The 5 best spots for photographing Mount Cook/Aoraki - our guide!

Updated: Jan 30

Deep in the heart of the Southern Alps stands New Zealand’s tallest mountain – Aoraki (Mount Cook). No matter how long you spend here, it's a place that will leave you speechless. Here are our five favourite spots for photographing Aoraki.


1. Lake Pukaki

Not only our number one favourite spot for photographing Aoraki, but also our favourite place in the whole of the South Island. Quite simply, Lake Pukaki is a place that will steal your heart.


Our Tips for visiting Lake Pukaki:

  • Try and time your visit for a still day (minimal wind) and one where the clouds aren’t blocking your view of Aoraki (although this can often be quite difficult).

  • We suggest walking to the right of the car park so you can get your own secluded spot of Lake Pukaki Heaven).

  • If you want to catch a sunrise/sunset here – the sun casts light onto the face of Mount Cook in the summer months.

  • You can even free camp (self contained only) right on the lake further down Hayman Rd.

2. Side of Road Pullover

This has to be the most scenic pullover in New Zealand. We parked up here for breakfast one morning, and then decided we loved it so much we came back and spent the entire next day there too.

The coordinates are (-43.849211, 170.110614)

If you want to get a photo of Aoraki from out the back of your van - this spot is great as it lines up pretty perfectly! While a few cars were pulling in and out all day here, it was still relatively quiet - making for a lovely spot to pull over and have lunch with a view.


3. Sealy Tarns

You may need to climb about 2,000 steps to get up here, but it’s worth it – trust me. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the tarns and while the path is all uphill, it’s not actually too hard – just take breaks as you need them and you should be fine!


Our tips:

  • Sunset is the best time in our opinion as the left face of Mount Cook (that you can see from the tarns) is lit up.

  • The Tarns work best for reflection shots – so try and get a day with minimal wind (if you can!).

  • Set up your camera behind the tarns (and nice and low) so you can get the most of a reflection shot!

4. The Road to Mount Cook

You know those amazing pictures you see - where the road is basically leading you all the way to Mount Cook? Well we scoped out the roads and we found our favourite spot!

The Coordinates are (-43.8263164, 170.1084644)

We watched both the sunrise and sunset on the road here and preferred just after sunrise as both Mount Cook and the road were in light.


Our tips:

  • Be careful pulling over here – there is space for about one car on the right (if you're facing away from Mount Cook) and two on the left (if you’re facing Mount Cook).

  • Try and take your road shots just before sunset (with the last light hitting Mount Cook) or right after sunrise (when the Mount is just in light). This will also be safer as less cars will be on the road.


5. Hooker Valley Track

The most popular walk at Mount Cook and probably one of the most popular day walks in the whole country! It took us roughly an hour to reach the lake, but DOC suggest allowing 1.5 hours. The entire walk is beautiful with views at every step, scenic swing bridges, and our favourite – the wooden boardwalk.

We did the walk at sunrise and there were only two other people at the lake when we arrived. We couldn't believe it. However, when we were leaving the walk and heading back to Vinnie, our quiet secluded bubble was slightly burst as we passed about 100 people. Not joking, waaaay busier than Roys Peak!! It seems most people were starting the walk around 1-2 hours after sunrise - so if you can get up early and leave before then you'll be laughing!


Our tips for Hooker Valley:

  • Try and do the walk for sunrise if you can – it’s incredible watching Mount Cook slowly come into light and you’ll love the peaceful experience. Sunset is on our list for next time, as is the Milky Way!

  • Pack bright clothing - we think it's nice to have something bright if you are taking photos at the lake.

We hope you find this blog helpful - and if you have any questions, get in touch! :) More than happy to help!


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