via the Lindis Pass or to Dunedin via the Waitaki Valley. If travelling through the Waitaki Valley make sure to do the Benmore Peninsula Track — it’s such an underrated hike!

READ MORE: 16 Fun Things to Do in Lake Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin

Considering road-tripping around New Zealand? Check out my South Island itinerary!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.