Spectacular landscape images at Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki
In 2013 and 2015 we left Ashburton early in the morning for the 240km drive to the national park. The first part of this journey is on the boring SH1, which has little to offer in the way scenery. However, turning onto SH79 and then SH8 is a different matter, lots to see with spectacular landscape photography stops at stunning Lake Tekapo and breathtaking Lake Pukaki. Mount Cook Road, SH80, runs along the shore of Lake Pukaki, where there are several places to stop before reaching Aoraki Mount Cook Village. On both occasions we arrived at the Visitor Centre around lunchtime.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
The Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is one of three in UNESCO's Te Wahipounamu (South West New Zealand) World Heritage Area, which has been recognised for being one of the world’s outstanding natural areas.
Our first visit to the national park was in February 2012. We travelled from Ashburton in the morning and as we were staying in Twizel we only had the afternoon for walking. We selected a couple of short walks, Kea Point and Tasman Glacier, luckily the weather was a brilliant a fabulous sunny autumn afternoon with blue skies.
In November 2015, we had two and half days for walking. As the weather was inclement on the first afternoon we just walked the Governors and Bowen Bush Walks. The weather was still rainy on the second day so we just revisited the Tasman Glacier walk, which we undertook in 2012 and then looked for wildlife around the village and at Bowen Bush. The weather finally got much better on the last day so we spent the whole day walking the Hooker Valley Track.
From the Visitor Centre we drove 4Km to the White Horse Hill car park, at the end of Hooker Valley Road, the start of our walk to Kea Point to view the Mueller Glacier.
The Tasman Glacier View Track is about an 8km drive down the Tasman Valley Road, unsealed in 2012 but now sealed, to Blue Lakes car park; the start of the second walk.
Starting from White Horse Hill car park the Hooker Valley Track could be completed in half a day without too many photo stops. However, the view point at the end of the track is a great place to explore and for a picnic lunch.
Governors and Bowen Bush Walk
The Governors Bush Walk is a circular 1.5km track that starts at the public shelter in the village although we joined the track opposite the Aoraki Court Motel. It's a pleasant short walk that and meanders its way through a silver beech forest. The track is not very wide so best to walk it in ant-clockwise direction. Just north of the public shelter is the petrol station opposite which is the start of Bowen Bush walk, a ten-minute circular walk through a very small forest. Unfortunately, it rained most of the afternoon but we did see an indigenous male and female rifleman, which I photographed. The South Island rifleman is a subspecies Acanthisitta chloris chloris. It finally stopped raining around 4pm and the peaks of the mountains could be seen above the low cloud.
Accommodation options for self-drive car tours in or near the park are limited. There is hotel and motel accommodation in Mt Cook village or in Twizel, the nearest town to the park.
On our whirl-wind tour of New Zealand in 2012 we opted to stay overnight at the Mountain Chalet Motel in Twizel, which meant we had a 65km, one-hour drive after our two walks in the park. There are a few eateries in Twizel Poppies Cafe is just a short walk from the motel serves reasonable food albeit with laid-back and slow service.
In 2015 we took a more relaxed approach spending three nights at the overpriced and overrated Aoraki Court Motel in Mt Cook village and in the evenings eating at The Old Mountaineer's Café.
UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation