Day 11: Hooker Valley Track & Tasman Glacier
Day: Hooker Valley Track
If you only have one day or time to do only one track in Mt Cook National Park, then I would recommend Hooker Valley Track. It’s popularity however is evident, as tour buses are always coming and going dropping off people for this track. In fact, it’s the busiest track/walk in New Zealand that I’ve ever been on and if you stay at White Horse Hill campsite, the start of the track is actually right there.
You’ll need about three hours to do Hooker Valley Track though we took something like five hours because the views along the track change with every turn of the corner. It’s this reason why Hooker Valley Track is so popular. In a short space of time (three hours return, if you don’t stop so much) and with minimal effort (this track is mainly flat with minimal elevation gain) you can see so many different views with Mt Sefton at the start, then crossing multiple swing bridges and glacier lakes and ending at a stunning glacier lake and view of Mt Cook. It’s one of those tracks where the effort to views ratio definitely makes it worth doing.
Afternoon: Tasman Glacier Lake
Just a short five minutes drive from the White Horse Hill campsite is Tasman Glacier Lake. Here, there are two different short walks – one that takes you to the top of a hill to view the glacier lake from above, and the other takes you to the base (I believe). There’s meant to be lots of icebergs here but when we visited (in summer) there were only one or two, from memory. If that shows how fast the glacier is melting, then that’s kind of sad!
Overnight at: Glentanner Park Centre
We spent our second night in the area at Glentanner Park Centre, cause Tom really wanted a shower! It’s the only campsite in the vicinity of Mt Cook National Park that has powered campsites and facilities, but it’s a 20 minute drive away. For those who want power, better facilities and proper bathrooms, then Glentanner is a good idea. The 20 minute drive whilst annoying to do on the daily, is one of the more scenic drives and plus, you can see Mt Cook from Glentanner, which means if you want to visit the National Park when Mt Cook is showing itself, then you can tell before you leave! Glentanner recently got new bathroom facilities, so we were glad for the facilities.
Day 12: Mt Cook to Lake Tekapo
Daytime: Mueller Hut Track
Mueller Hut was one of those epic hikes that I just wish I could do, but wasn’t sure if it would be possible. I umm-ed about this one for ages and decided to give it a go, with the push of Tom who was super excited and always up for a challenge. In the end we made it and it was so epic that it deserves its own post, which is coming up next. Here are a couple of pictures to get you excited about the hike!!
Once you’re done with Mueller Hut, you’ll basically be done for the day. But not quite yet – we’re heading to Lake Tekapo for our sleep!
Drive: Mt Cook to Lake Tekapo (1 hr, if you’re leaving from Glentanner)
The drive to Lake Tekapo will take you back past the edge of Lake Pukaki. Stop over if you like to take in the views one last time. Before long, you’ll be at Lake Tekapo, an absolutely bustling little town!
Overnight: Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park
Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park was probably the largest and busiest holiday park we stayed it. During the time we were here, it was also Chinese New Year so I think the holiday period also contributed to the influx of visitors and completely booked out holiday park. This holiday park was the only holiday park we stayed in where you had to enter a code to get into bathrooms, kitchens and other shared facilities. A way to control unauthorised access from non-paying guests, I guess. It was a pain though when you really needed to go to the toilet and totally forgot the passcode! Also, it was the only holiday park we visited where no internet was provided – however you can buy it for cheap. Something like $5 for 1gb.
The powered campsite we stayed in here had the most beautiful view of the lake. In fact, the holiday park is actually situated at the lake’s shores and so Lake Tekapo is actually only a few metres away. It made the park feel very relaxed and there were so many picnic tables by the lake to relax at and enjoy the view.
Day 13: Lake Tekapo sightseeing
After a crazy tiring day doing the Mueller Hut Track, it’s time for some serious chilling at Lake Tekapo. The town here is famous for a few things – lupins (when they’re in season), the Tekapo Hot Springs, which are situated by the lake and very popular with tourists (we didn’t go), star gazing tours at one of the observatories here (also didn’t go, can you tell we were completely exhausted after Mueller Hut?) and Church of Good Shepherd Church (which coincidentally is also famous for star gazing). In fact, one of the biggest drawcards of Lake Tekapo is stargazing, as Lake Tekapo is actually an International Dark Sky Reserve meaning that it is an absolutely spectacular place to go stargazing at night. It’s what brings all the tourists here – trust me there are SO many tourists here!
At night, when the sun goes down, even in the middle of town, you can see all the stars in the sky and the milky way with your naked eye. It’s absolutely mind-blowing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars in my life, just standing in the middle of our holiday park spot which to me, already was emitting a lot of light pollution.
We drove to Church of Good Shepherd to go star gazing. There were so many people and even tour buses here at night that it was probably busier than the holiday park itself! Nevertheless, I did manage to take one photo, despite the numerous torches and lights shining all over the place haha.
Day 14: Lake Tekapo to Christchurch
Drive: Lake Tekapo to Christchurch (3 hrs)
Guys, we’re going home! We dedicated the whole day to drive back to Christchurch just in case we bumped into any issues along the way and also, to clean out our camper van, get packed and head to the airport. This drive is a pretty uneventful one, it’s more like one of those highways heading back to the city. It’s a super busy stretch of road, however there are multiple ‘overtaking lanes’ along the way every few kms, so that keeps things safe and stress free.
Clean your camper, return it and head to the airport.
It’s time to say goodbye to New Zealand’s South Island after a monster two weeks in the country!
We had so much fun in New Zealand, and would totally recommend it (and the camper van experience) to any traveller who wants a nomadic two weeks on the road!
I hope you enjoyed my NZ South Island travel series and do let me know if you ever use any of this info for inspiration for planning your trip!