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