QUEENSTOWN – MT COOK (via Omarama & Twizel)
Travel distance is approximately 258kms (161 miles).
Allow at least 3.25 hours drive time (not including stops).
After enjoying the excitement, sophistication and genuine fun that is Queenstown, it is time to say “goodbye” to the bungy, jet boating, shopping and spa treatments as you continue your journey to another fantastic alpine village, this time on a much smaller scale!
Today’s self-drive tour takes you out of Queenstown and past the vineyards of the region as you follow the winding road and unique surrounds of the Kawarau Gorge and onto Cromwell.
You will be impressed with the unique geography that makes Omarama a world-renowned spot for gliding enthusiasts, and on a Nor Westerly blowing day the sky is truly stunning!
The road to Mt Cook is a pretty drive as you follow the edge of Lake Pukaki before reaching Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, which includes the highest peak in Australasia, which is Mt Cook at an impressive 3755m!
Some notable stops along the route to Mt Cook Village include:
This tiny township became famous for Lord of The Rings filming on the banks of the Clutha River just outside the township. Many of the sequences featuring the Black Riders as they searched for Frodo, pursuing him across the golden plains, and of the Orc attacks on the Fellowship were filmed right here!
The Mackenzie Basin is linked with Central Otago through the stunning Lindis Pass. At an impressive altitude of 971 metres above sea level, the views are impressive as you cross the saddle between the valleys of the Lindis and Ahuriri Rivers. During winter you can expect to see snow beside the road at times, and the surreal brown tussock landscape in summer is picture worthy!
Internationally recognised as one of the top gliding locations in the world thanks to the unique geography combined with the northwesterly wind that creates thermals that can take glider pilots to a dizzyingly 10,000 metres!
If you have time, a scenic gliding flight is a pretty spectacular and ultra-special way to enjoy an aerial view of this part of New Zealand.
CLAY CLIFFS WINERY
New Zealand’s highest-altitude vineyard has a wonderful Tuscany-style restaurant with plenty of ambience of peace and tranquillity. A great place to enjoy a delicious meal or wine tasting in the wine cellar. If you are the driver please do not drink and drive, we suggest you leave the wine tasting to your non-driving passengers.
Fast becoming a popular Kiwi holiday base for holidaymakers that enjoy getting outside! Base yourself here for kayaking, horse trekking, mountain climbing or biking, ski-ing and even bird watching! A great place for a driver reviver, get out and stretch your legs and grab a coffee at the cafe.
MT COOK VILLAGE
Located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the alpine village of Mt Cook is a truly remarkable and unique Kiwi place to visit! The village is located at the end of the valley and you will be hard pressed to find alpine scenery more amazing then what is on show here.
The village offers a range of accommodation, including the famous Hermitage Hotel, to motels, backpackers and camping, however we do suggest that you pre-book your accommodation.
As far as dining options go, you will be pleasantly surprised at what is on offer in the village, including some great restaurants and bars in the Hermitage Hotel as well as local restaurants and bars.
Highly recommended Mt Cook tourist attractions include…
Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre – Showcasing the stunning Aoraki Mount Cook region and its people, this state of the art centre features a spectacular 3D movie, the country’s first full dome digital Planetarium and Museum that presents the pioneering heart of the region and features an impressive Hillary Gallery. The centre is located next to the Hermitage Hotel.
Glacier Guided Tour – Enjoy a pleasant trip from Mt Cook Village to the Tasman Valley, followed by a stroll through the National Park before boarding a boat to enjoy the forever-changing face of the Tasman Glacier icebergs on the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake. Tours run from start of October to end of May and takes approximately 3 hours.
Wilderness Heliskiing – This is the only heliski operation with access to the awesome backcountry of Mt Cook National Park and boasts the highest heli landings in the country. Runs to suit all heliski/heliboard abilities plus breath-taking views of Aoraki/Mount Cook, the huge glaciers, and the highest peaks of the Southern Alps.
Stargazing – Located in the township, Earth and Sky organise daytime guided tours of Mt John Observatory, they also offer night stargazing tours at Mt Mt Cook National Park. Tours depart from the village to a nearby viewing location where you will navigate through the Southern Sky using a telescope, binoculars and the naked eye.
Guided Wilderness Hikes – Variety of guided wilderness hikes ranging from moderate fitness to high fitness levels. Eco-tours with expert guides in small groups for personal service and safety. Hikes vary from 5 to 7 hours, including lunch and short breaks.
Mount Cook Scenic Flight – Take off from Aoraki Mount Cook Airport for an awe inspiring flight through breathtaking scenery before your ski equipped aircraft lands on a glacier where you can enjoy standing on a glacier before a breath-taking glacier takeoff.
Golf Cross – The game played with the oval golf ball and features goal posts instead of holes. Located in the middle of New Zealand’s most spectacular alpine country, the Braemar Station GolfCross® Course is surrounded by stunning vistas of Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki.
Horse Trekking – Enjoy a guided trek on a high country sheep station with great views of Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki from November till April. Beginners and more experienced riders welcome, trips range from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
New Zealand Itineraries: South Island Suggested Itineraries
Our modern self-drive travel Itineraries have routes specifically for the North Island as well as the South Island, ranging from 5 to 11 days, plus there are some travel routes that take in both the North and South Island’s. Our range of travel itineraries include information regarding travel distances and time to ensure that you can make the best of your time in New Zealand, no longer how short your visit!
- 5 Day Itinerary: Christchurch – Greymouth, Greymouth – Fox Glacier, Franz Josef – Wanaka, Wanaka – Mt Cook and Mt Cook – Christchurch
- 5 Day Itinerary (route 2): Christchurch – Hanmer Springs, Hanmer Springs – St Arnuad, St Arnuad – Blenheim, Blenheim – Kaikoura and Kaikoura – Christchurch
- 5 Day Itinerary (route 3): Christchurch – Mt Cook, Mt Cook – Queenstown, Queenstown – Dunedin, Dunedin – Oamaru and Oamaru – Christchurch
- 7 Day Itinerary: Christchurch – Dunedin, Dunedin – Invercargill, Invercargill – Stewart Island, Stewart Island – Te-anau, Te Anau – Milford Sound, Te Anau – Queenstown and Queenstown – Christchurch
- 8 Day Itinerary: Christchurch – Greymouth, Greymouth – Fox Glacier, Fox Glacier – Wanaka, Wanaka – Queenstown, Queenstown – Te Anau, Te Anau – Dunedin and Dunedin – Christchurch
- 9 Day Itinerary: Christchurch – Dunedin, Dunedin, Dunedin – Invercragill, Invercargill – Te Anau, Te Anau Milford Sound, Te Anau – Queenstown, Queenstown – Mt Cook, Mt Cook – Lake Tekapo and Lake Tekapo – Christchurch
- 9 Day Itinerary (route 2): Christchurch – Omarama, Omarama – Dunedin, Dunedin, Dunedin – Te Anau, Te Anau – Milford Sound, Te Anau – Queenstown, Queenstown – Haast, Haast – Greymouth and Greymouth – Christchurch
- 9 Day Itinerary (route 3): Christchurch – Hanmer Springs, Hanmer Springs – Greymouth, Greymouth – Nelson, Nelson – Takaka, Takaka – Motueka, Motueka – Nelson, Nelson – Blenheim, Blenheim – Kaikoura and Kaikoura – Christchurch
- 11 Day Itinerary: Christchurch – Dunedin, Dunedin – Te Anau, Te Anau – Milford Sound, Milford Sound – Queenstown, Queenstown – Wanaka, Wanaka – Franz Josef, Franz Josef – Greymouth, Greymouth – Nelson, Nelson – Blenheim, Blenheim – Kaikoura and Kaikoura – Christchurch