Sir Edmund Hillary is famous for his ascent of Mt Everest being, with the assistance of his Sherpa, Tensing Norgay, the first person to set foot on the summit. Hillary learned his love of snow and ice and climbing in New Zealand and started his career as a climber on the slopes of Mt Cook. He has also crossed Antarctica via the South Pole.
In his later life he assisted in the development of schools and hospitals for the people of the Himalayas.
The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre documents the life and work of this amazing but humble man. There is a video link at the bottom of the website below which gives an insight in to the man.
The centre is in the Hermitage Hotel complex at Mt Cook.
Open daily from 7.30am to 8.30pm (summer) and 8.30am to 6.30pm (winter).
The visitor centre at Mt Cook/Aoraki is quite amazing. It is full of imformation about the area including Maori history, wildlife, climbing history and the mountains. There are examples of Maori art and some beautiful stained glass windows featuring flora and fauna of the area.
Mount Cook or in the Maori, Aoraki is the highest mountain in New Zealand. It is 3,754 metres high and is in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island.
It is a popular tourist destination all year round and on the list of challenges to mountain climbers. The Tasman Gacier (to the east) and the Hooker Glacier (to the west) flow from the peak.
It is part of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park (established in 1953) which, along with Westland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park forms one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The drive to Mt Cook from either Twizel or Lake Tekapo is fantastic for scenery. Both roads join at Lake Pukaki then follow the lake until its head.
We did the Glacier Explorers boat ride on the Tasman Lake in Jan 2009. We booked over the internet (google Glacier Explorers I think). It was pretty expensive but definitely worth it. They pick you up at the main hotel at Mt Cook Village (you also have several accomodation options there) and take you in a bus for about 15mins then you have to walk for probably another 15 mins or so (you need some fitness but many people of all ages were doing this.) Then into the little boats for some time on the lake and getting up close to the icebergs. You didn't get super close to the glacier (safety reasons of course) and the guides were young, enthusiastic and seemed pretty knowledgable. I really recommend this activity. I would probably even do it again if I went back there. It was so relaxing and like being in another world. By the way we stayed at Lake Tekapo and just made a day trip out there. About an hour away. We were happy with that decision. Also at the Hermitage hotel there are several activities/museums that you can pay to go into. We didn't do this but walked 'down the hill' about 4 mins (following the signs) to a 'free' information centre. Have a great trip.
We are not big walkers but on arriving at Mt Cook we were compelled to do a short walk. The weather was warm & sunny. Perfect for a walk. There are many walks to do around Mt Cook and the Tasman Valley seemed a good spot for us. It's about a 20 minute drive from Mt Cook Village and has some suitable walks for the likes of ourselves.
As it was a quite a warm summer's day (by NZ standards lol) we took a dip in 2 of the glacier pools.....brrrrrrrrrrr not something we would do every day as it was freezing. But can say we did it :-)
The view back down to plain and Lake Pukaki is awesome.
The journey continued... passing along the shore of Lake Pukaki again to our last destination... Queenstown, which also provide a beautiful scenery. Well... the Kiwis are so lucky to have this beautiful country.
I was so regret didn't stay several nights in this area. To be honest, I didn't expect this beauty while I planned the trip. I thought it might be looked like Mt. Fuji in Japan which is so famous but offers nothing but disappointment. Perhaps I should plan for another trip to New Zealand soon.
Even during summer, one-third of Mt. Cook National Park's area is permanently snow-covered. With the highest mountain in New Zealand (Aoraki/Mt. Cook) and the longest glacier in Australasia, plus 25 peaks over 3,000m and a few hundred over 2,000m, Mt. Cook National Park offers a very stunning view.
For a few hundred dollars, we can join the heli or plane flights for a bird-eye view of the Mt. Cook and the area.
The Mt. Cook National Park is sleepy while the crowds left, but there are many kind of activities to do in the area that worth the stay, such as several day-walks, Glacier Explorers boat tour to or kayaking on Tasman Glacier or 4WD tour.
Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at about 3700 metres, followed by Mount Tasman. These 2 magnificent mountains can be seen clearly on a good clear day during the journey to the Mount Cook National Park, but the best views are definitely from the helicopter ride.
There are several glaciers in Mount Cook National Park where you can do some exciting glacier walks, the most famous being the Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier. These glaciers look awesome from the air as well.
There are lots of rivers in Mount Cook National Park with water from the melting ice flowing into Lake Pukaki. In fact, it is a huge river delta system and the best view is from the helicopter ride as shown in this photograph.
Overlooking the lake is the Church of the Good Shepherd which was built with locally gathered stone. From the altar window there is a beautiful view over the lake to the magnificent center of Aoraki/Mount Cook. Great place to get marry :)
Mt Cook National Park covers an area of nearly 7,000 hectares of majestic alpine scenery most part of it being in permanent snow and glacial ice. The park contains 22 of the 27 peaks over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) in New Zealand.
As you head towards Mount Cook, there is a large and bright blue lake called Lake Pukaki. Why the lake is so blue is because the water is from the glaciers of the mountains, which grind the rocks into fine powder before entering the lake.