Exploring Mount Cook & Mackenzie

Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo | Image: Julian Apse, ChristchurchNZ.com

Exploring Mount Cook & Mackenzie

The Mackenzie offers some of the best stargazing in the world. Besides the big sky, there’s blue lakes, sweeping vistas and, of course, the magnificent Aoraki/Mount Cook. The region’s attractions and activities are all about the spectacular natural environment.

Do & Discover

Sacred to Māori, parts of the Aoraki/Mount Cook area were protected in reserves from as early as 1887. In 1953, the national park was established. It is a place of superlatives – New Zealand’s highest peak lords over the area at 3,724 metres tall, but the region contains 19 other peaks over 3,000 metres. The park also contains New Zealand’s largest glaciers. Every visitor can get out into the landscape on a scenic walk, but if you’re planning a longer hike, seek advice from the DOC Visitor Centre as weather can change rapidly. Learn more about the mountains at Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Mount Cook Village, or for a guided adventure talk to Alpine Guides or Alpine Recreation. Get out onto the ice with Glacier Explorers, or take the hard work out of your trek with Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking. Hit the snow slopes at Ohau Snow Fields. Partial to stargazing? Then a visit to the Dark Sky Project astronomy centre at Mount John is a must due to the exceptional clarity of the Mackenzie sky, which has been designated the Southern Hemisphere's only, and the world's largest, Dark Sky Reserve. If you prefer to get up in the sky, get a view from above by taking a flight-seeing tour with Air Safaris or Tekapo Helicopters, or for relaxing options, cruise Lake Tekapo with Cruise Tekapo or relax at Tekapo Springs thermal pools and day spa.

Food & Drink

Big country meets big flavours – there’s a surprisingly wide range of excellent dining options to be found in this largely rural district. Fuel up in ambient surrounds at Old Mountaineers Café, Bar & Restaurant in the Mount Cook Village, or dine on organic fare at Poppies Café in Twizel. Astro Café at Mount John and Eat Deli & Bar in Fairlie are also popular options. Heading out for the night? Sip a cold drink at Chamois Bar & Grill at Mt Cook Lodge & Motels in Mount Cook Village or Grappa Lounge Bar at Shawty’s Restaurant in Twizel. When you’re ready for dinner, try Jasmine Thai Restaurant in Twizel or Kohan Restaurant in Lake Tekapo. Within Mount Cook Village, The Hermitage Hotel's Alpine Restaurant and Panorama Room are both popular.


Whether you’re looking for the seclusion of your own private cottage or a touch of luxury in magnificent surroundings, the Mount Cook and Mackenzie region has your accommodation needs covered. Seek out affordable lodgings at Glentanner Park Centre in Mount Cook, and cosy motel and home-style options at Twizel's Braemar Station, Lake Tekapo Holiday Homes, and Lake Tekapo Scenic Resort. Hotel and lodge options include MacKenzie Country Inn in Twizel, The Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook Village, Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge, Lake Ohau Lodge, and Peppers Bluewater Resort at Tekapo.

Local Knowledge

Richard Pearse Airport in Timaru, less than 1 hour from Fairlie, has daily flights to Wellington, but Christchurch has the nearest international airport. If you're on a road trip Fairlie, northern gateway to Mackenzie, is 2 hours, 45 minutes from Christchurch. From Fairlie, Mount Cook Village is a further 2 hours and the area is connected by coaches and regional shuttles. When you're there, visit the Twizel Visitor Centre in Market Place or DOC Aoraki/Mt Cook Visitor Information Centre, 1 Larch Grove, for more information.

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