Mount Aspiring National Park is one of my favorite National Parks in New Zealand. It’s home to some of the best hikes on the South Island, unique activities, and just downright gorgeous scenery. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
Unlike other national parks around New Zealand, Mount Aspiring (also called Mt Aspiring) remains much more of a mystery – especially compared with its neighbor Fiordland National Park. There’s just not as much info on the park and finding the best things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park can be difficult.
For this reason, I’ve decided to lift the lid on this beautiful place. So, if you plan on visiting Mount Aspiring National Park then this blog is for you. In it, I’ll list the 15 best things to do so you can tick off those bucket list experiences in New Zealand.
About Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park was established in 1964 and became New Zealand’s 10th national park. In 1990, Mount Aspiring along with 3 other national parks in New Zealand were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in what’s known as the Te Wahipounamu (South West New Zealand).
Named after its tallest mountain Mt Aspiring, the park is one of the most popular places to visit on the South Island.
The park covers a huge portion of the Southern Alps and sits on the doorstep of Wanaka and Glenorchy. In land area, it’s 3,562 square kilometers (1,375 sq mi). The park’s relatively close location to Glenorchy and Wanaka makes exploring the park easy.
Mount Aspiring National park is most famous for its beautiful hikes, and as you’ll find out, much of this list highlights those trails. With that said, there are lots of other attractions in the park including one of the most famous canyoning experiences in New Zealand. It’s safe to say Mount Aspiring NP is an adventure lover’s paradise filled with open landscapes just waiting to be explored!
Mount Aspiring National Park FAQs
Things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park
1. Visit the Blue Pools
Only 1-hour from Wanaka is one of the most popular stops on the road from Wanaka to Franz Josef. The Blue Pools are known for their unreal blue color and stunning scenery. The hike to the blue pools is a short, easy walk through the native forest to the Makarora and Blue River. The walk will take you over two swing bridges, the second giving you a prime view over the bright blue water below.
If you’re feeling brave (or if it’s a particularly hot day), you may want to cool down in the freezing cold waters. The average water temperature here is just 9 degrees Celsius or 48 degrees Fahrenheit. My partner always goes for a swim, but if I’m honest, I can never get myself in!
Without a doubt, the Blue Pools are one of the most popular places to visit in Mount Aspiring National park and a staple on any road trip up the West Coast. Many also consider visiting the Blue Pools as one of the top things to do on the South Island.
Hot tip: There are an obscene amount of annoying sandflies at the Blue Pools so be sure to wear insect repellant as well as long pants to keep them at bay. Their bites are super itchy and can last for weeks on some people.
2. Hike to the Brewster Hut
One of my favorite overnight hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park is the hike to the Brewster Hut. This short hike starts from Fantail Falls on the West Coast and takes around 3 hours each way climbing 1000 meters (3,280 feet) in elevation over only a few kilometers. It’s steep, and after rain, really slippery!
That effort doesn’t come unrewarded though! Once you reach the Brewster Hut you’ll get stunning views of the Southern Alps and New Zealand’s gorgeous West Coast. If you get a clear night, the stars are breathtaking and you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
This track is considered an advanced hike, so experience is advised. You will have to cross the Haast River on foot (but it’s not that deep in summer).
You do need to book the Brewster Hut in advance and the hut sleeps 12 people and costs $40 NZD per adult.
3. Stare in awe at Thunder Creek Falls
A well-known stop on the West Coast in Mount Aspiring National Park, Thunder Creek Falls sure is tall at 28 meters (92 feet.) A short 5-minute walk from the parking lot will bring you to this very photogenic viewpoint of the falls. Surrounded by native bush and with the blue waters of the Haast River running below, it sure makes for a pretty picture!
4. Hike the Routeburn Track
Just outside of Glenorchy begins one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, the Routeburn Track. This 32-kilometer (20-mile) trail travels through the Southern Alps finishing on the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound. It’s breathtaking and one of the best hikes you can do in Glenorchy.
Although hiking the full trail involves lots of planning (as well as booking in advance) you can easily hike parts of the Routeburn Track in a day. Some of the shortest day hiking options are less than 10 kilometers return taking you through a moss-filled forest, up the Dart River, and to one of the top waterfalls in New Zealand.
Even on a day hike, you’ll get to see why the trail is so famous. But if you can, hiking the entire Routeburn Track is amazing too! I did the full Routeburn Track over 3 days hiking all the way to one side and then back again (I didn’t want to organize a shuttle from the other side back to Queenstown.) It was an amazing adventure and the best part was that I got to see the trail twice – although I was so tired by the end!
The Routeburn Track goes thru both Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park. This makes this trail one of the best!
If you aren’t comfortable tackling such a long hike or don’t find going alone appealing perhaps booking a tour with a guide to hike a section of the Routeburn Track is perfect for you! This Routeburn Track Hiking Tour from Queenstown will cover a decent chunk (22 kilometers/13 miles) of some of the most scenic parts of the trail and you will get to learn more about the region as your guide leads you along. It’s a 10-hour tour and lunch is provided.
5. Go Jet boating
A very popular activity in Mount Aspiring National Park, and one sure to get your blood pumping, is jet boating. From Wanaka, you’ll glide through the rivers of Mount Aspiring National Park, including the Matukituki, Wilkin, and Makarora rivers – this is a great experience for the whole family and one of the best activities in Wanaka.
The Wanaka Jet boat experience departs directly from Wanaka lakefront and brings you across the lake taking in the scenery there and into the Clutha River (the longest river in New Zealand). It’s here at the Clutha River that your driver will really push the boat to its limits with 180-degree and 360-degree turns.
As you speed down the narrow braided sections of the river you may feel as if you’ll crash or even hit the banks on the side, but be assured your jet boat driver is very experienced and is just trying to scare you! Prices for this start at $75 NZD per child over 4 and adults are priced at $129 NZD each.
Top Tip – if you don’t want to get wet, sit on the driver’s side, the driver never wants to get him/herself wet!
6. Spot a cheeky Kea
Keas are an alpine parrot only found in New Zealand. These famous birds are cute, curious, and downright cheeky! Seriously, they’ll break into your bag or even steal your keys!
Keas are not afraid of humans like you might think and this is because they spent thousands of years living in New Zealand without predators. These beautiful parrots live high in the mountains and on a hiking trip in Mount Aspiring National Park you’ll likely see them around.
If you can, get a photo of them mid-flight. The colors under their wings are stunning! Just be sure to keep your things closed and never leave your bag unattended when hiking in the mountains – they’ll fly down and break in!
Of course, it goes without saying, but please do not feed or touch the birds.
7. Spot glaciers on Rob Roy Glacier Track
A relatively easy hike an hour drive from Wanaka, Rob Roy Glacier Track is a favorite of mine. As the name suggests, the main drawcard of this hike is the chance to see active glaciers.
The drive to the trailhead of the Rob Roy Hike is equally as stunning as it brings you along the Matukituki Valley.
This 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) hike takes about half a day to complete (so, allow up to 4 hours). The track is located within Mount Aspiring National Park and it’s truly stunning with glaciers, waterfalls, and high mountain peaks! As mentioned, the active glaciers here are the flavor of the day on this hike. From the viewpoints on the trail, you can listen for avalanches and other signs of movement within the glaciers.
This is a relatively easy hike, with a gradual incline towards the glacier viewing point. Rob Roy Glacier Track is without a doubt one of the best hikes in the Wanaka area.
8. Mount Aspiring Canyoning Adventure
Canyoning, for those unfamiliar with this activity, is a combination of swimming, sliding, climbing, and rappelling through a canyon. It’s certainly an experience for the adventurous but one I love and have done all around the world!
This canyoning tour in Wanaka involves a short walk to the canyon at the beginning but once here, you must abseil, climb, swim, and scramble your way through the stunning but ferocious canyon. You may even partake in a few cliff jumps (if you’re feeling brave!) Be sure to bring a waterproof camera so you can take plenty of photos!
9. Explore Haast Pass Lookout
Just under a 10-minute drive from the Blue Pools is the Haast Pass Lookout. There’s a popular walking track here which is a short 2-kilometer-return (1.2 mi) track and should take you about 20 minutes or so. The trail leads through native beech forest to the viewpoint at the end which offers the best views of Mount Aspiring National Park.
It’s a short walk that’s great for stretching the legs and is a popular stop on a road trip from Queenstown to Franz Josef.
10. Have a picnic at Fantail Falls
Just past Haast Pass Lookout is Fantail Falls which is where the hike to the Brewster Hut begins. However, for those not hiking to the Brewster Hut, you can still stop here and enjoy a lovely picnic by the river and Fantail Falls.
A short two-minute walk from the parking lot here will bring you to this waterfall standing at 23 meters (75 feet) tall. The riverbank here is shaded and there’s also a nice rocky beach area to relax at. It’s a short stop common on any South Island road trip.
Similar to the Blue Pools, I highly advise wearing bug spray here to deter the sandflies.
11. Walk the Motatapu Track
The Motatapu Track is a historic track that once linked Wanaka with Arrowtown. It’s a testing track with challenging terrain and several steep slides. The track starts from the Fern Burn parking lot which is past Glendhu Bay and at the end of Motatapu Road (a 20-minute drive from Wanaka.) The 34 km (21 miles) one-way track is best hiked in 4 days and you can see my detailed breakdown below:
(Day 1) Fern Burn car park to Fern Burn Hut (7 KM/4.3 MI) – a gently winding track at the beginning that follows through grassy flatlands and then climbs into the trees. From here you will notice the track starts to narrow and waterfalls feature heavily in this section. Towards the end, the track enters the Stack Conservation Area briefly. Follow the bush edge to the tussocks uphill and here is where you will find the 12-bunk Fern Burn Hut. A fee of $5 NZD per adult and $2.50 for youths aged 11-17 is payable into the honesty box here (or get backcountry passes before you go.) Children under 10 are free. Worth noting this hut operates on first-come-first-serve but it’s rarely busy.
(Day 2) Fern Burn Hut to Highland Creek Hut (6 KM/3.7 MI) – this day will be a lot tougher on the legs. The track leads through tussock country to Jack Hall’s Saddle at 1,275 meters (4,183 feet). From here it’s a steep downhill hike to the creek bed, crossing two ridges leading to Highland Creek Hut. This is a 12-bunk hut and operates on a first-come-first-served basis also. A fee of $5 NZD per adult and $2.50 for youths aged 11-17 is payable into the honesty box here. Children under 10 are free.
(Day 3) Highland Creek Hut to Roses Hut (11 KM/6.8 MI) – the longest day in terms of the distance you will cover. First things first cross Highland Creek to the marked track which climbs over a creek to a spur. The track continues uphill along this spur where you will witness gorgeous views across the Motatapu Valley. From here, the track quickly descends into a small gully and across a creek by following a narrow section of forest. It then climbs to a ridge off Knuckle Peak, which you will follow to the Motatapu River. Cross the wide flats to the 12-bunk Roses Hut. Same as the other huts in this track and adult costs $5 NZD and it is first-come-first-served.
(Day 4) Roses Hut to Arrowtown (25 KM/15.5 MI) – the track crosses a small creek and onto the old pack track that climbs the main ridge above Roses Saddle. In between the Motatapu and Arrow catchments, the ridge descends down to the Arrow River. If the river level allows you can follow the river into Macetown – this is quicker and passes historic gold mining-era buildings. If the river is too high you will need to take the track above the river which joins an old water race into Macetown.
NOTE: you may choose to break this down into two days and spend the night at Macetown Campsite, which has 36 non-powered tent sites.
From Macetown, a 15 km (9 mi) 4WD road winds its way to Arrowtown. In good conditions, the numerous river crossings can be crossed carefully by hikers. If the river is too high then unfortunately you can’t cross and will need to turn around to take the Big Hill Track (one of the best things to do in Arrowtown) which begins 20 minutes from Macetown. It’s a steep track climbing above 1000m (3,280 ft) but it has gorgeous views across the Wakatipu Basin.
It’s an adventure, to say the least!
12. Go on a scenic flight
I did my first ever scenic flight in New Zealand and it literally took my breath away. When I think back, it’s the moments like these I’ll never forget! That’s why I’m a huge advocate of booking a scenic flight in New Zealand, and the views are pretty hard to beat in Mount Aspiring National Park.
There are two options when it comes to choosing a scenic flight. The first is the best value for money and that’s in a small single-engine plane. You can get these flights for around $300 NZD! However, for a more unique experience choose this tour which includes the flight, a self-guided hike, and jet boating!
The second is a lot more expensive but in my opinion the better option and that’s in a helicopter! This specific tour has you taking off from the Matukituki Valley to explore Mount Aspiring National Park. On the flight, you’ll get up close and personal to Mt Aspiring as well as enjoy 2 alpine landings to get out and breathe some fresh mountain air. An experience like this doesn’t come cheap and this tour costs $580 NZD per person.
Related Read: Scenic flights are also very popular in Queenstown – learn about the best scenic flight in Queenstown!
13. Hike the Liverpool Track
Without a doubt, one of my favorite huts near Wanaka is Liverpool Hut. To reach the hut, walk the Liverpool Track which begins at Raspberry Creek parking lot just under a 2-hour drive from Wanaka township (same place as Rob Roy Glacier Track.) Follow the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road West for 54 km (34 mi) to reach the parking lot.
The beginning of the track follows the West Matukituki Track to Pearl Flat. From Pearl Flat, cross the swing bridge. Then, it’s a steep uphill climb to Liverpool Hut (at 1,100 meters/3,608 feet). Once past the bush line, the track starts across the exposed shingle, rock, and tussock terrain before bearing left up an easier tussock slope to reach a knoll overlooking the hut. All up its 15 km (9.3 miles) each way.
Liverpool Hut needs to be booked in advance when booking in the busier months (1 December – 30 April). Adults cost $20 NZD and youths $10 per night. It can be booked via the Department of Conservation website. Get in early otherwise the hut will likely be fully booked and this trail is far too long to do in one day.
14. Tramp the West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut
As one of the shorter overnight hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park, the West Matukituki Track to Aspiring Hut is a popular choice. This track also starts from the Raspberry Creek parking lot on Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road.
The walk to Aspiring Hut is 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) and is relatively easy. It mainly takes you via the river flats. There are easily negotiated small bluffs that you must cross but it offers great views up and down the Matukituki Valley.
On your walk, keep an eye or an ear out for paradise ducks, harrier hawks, and skylarks, among other birds. Because this track is quite open to the elements make sure to layer up and bring wet weather gear (even in the summer). The weather can change very quickly in these parts.
The historic Cascade Hut (you can’t stay here) can be seen from the last bluff and Aspiring Hut is twenty minutes beyond this. You can choose to stay the night at the 29-bed Aspiring Hut but it must be booked in advance. An adult is $40 NZD or if you’re an NZ Alpine Club Member it’s $20. You can book online at West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut.
Overall it’s one of the easiest and best overnight hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park.
Important information: Aspiring Hut will be closed for an unknown time up to June 2022.
Related Read: If you love hiking then be sure to head over to Queenstown as well as Milford Sound. There are some amazing hikes in Queenstown as well as stunning hikes in Milford Sound that you can read about in my blogs!
15. Hike the Greenstone & Caples Track
One of the most underrated hiking trails in Mount Aspiring National Park is the Greenstone and Caples Track. The trail, which begins at either The Divide or just outside of Glenorchy is a 70-kilometer (43.4-mile) loop track. Its location is very close to the Routeburn Track and it’s a popular option for those who want an off-the-beaten-path experience.
You can choose to hike the trails in a few different ways. The most popular is to hike the trail in a full loop which takes around 4 days and involves 6 to 7 hours of walking per day. For those with less time, you can hike either one of the trails in one direction like most do with the Routeburn Track. This does mean you’ll need to organize a ride from one side of the trail depending on where you start.
You can choose to either stay in huts or camp. On the trail, there are three huts that require backcountry camping passes but no bookings. Camping is the most popular option and you can do it in most places 50 meters (164 feet) from the track or beside the huts. With that said, you cannot camp on McKellar Saddle or on the valley floors of the Caples or Greenstone Valleys. It’s also cheap at only $5 NZD per person to camp by the huts or free anywhere else.
Where to Stay in Wanaka
There are tons of places to stay in Wanaka. Seriously, you’ll have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Wanaka countless times and can recommend the below accommodation options:
Hawea Hotel – This is the perfect budget option for anybody looking to save a few dollars. Although really comfortable, clean, and offering incredible views, Hawea Hotel is super affordable with budget dorms rooms as well as double rooms and family rooms. It is likely the best value for money hotel in Wanaka!
Manuka Crescent Motel – When I travel, I often like to stay in apartment-style hotels so that I can cook my own meals. Manuka Crescent Motel offers studio apartments, one-bedroom apartments, as well as two-bedroom apartments for really reasonable prices. These are great for families or people traveling in groups (I stayed here last time I traveled with friends.) The motel is located a only short drive from town in a peaceful area.
Club Wyndham Wanaka – If you’re visiting Wanaka to relax and spoil yourself, then there’s no question that you should stay at Club Wyndham! This hotel is located right in town only minutes from Lake Wanaka and features an outdoor heat pool, waterslide, hot tub, sauna, and an onsite bar and cafe! All rooms come with a kitchenette or full kitchen, and many offer lake views!
You can also choose from a huge selection of Airbnbs and bach holiday home rentals in Wanaka. These are typically better for groups or a family traveling together. Or, simply anybody who wants to have their own kitchen!
For more detailed information, check out my blog all about where to stay in Wanaka! It includes different areas to stay in and the best hotels for all budgets!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Mount Aspiring National Park truly is an outdoor lover’s paradise. With so many hiking trails and fun activities, you’ll have sore feet by the end of your visit!
Thanks so much for reading! I really hope you loved this blog and now have a huge list of things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park! If you did then don’t run away just yet. Stay awhile and check out more of my Queenstown, Wanaka, and New Zealand travel blogs! Or click through the few guides that I’ve left here: