Mt Cook Activities & Tours

Ultimate Heliski Tour New Zealand
Mt Cook offers a range of activities across all seasons. Activities range from extreme adventure activities only for the superhumanly fit, to more sedate and leisurely things to do.

Ski Tours and Activities

During winter a main focus at Mt Cook is on the skiing and snowboarding. The Mt Cook region is renowned for providing the best, if not the best, heli skiing in New Zealand because the skiing is at higher elevations and with cooler temps than other parts of NZ. This generally results in longer runs and better quality snow. Don’t be alarmed about skiing on the extreme Mt Cook. The operators don’t actually ski on Mt Cook per se, just on mountains nearby.

Mt Cook Heliski is based at Mt Cook and is guided by the highly experienced Alpine Guides. See our Mt Cook Heliski review for more information.

Alpine Guides also operate Ski the Tasman, an aeroplane accessed ski tour of the Tasman Glacier. See our Ski the Tasman overview for more information. Southern Alps Guiding also offers ski tours of the Tasman Glacier.

Both heli skiing and plane skiing only operate in fine weather (good visibility and negligible wind), and the weather patterns near Mt Cook can be somewhat fickle.

A couple of companies offer guided ski touring and ski mountaineering trips in the Mt Cook area.

Wilderness Heli Ski Mt Cook Mt Cook Heli Ski
Heli ski the Mt Cook region amongst New Zealand's largest mountains in the heart of the great Southern Alps. Transfer packages also available from Queenstown.
Ski The Tasman Ski The Tasman
This is an adventure for intermediate and above skiers & boarders. You will ski through ice caves, seracs (ice towers) and will experience the most amazing scenery you have seen anywhere.

Adventure Activities

Mt Cook is a mecca for all things mountaineering, and various guiding options and courses are available for mountain climbing, ice climbing and multi-day touring adventures. One option is heli-hiking with Southern Alps Guiding.

Glacier Sea Kayaking is run by Southern Alps Guiding. They offer a 3 hour adventure on the Muller Glacier Lake or a half day tour of the Tasman Glacier terminal lake. Kayaking is a spectacular way to explore the magnificent terminal lakes because you can kayak amongst the icebergs and get up close and personal with the glacier. The season only operates between early October and the end of April.

Other Activities

All these activities can be organised through the booking desk at the Hermitage Hotel.

Glacier Explorers also offer boat accessed viewing of the Tasman terminal lake. These guided tours are conducted from a MAC boat so they are reasonably sedate and provide a great opportunity to see the icebergs and moraine walls of the glacier. The 3 hour tours depart at various times during the day. The Glacier Explorers generally operate from late September to late May.

Another way to explore the Tasman glacier area is via a Tasman Valley 4WD & Argo Tour. These guided tours are conducted in ARGO vehicles; 8 wheel all terrain vehicles.

Big Sky Stargazing departs from the Hermitage Hotel every clear evening. Astronomy guides take you on an exploration of the night sky using the naked eye, binoculars and telescopes.

Scenic Flights

Another way to explore the mountains is with a scenic flight in either a helicopter or plane. Mount Cook Ski Planes & Helicopters can even include a glacier snow landing. The flights range from a 25 minute flight to the Grand Circle tour that goes for 55 minutes and covers the Tasman Glacier, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, the Mt Cook region and a glacier landing.

Hiking or Tramping

There are a range of hikes near the Mt Cook village that range in length and difficulty. See the DOC website for more information.

The Tasman Valley walks are probably the most popular. The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View walk (40 mins return) provides views of the lower Tasman Glacier. The Blue Lakes is a side trip off the main walk. The Tasman Glacier Lake walk (1 hour return) branches off the Tasman Glacier View Track. The track goes up to a viewpoint and then down to the lake. This walk is moderately strenuous and has steps and rough surfaces underfoot.

We were lucky enough to do these walks just after the glacier was calving and dropped a ginormous chunk of ice (ie 30 to 50 million tonnes) into the terminal lake. This left the lake smothered in huge ice bergs – quite an amazing phenomenon.

Leisure Activities

If Aoraki Mt Cook is shrouded in cloud or the nasty weather has set in, there are a few indoor activities.

The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is located at the Hermitage Hotel. This small museum is a tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, a pioneering explorer and humanitarian, and showcases his feats as well as those of other mountaineering men and women. The centre has a theatrette that shows a range of 3D documentaries. The cinema doubles as a digital planetarium with various astronomical shows played throughout the day.

The Department of Conservation Information Centre is tucked in behind the Old Mountaineer’s Café. This large information centre has a lot more to offer than the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (and it’s free!) with lots of displays and historical museum pieces about The Hermitage, mountain climbing, mountain rescue, glaciers, and local flora. The information centre can also provide helpful advice about activities in the area and safety considerations.
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