Posts Tagged With: walks

Destination Feature: The Stunning Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook Collage

The highest mountain in New Zealand – Mount Cook – is one of its most striking assets. Standing at 12,218ft high Sir Edmund Hillary (the first man to summit Mount Everest) is one of the most famous men to have ascended Mount Cook, back in 1948.

Today Mount Cook attracts not only climbers and mountaineers from all over the world but tourists too. Despite its incredible beauty and surrounding scenery Mount Cook is still often overlooked on many New Zealand itineraries. Located approx 4 hours from Christchurch and 3 and a half hours from Queenstown, Mount Cook is fairly remote, and because of this maintains an element of serenity and peacefulness.

The road to Mount Cook

The road to Mount Cook

There are still some facilities for tourists (including the Hermitage Hotel, among other accommodation options, including camping), and a few excellent food options for those that stay in the village. But there is no supermarket, or post office (or bank etc.) and so it still retains a quaint charm.

As soon as you head out on the road up to Mount Cook (not forgetting to stop at Peter’s Lookout on the way) and should the weather be good enough you will be able to see this vast mountain stretched out in front of you.

The stunning scenery is the main reason to visit this area and the huge variety of walks that are on offer to even those with the most limited mobility. Take a look at this DOC leaflet detailing the walk and cycling options. This DOC leaflet also gives more detail on walks around the village.

Glacier Explorers Boat Trip

Glacier Explorers Boat Trip

As well as the interesting and varied wildlife to spot in the area, there are also other amazing activities you can take part in at Mount Cook:

  • Glacier Explorers Boat Trip – an incredible boat trip out on to the Tasman glacier lake where you can get up close to the icebergs and terminal face of the glacier, and take in the striking views all around.
  • Helicopter Flight over Mount Cook – there are a variety of flights that depart from Glentanner Park and are operated by The Helicopter Line.
  • Helihike on the Tasman Glacier – operating out of the Mount Cook airport take a helicopter trip up on the glacier and have the fantastic opportunity to hike across the glacier.
  • Stargazing – take a trip to an outdoor stargazing site to explore the brilliant night sky.
  • Tasman Valley 4WD and Argo Tour – take a 4WD tour through Mount Cook’s amazing alpine scenery.
  • Horse trekking – on offer are guided horse treks of varying length through the spectacular scenery , that depart from Glentanner Park.
  • Skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing – Alpine Guides offer a variety of more extreme winter sports in the Mount Cook area.

Visiting Mount Cook is an incredibly memorable event and Mount Cook is a destination that most certainly should feature on everyone’s New Zealand itinerary.

Blue Penguin TravelInterested in visiting Mount Cook and exploring more of New Zealand? Let Blue Penguin Travel help. We specialise in creating amazing off-the-beaten track travel adventures in New Zealand and offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise to create fully personalised travel itineraries. We can help you have the adventure of a lifetime in the most beautiful country in the world.

All photographs are copyright of Nicola Barnard Photography.

Categories: Activities, Blue Penguin, Destination Feature, New Zealand, Photographs, South Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A month in Queenstown – living the dream!

Tuesday 8th January – Tuesday 5th February: Queenstown

From the top of Queenstown Hill

IMG_9062So the next part of our adventure is upon us. Following our travels over Christmas and New Year we are now two weeks into spending a month in Queenstown. Before Christmas John arranged with the company he had been working for in Auckland to work from home for a month. We decided it would be brilliant to be able to live in Queenstown and work from home with a lake view (a dream of ours!). So we made it happen! I researched places to stay and as our previous experience in Auckland showed the only option was a reduced nightly rental at apartment (as longer stay places required a minimum of 6 months). Rainbow taken from apartmentWe settled on Oaks Shores apartments, and on arrival at Queenstown we were allocated (in our view) one of the best rooms in the whole complex! We are on level 5 right on the lake front with a huge balcony – see photograph. The apartment itself is also really large with a full kitchen and laundry facilities – perfect for a month-long stay.

We have been working in the days on both our jobs – John on his IT contract work, and I am continuing work on setting up my travel consultancy business (Blue Penguin Travel). Yet we have also tried to make the most of all of our time here, as we know we are really lucky to be living the dream.

Having already been up on the gondola and visited the kiwi park a few times before we were hoping to do some different things in Queenstown. Things we have done so far (two weeks in to our stay):

IMG_9368We climbed Queenstown Hill – we walked to the summit (906m) all the way from our apartment on Oaks Shores. It was a long way (just getting to the start of the walk from there) and then climbed all the way up. The views were incredible – and you had a full 360 degree panorama. It was definitely worth the walk up there!

Mini golf in QueenstownWe played mini golf – I used my free game voucher I got from when we played over Christmas (for getting a hole in one one the last hole) and we really enjoyed playing again. It’s a great course and John won!



IMG_9569We walked around Lake Hayes – we drove up to Lake Hayes, parked at Lake Hayes pavillion, which is just off the SH6 and spent a few hours walking around the lake. The walk is just over 7km long. The majority of the walk is flat, with a few climbs and drops. There are some benches around the lake too and lots of nice places for a picnic spot.

IMG_9708We drove up to Coronet Peak – we took this scenic drive up to the popular ski resort (currently shut at the moment) for amazing views over Queenstown and the surrounding area. The drive up there is pretty steep but the views are brilliant and it is really worth it. Coming back down the views are even better as the landscape stretches out in front of you.

Arrowtown Chinese SettlementWe visited Arrowtown – John ate one of Arrowtown Bakery’s famous pies and we took a lovely walk around the old Chinese settlement.




IMG_9843We visited Kingston – and were very lucky to see the steam train arrive at the station just as we arrived at Kingston. It is a beautiful little town right at the end of Lake Wakatipu.


  • We drove to Glenorchy and spent time there – the drive is one of our favourites, and we also love to stop at Wisons Bay along the way.
  • We ate at Winnies – a favourite place of ours where the pizza is delicious!
  • We enjoyed a nice ice cream on the waterfront from Patagonias.
  • We ate fish and chips from British fish and chip shop ‘PJs’.
  • We also walked Frankton arm walkway – this is a common walk for us now as it takes us from our apartment into town.

With another two weeks left in Queenstown we are looking forward to exploring more, having more adventures and continuing to live the dream! 🙂

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Family time at Mount Cook

Friday 28th December – Saturday 29th December: Mount Cook

My parents, me and John at Mount Cook

Following our amazing family Christmas in Queenstown we were headed up to Mount Cook. It just so happened that my parents were also headed there, so we would be able to spend an evening with them. Both me and John absolutely loved Mount Cook when we visited back in October and decided it was definitely a place we would like to return to.

So on Friday 28th December after saying goodbye to my sister (who currently lives in Sydney) we picked up our hire car and headed off to Mount Cook. We took the stunning Crown Range road (that I previously wrote about in my top 5 south island drives here) via Wanaka and stopped at other scenic places along the way, including Peter’s lookout alongside the gorgeous Lake Pukaki.

IMG_7555On arrival at Mount Cook we checked into our accommodation – a lovely motel room at the newly opened Aoraki Court motel. Last time we were here we stayed at the Hermitage hotel, but this is pretty pricey (you pay for the view!), but we actually preferred our motel room. The room was huge, really well decorated with great mountain views and a large spa bath and kitchenette – it was perfect! We met up with my parents and had a lovely evening meal at Old Mountaineers. Following this we took a drive up towards the start of the Hooker Valley walk. We parked up and walked the first part of this walk – to the first swing bridge. IMG_7636It was absolutely stunning and a really beautiful walk. We only saw a couple of people along the way and really felt like we had the place to ourselves.  We watched the sunset, which looked beautiful setting on Mount Cook and amidst the surrounding scenery. We took some pics – including a precious group shot. It was really special to be able to share this with my parents and we felt really lucky to be there all together – definitely memories to cherish 🙂

IMG_7746The following morning my parents headed off to do the Glacier Explorers boat trip (which they loved!)  – which we had done back in October, and we did the Kea Point walk. The views along the way were gorgeous, and we walked up to Kea Point and took some great photos. We met up with my mum and dad when they arrived back and had a nice lunch together. One final walk on the start of the Red Tarns track down towards the hooker river was great, and we then had to say our goodbyes. We always knew this was going to be difficult, as were saying goodbye not knowing how long it would be until we saw them again. Still, we had to do it, and with a very heavy heart we said goodbye and started on our journey to the next place we were staying. We were sad but felt so incredibly lucky to have had these experiences together!


Categories: Accommodation, Activities | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

South Island Highlights – Top 5 half-day walks on South Island, New Zealand

I want to first start by saying that this post refers to ‘walks’ rather than ‘hikes’. I know there are many more hikes (Milford Track, Routeburn Track etc.) that would warrant making it into this top 5, but I am just posting shorter walks – about half a day or less. Having spent 5 weeks travelling around NZ’s South island I have chosen what I feel are the top 5 best shorter walks that we undertook during our travels. 

Top 5 walks

1. Hanmer Springs Conical Hill Walkway

Conical Hill View

Conical hill walk benchWe really loved the time we spent in Hanmer Springs – especially the Conical Hill Walkway. This walkway started near our lovely holiday house and we really enjoyed the walk – and were blessed with gorgeous weather while we walked. The walk is pretty steep uphill at times – you are climbing to the summit of Conical Hill after all! It is well signposted and shaded most of the way though – and really worth the incredible views that meet you at the top. There are some well placed benches along the way – including a nice picnic bench at the top, along with a shaded hut and seating area. The 360 degree views from the top are breathtaking – making this one of our favourite walks.

2. Glenorchy Lagoon walkway

Glenorchy walkway boardwalk view

Glenorchy lagoonThe Glenorchy Lagoon encompasses absolutely amazing views and is a fantastic mixture of boardwalks and gravel tracks. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk back in October. It took us about 1 hour 20 to complete the loop around the walkway. As I mention in my blog posting much of the boardwalk is brand new and had just been laid by the local community! There are stunning views of the mountains  all around you as you walk. A definite must on a trip to Glenorchy.

3. Fox Glacier walk

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier walkDuring our visit to Fox Glacier the poor weather meant we weren’t able to do the glacier hike in our time frame (although we weren’t too disappointed as were lucky enough to do the heli hike on Franz Josef back in 2006). However, we decided to still walk to the glacier face ourselves – and it was a gorgeous walk! We were able to get within a few hundred metres of the glacier and the views of the glacier mouth were brilliant. There are some sections of the walk with a ‘do not stop’ rule due to the dangers of rockfall. On the whole though the walk is very safe, as long as you stick to the main paths and don’t go past the signs telling you not to! All in all a brilliant walk enabling you to get very close to the glacier, at your own pace and under your own steam.

4. Mount Cook Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley walk

Hooker valley swingbridgeOur time in Mount Cook was incredibly memorable and we made the most of it, despite being limited by time and weather. We had a spare hour or so and decided to walk part of the Hooker Valley Track. We drove to the car park by the camping area to reduce the walking time (you can walk from Mount Cook village which is about 45 minutes). We walked up past the Alpine Memorial to the first swingbridge on the walk and stopped to take some great photos of the Hooker river, which feeds into the Hooker Glacier terminal lake. The sweeping views across the landscape including the stunning Mount Cook were wonderful. In future we hope to return and do more/all of this great walk!

5. Kaikoura Coastal Peninsula walkway

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway 2This walk has it all! Taking about 3 hours 30/4 hours (with stops) to complete this 12 kilometre walk back in September we were tired but really enjoyed it! The walk enables you to see seals in their natural habitat, local wildlife and seabirds, and enjoy fantastic views from cliff top sites with views out to sea with the gorgeous mountain peaks as a backdrop. Some sections are steep in parts but on the whole it is well signposted and has a really great variety taking in much of Kaikoura’s best scenery. A great way to spend half a day in the area!

Others worthy of a mention:

Frankton arm walkwayFrankton arm walkway –  a brilliant but easy walk in Queenstown.

Our own private view on Skyline Loop walkSkyline loop walkway – Queenstown. Also referred to on my blog posting.

Blue Pools swing bridgeBlue Pools walk – part of Haast pass. Read more from my blog here.

Wainui Falls 2Wainui falls walk in Golden Bay – a sense of adventure necessary for this one!

Lake Matheson - not a bad reflection!Lake Matheson walk – near Fox Glacier

Walk at Pancake RocksPancake rocks and blowholes – part of the amazing wet and wild west coast.

Categories: Activities, New Zealand, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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