During our trip to Mount Cook National Park, we were breaking up our drive from Queenstown to Christchurch, so we decided to spend two nights in the park itself. We chose the Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Lodge. It seemed to be the least expensive of the options there, and yet it was a really nice accommodation. We went in the off-season, and so although we had only rented one room with four beds, the reservation lady did not mind if we took two of the bedrooms so Sarah and I could have a separate room from her parents. Our favorite part about this lodge however was the activity/common room for all the guests, which had a great little kitchen and a spectacular view of Mt. Cook from a very large set of windows (pictured here). Due to the slightly bad weather on our trip, we spent a couple hours staying warm by the fire, and reading the guest book with signatures from people all over the world.
It is clear that you pay more for a hotel stay in a national park and with such a view as The Hermitage at Mt. Cook Village can offer. But as statistically it rains on 154 days a year in this area the view is not guaranteed, and then it is a bit ridiculous to pay between NZ$ 520 and 770 for a double room (including cooked breakfast).
I even found it more ridiculous when I inspected the hotel on our last visit. We walked through the hallways and looked into a room, and visited the café. From that I have two lasting memories: The stink of an open wood-fire in the basement that filled all halls and hallways, and the noise in the canteen-like and not at all nice café which would offer superb mountain views if the clouds did not fill the valley right in the moment you are there.
I do not even understand how they could allow The Hermitage to construct such an ugly blue high-rise building in the middle of such an extraordinary landscape. If you see how they chicaned Shania Twain with her wonderful natural-stone mansion near Wanaka it becomes even more unbelievable. It is like a slap in the face of nature lovers and an insult to nature itself.
A nicer and cheaper option - if you absolutely want to stay at Mt. Cook Village and not at the backpackers hostel - is to book a motel unit of The Hermitage. This costs between $240 and 275 for two (including breakfast).
In total The Hermitage has 214 guest rooms, including 32 motel units.
The cheapest alternative, however, is to stay in Twizel which is 60km from Mt. Cook Village. For the price difference you can buy a lot of petrol to get to Mt. Cook Village - which takes you approximately 45 minutes.
The greatest Mt. Cook views you can get.
Although I prefer motels, last time we tried a hotel, the Mackenzie Country Inn, because I found great rates on the wotif website (www.wotif.com). We paid NZ$99 for a standard room. So always check there first before you book directly with the hotel. You have to look for the location "Aoraki/Mt. Cook", not Twizel.
The building is beautiful, made of this warm granite which fits so perfectly into the ochre tussock landscape. Most rooms come with a small terrace or balcony, and from our room (and the restaurant) we even had a Mt. Cook view. Ask for a room on the Mt. Cook side. On the other side are the carpark and a road.
Even our standard room was very spacious, and the heating (which is important in winter) was very efficient.
I do not know how flash the deluxe rooms are (on the web the bathrooms look nicer and more modern and especially white...). But the interior of ours was a little dated, as were the bar and the hallways. Plus, as they kept the doors closed for the low winter temperatures there was always a not very pleasant smell hanging in the air, especially in the hallway.
Mini points to criticise were the clothes hangers which you could not hang anywhere but the wardrobe which is not the perfect place if you want to dry your clothes, the missing toilet brush and the small bathtub (shower over the bathtub) in the spacious but very dated beige plastic bathroom.
What I really hated was the wash basin with separate hot and cold water taps. The hot water was so steaming hot that you always had to mix ten litres of water in the basin to simply wash your hands or your face.
You also need this survival tip:
Never open the cold water tap at the basin while another person is under the shower! The showering person could be badly burnt. Lucky me there were ice cubes in the fridge, so I could cool my husband's back after my unintentional attack ;-)
The hotel has 108 rooms of which 28 are deluxe. The normal internet rate for a standard room is $120 in winter and $145, for a deluxe room 135/165.
Twizel is a perfect base for expeditions in the Mt. Cook National Park (60km from Mt. Cook Village, 10km from Lake Pukaki), and also for playing golf on one of the many courses, for the rowing centre at Lake Ruataniwha, for gliding in Omarama, the Clay Cliffs, relaxing or skiing at Lake Ohau, and water sports on the lakes of the Waitaki Valley (Aviemore, Benmore) etc. All kinds of accommodation are available, and the rates are a lot lower than at Mt. Cook Village where The Hermitage sets the rules and excessive prices. Plus you have a nice selection of restaurants, takeaways and a supermarket.
Extremely friendly staff!
Especially a middle-aged lady at the reception was unbelievably friendly and helpful, copied maps, described the less known walks - just wonderful.
The buffet breakfast is fabulous, from super delicious muesli to cooked breakfast. It costs only an additional $10 per person.
This is a rather new and very nice and quiet complex (opened in 2002), with very nicely furnished rooms and a lot of space, and also good cooking facilities. We were able to cook our whole salmon that we had bought at the High Country Salmon Farm 3kms south of Twizel. (But I must admit we had a monster knife from home... ;-)
We had a two-bedroom unit, and the bathroom had a double spa bath. The underfloor heating there is very nice in colder conditions.
Twizel is a great base for the trip to Mt. Cook Village and the Mt. Cook walks, just a 40mins drive.
The rates (for 2 people) as Feb. 2007:
Studio $NZ 120
1 Bedroom Units $NZ 130
2 Bedroom Units $NZ 140
Excellent! Stay at the hotel itself, not the rooms down the road, and you'll enjoy clean, modern, roomy, comfortable accommodations with fantastic views. Enjoyed everything about our stay here. Accommodations are wonderful, service is very good, and the food was great. Would return in a heartbeat.
The view is overwhelming. Beautiful!
If you make reservations well ahead of time you may stay at one of the hotels; alternatively, you can camp on the site maintained by the Department of Conservation, less than 2 km from the posh Hermitage hotel. The facilities are basic (no showers...) but the setting is quite pleasant.
You are expected to drop your payment in a box. At the end of the day, the ranger will make sure you are not an evil doer :)
Overall, a good solution if you can't find a spot at a hotel or motel; ideal if you like camping.
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