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3 BEST Mount Cook Tours from Queenstown +Tips Before Booking

3 BEST Mount Cook Tours from Queenstown +Tips Before Booking

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Visiting Mount Cook is one of the best day trips from Queenstown, with so many stunning sights along the way. I’ve driven from Queenstown to Mount Cook loads of times, and it continues to be one of my favorite road trips ever. Plus, once you arrive in Mount Cook, there is a ton to explore!

Mount Cook is located 261 km (162 miles) from Queenstown, so driving there and back on your own makes for a very long day, with several hours focused behind the wheel.

That’s why going on a tour to Mount Cook from Queenstown is the perfect option! You can relax (and maybe even have a little snooze) on the drive there and back. Plus, since you’re not driving, your hands are free to take all the pictures you want. And believe me, you’re going to want to take A LOT of photos in Mount Cook.

On top of that, with a tour you can even cut the driving time right out and take a scenic flight instead! Or, extend your adventure with an overnight tour! That’s right, there are a few different options for tours from Queenstown to Mount Cook, and in this blog, we’re going to tell you about them all!

Don’t have time to read the full article? The journey from Queenstown to Mount Cook is full of eye-catching scenery and is truly a magical journey. If you’re looking for an overnight adventure, I highly recommend taking this 2-day tour from Queenstown. There’s nothing quite like walking through the Southern Alps during the day, then seeing the brightest stars over a lake at night.

About Mount Cook National Park

Bailey walks through the grass at Lake Pukaki Viewpoint (Mount Cook Road)
On the to Mount Cook National Park.
Bailey looks out the window of the Mueller Hut in Mount Cook National Park
That’s Mount Cook!

Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in all of New Zealand, and is often referred to as Aoraki which is the original name given by Māori. It wasn’t until 1851 that it was given it’s European name of Mount Cook by Captain J. L. Stokes. This mountain soars at an impressive 3,724 meters (12,218 feet) high, and can be seen around different parts of New Zealand.

According to legend, Aoraki was the tallest son of the Sky Father Rakinui. One day, Aoraki was traveling with his three brothers when their canoe hit a reef and capsized. The brothers stood on top of the canoe awaiting rescue, when the harsh south winds froze them to stone. The canoe is believed to be the South Island of New Zealand, with Aoraki being the tallest peak (Mount Cook), and his brothers and crew making up the remaining mountains of the Southern Alps.

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park has 19 peaks in total and about 40% is covered by glaciers. This park is also home to the largest glacier in New Zealand, the Tasman Glacier, which is 23 km (14.3 miles) long. Mount Cook Village is classified as a tundra climate, and the average annual temperature is 2.8 °C (37 °F).

The area is covered in beautiful alpine plants such as the Mount Cook buttercup which is the world’s largest buttercup flower. There are also plenty of birds, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and butterflies that can be seen throughout the year.

The summit of Mount Cook was officially reached in 1894 by three New Zealanders, and now this park is one of the biggest destinations for mountain climbers in the world. You can find more information about the climbs by contacting the park’s visitor centre.

Why Book a Tour from Queenstown to Mount Cook?

Bailey at Lindis Pass Viewpoint on the way to Mount Cook, NZ
Lindis Pass!
Bailey in the Muller Hut area stands on a rock with Mount Cook in the background
At the Mueller Hut with a view of Mount Cook!

While I do love getting on the open road and driving around New Zealand, taking a guided tour is especially appealing when I don’t want to plan all the stops or make an itinerary. Also, if you are staying in Queenstown, it’s nice to have pre-scheduled outings where all you have to do is show up.

For those that don’t like driving or just don’t want to navigate unknown roads, you’ll definitely want to take a tour as there aren’t options for public transport on this route. You can take the Intercity Bus, but that’ll cost you $250 NZD for a one-way ticket! A tour is definitely better value.

Plus, you’ll get information about the places you visit along the way from very knowledgeable guides. It’s one thing to visit a new place, but quite another to learn about all the history and particulars of it too.

After a long day exploring the Mount Cook National Park, it’s also really nice to have someone take you back to Queenstown instead of making the trip yourself. Believe me when I say traveling back to your accommodations when you’re tired is never fun.

Related Read: Staying in Queenstown? Check out our absolute favorite brunch and breakfast spots in Queenstown with options for every foodie’s appetite.

The BEST Tours to Mount Cook from Queenstown

1. Queenstown to Mount Cook Guided Day Trip

Lake Pukaki on a beautiful day in mount Cook National Park
Lake Pukaki is stunning!

If you’re looking to go to Mount Cook on a day trip, this full-day small group tour is just for you. On this tour, you’ll leave Queenstown and drive in a comfortable luxury minivan while a guide highlights several areas of interest.

You’ll have opportunities to take photos at places like Lindis Pass and the mesmerizingly blue Lake Pukaki. Your guides will suggest places to take the best photos, and will even recommend their favorite bites from local eateries.

Once you arrive at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, you’ll have about 4 hours to do whatever activities you prefer. There will be plenty of people around to give suggestions, so you can really cater it to your own interests.

This tour is a whopping 12 hours long which includes traveling back and forth to Queenstown, so please keep that in mind. That being said, I do appreciate that there are enough stops to stretch your legs and get to know different parts of the area that you might not otherwise visit.

This tour caps out at 16 travelers, so you’ll have plenty of time to get all your questions answered from the guides. For a full day of adventure, this tour is a great price at $250 NZD per person. We recommend signing up for this tour in advance and you can book your spot online here.

2. Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo 2-Day Tour from Queenstown

The Hooker Lake on the Hooker Valley Track
Sunset reflections at Hooker Lake!

For those interested in an overnight stay, we recommend booking this 2-day tour from Queenstown. This is a great option for photographers and those looking to spend more time surrounded by nature.

You’ll depart from Queenstown early in the morning and stop at lookouts and local spots along the way. The beginning part of this day is similar to the first tour in that you’ll have about 4 hours to explore the national park doing whatever you like best.

After your day at Mount Cook, your group will travel to Lake Tekapo where you’ll stay the night. This lake is known for it’s stunning beauty amongst the mountainous backdrop. In my opinion, Lake Tekapo is one of the best places to view the night sky. For an additional fee, you can sign up for one of the stargazing activities (weather permitting).

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary sits on a rock at Lake Tekapo during Lupin season
This tour also takes you to Lake Tekapo – where you can see these flowers in the spring!

On the following morning, your guide will take you around Lake Tekapo to show you some of the local sights, and then you’ll head back to Queenstown making a few stops along the way.

While staying overnight might not be for everyone, I think this is a great option for those that prefer more downtime to walk around and explore these beautiful sites at a slower pace.

This guided tour costs $750 NZD per person which includes your overnight accommodation. As a heads up, this tour has limited slots available and you can book this 2-day tour from Queentown here.

Related Read: Since you’ll be getting into Lake Tekapo in the evening, you’ll probably be on the hunt for some dinner. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite restaurants in Lake Tekapo so you don’t have to do any of the guesswork.

Why I Book Tours on Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book all of my tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here

3. Scenic flight from Queenstown to Mount Cook Guided Day Trip

Flying past Mount Cook on a scenic flight in New Zealand
Mount Cook is even bigger up close!
A scenic flight above Mount Cook National Park
A scenic flight above Mount Cook National Park

If you’re looking for a really special way to see Mount Cook, nothing quite beats an aerial view. For another full-day adventure, check out this scenic flight from Queenstown – it’s definitely one of the best scenic flights in Queenstown!

From Queenstown Airport, you’ll take a small plane an hour towards Mount Cook. While you won’t be able to stop at local areas like the other tours, you will still get an incredible view and your guide will be sure to point out noteworthy landmarks.

Once you arrive in Mount Cook Village, you’ll have five hours to explore on your own. I recommend hiking the Hooker Valley Track, which I think is one of the best hikes in all of New Zealand. You can also eat a yummy meal at the Hermitage Hotel. I recommend making a reservation at the Alpine Restaurant – it’s delicious and you get an incredible view of the mountains.

Since this tour includes roundtrip airfare, it is the most expensive at $769 NZD per person. It’d be a great gift or a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion. You can book this flight from Queenstown to Mount Cook here!

Related Read: If you are looking for a special place to celebrate your nuptials, I highly recommend New Zealand. In fact, I have created a guide for planning the most romantic Queenstown honeymoon.

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Other Activities in Mount Cook

Landing on a glacier during a Mount Cook helicopter flight in New Zealand
Landing on a glacier on a helicopter flight!

Once you arrive at Mount Cook, there are a few different activities you can do to see the full beauty of Aoraki/Mount Cook! Check out my favorites below.

  • Mount Cook Helicopter Flight Explorer – This bucket list experience over Mount Cook lasts for 35 minutes and stops on top of a snowfield above Richardson Glacier and showcases some incredible views of the Tasman Valley. Priced around $505 NZD per person, it is not cheap, but if you have the money it’s something you shouldn’t leave New Zealand without doing!
  • Skydiving from 15,000 feet – What better of a location could you choose to jump out of a plane? If you want to face your fear or are always seeking an adrenaline rush, this is the opportunity for you! After your 45-second freefall, you can gaze out at the mountains, lakes, and glaciers as you gradually descend with your parachute.
  • Glacier Kayaking – This is the only place in New Zealand where you can go glacier kayaking, so it’s definitely a unique thing to do in Mount Cook. You’ll get the chance to get up close to the glaciers floating on the lake and stop halfway for a serene lunch on shore. For this 4-6 hour tour, you can expect to pay from $295 NZD per person.

Where to Stay in Mount Cook

A room at the Hermitage hotel in Mount Cook National Park
The Heritage is absolutely beautiful! Photo credit: Hermitage Hotel

There aren’t a ton of places to stay in Mount Cook if I’m being honest. All of the accommodation is in Mount Cook Village, and in the summer months, the best places to stay are fully booked.

Glentanner Park Center – $

The Glentanner Park Center is my go-to choice for traveling on a budget. Although it’s a 17 km (10.6 mi) drive out of town, the dorm rooms here are clean and cheap, plus there’s also a communal kitchen area which is perfect for meeting new friends.

A bed in a mixed dorm here starts as low as $45 NZD per night, not a bad deal considering you’re on the doorstep of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks! You can check availability and book your stay here on Booking.com.

Another budget-friendly option is to camp! You can stay at White Horse Hill Campground in Mount Cook Village, which is operated by the DOC and requires bookings in advance. It costs $15 NZD per adult per night or $7.50 NZD per child in the off-peak period between the 9th of February and the 25th of December. For the remainder of the year, it costs $18 NZD per adult, and $9 NZD per child.

Aoraki Court Motel – $$

If you’re looking for something a little more mid-range, then the Aoraki Court Motel is definitely worth a look. All of the rooms here are spacious and modern, with fantastic mountain views, all just a 3-minute walk from Mount Cook Village.

Rooms here at the Aoraki Court Motel do sell out months in advance, so it’s a good idea to reserve your room as far as possible in advance as you can! If you do, you can snag some great early-bird deals from just $350 NZD per night.

Hermitage Hotel – $$$

The most popular (and luxurious) place to stay in Mount Cook is the Hermitage Hotel. With its stunning rooms, ranging from twin rooms all the way up to premium king suites, it’s not hard to see how this hotel gets its reputation as the height of luxury in Mount Cook Village!

The friendly staff here go above and beyond to help you with any requests you have, whether you’re looking to arrange a tour, or book in at their fantastic on-site restaurant. Rooms here at the Hermitage Hotel start as low as $467 NZD per night, but like the Aoraki Court Motel, they do book up far in advance. So make sure to check your dates and reserve your room online here.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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’s what most budget travelers use 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…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiles at the camera while on the Sealy Tarns Trail in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Thanks for reading, now get out there and explore!

If you’re staying in Queenstown, I highly recommend taking a tour to visit Mount Cook. This way, you can enjoy the trip without having to worry about planning out the details along the way. Touring is especially a great idea for first-time visitors who prefer not to drive themselves.

I hope this guide was helpful, and if you’re interested in learning more about trips from Queenstown, please check out my other Queenstown blogs. After living in New Zealand for quite some time, I have tons of recommendations for places to stay, best places to eat, and unique places to visit. If you’re up for it, check out some of my other posts below!

10 Most Relaxing Things to Do in Queenstown

10 BEST Tours in Christchurch, NZ

12 BEST Places to see Glow Worms in New Zealand