The Road to Mount Cook: Shortest Great Drive in the World?

As I mentioned earlier, this past October, my uncle, my cousin, and I went on a camping trip to the Southern Alps of New Zealand with brief stop in the land of Oz. While the goal was to do one of the 10 Great Walks of New Zealand, we really had little experience in the art of camping so we thought it would be a good idea to start off slow. 

Before I begin, here is a link to the vlog post. If you prefer to watch that, it covers everything from my departure from Sydney to my arrival at the campground.And if you want to stay ahead of the blog posts and see all the pictures, please subscribe!

I’ve done some extensive road tripping in New Zealand and have written about it here on the blog:

New Zealand’s Great Drives:
Queenstown – Milford Sound
Queenstown – Glenorchy
Queenstown – Wanaka
Lake Tekapo – Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier – Christchurch

Pukaki – Mt Cook National Park

New Zealand is one of those places I keep returning to for any of my wilderness adventures. There are three reasons for this: hikes are easy because there is no dangerous wildlife to speak of, roads are not crowded, and the vegetarian food options and quality are just fantastic (except for Mexican that is).

For a guy that travels in a small group or usually by himself at times when not many people are on the trail, New Zealand offers the peace of mind I really can’t find elsewhere  in the wilderness. Let’s not forget the great infrastructure that New Zealand has to make camping easier (restrooms etc).

Anyway in an older article, I talk about the merits of the drive between Lake Tekapo and Franz Josef Glacier. However, I don’t think I mentioned that just off a turning on that road near Pukaki is perhaps New Zealand’s greatest drive.

So the initial plan was to stop by the visitor’s center to get a hold of the camping permit and sign in for the Mueller Hut hike, but we completely burned that plan as soon as we got on the road and took way too much time enjoying the views. The visitor’s center closes at 4:30pm and we showed up just an hour before sun down. 

 

 

 

At just around 60km the road features spectacular views of New Zealand’s tallest peak and the glistening turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki. One of the nice things about New Zealand’s mountains is that they are marked with wide valleys and great plains. This terrain makes for great views while you drive down the road. 

Now there aren’t many pull offs on the road to the Mt Cook Village, but the road is calm enough at times for you to stop and take pictures. The rest of the world is smart about the not allowing a shoulder lane because you wouldn’t get anywhere with people pulling over. 

I can’t condone what we did in the middle of this road but you can imagine the type of shots we took (check out the video for those images). 

Anyway even if you are driving by this area, don’t make the assumption that New Zealand’s tallest peak is just another mountain. The area is home to some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes and is perhaps one of the finest and most developed area for hikers. 

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Trip Report: Wild Camping in New Zealand