New Zealand Days 4-5: Twizel and Mount Cook

After a wonderful day in Lake Tekapo, we continued our New Zealand adventure by driving to Twizel. This is a small town a little under an hour away from Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. We had planned to spend both Wednesday and Thursday hiking at Mt. Cook, but unfortunately on Wednesday it was raining heavily. We opted to spend our rainy day taking a “foodie tour” of Twizel and condense our hiking plans into one day on Thursday.

Twizel “Foodie Tour”

So, what did our foodie tour of Twizel consist of? We had a caramel slice, a long black, and a mocha at Mint Folk & Co. We tried the salmon nigiri, the salmon half roll, and the chicken bento box at High Country Salmon – here we also got to see the salmon swimming around and getting a little snack.

Then we loitered around two grocery stores for as long as possible, looking for the funniest names, most unique flavors, and tastiest looking treats. My favorite treat that I picked up was Kāpiti passionfruit and honey yogurt ice cream.

We were killing time before check-in, so we also stopped at a lake (we accidentally went to a rowing club instead of the public access to the lake, but it looked like the good views of the surrounding mountains were blocked by clouds anyways, so we didn’t try to find the public access afterwards), a bookshop, a variety shop, an artisanal food store, two gift shops, and two gas stations. We really got to know Twizel!

Aoraki / Mount Cook Hiking

Thankfully, the weather was better on Thursday. It was still cloudy and there were some occasional sprinkles and drizzle, but the visibility was much better and we were able to do three of the four hikes that had been on our list. We started with Sealy Tarns, a 3 hour return hike sometimes called the “Stairway to Heaven” thanks to its 2,200 steps leading to beautiful views. It was pretty cool to see no lake – then a little lake – then more lake – then two lakes! as we went up. The views from the top were gorgeous even with clouds covering the tops of the surrounding mountains.

Views Going Up

Views at the top

Saw an avalanche in action!

On the way back, we took a quick 30 minute return detour to Kea Point, a short and gentle walk to a closer view of the lake. We were lucky to have the sun peek out a little bit here!

Next up was Hooker Valley track. This was another 3 hour return hike, but it was mostly flat. We saw a lot of families on it and even a brave soul pushing a stroller! We were surprised to realize that even though it was a lot easier than Sealy Tarns, the views were actually (in our opinions) equally beautiful. There were mountains cozily surrounding us the entire way, a lot of lush rolling hills, three suspension bridges over rushing rivers, and the finale of a glacial lake shoreline.

We did think about doing the Tasman Glacier track and even went so far as to drive to that parking lot, but I was a bit wet and chilly from some drizzle at the end of our Hooker Valley hike, and we were both getting tired and hungry, so we decided to call it good there. We will be seeing Franz Josef glacier later in the trip, so we were okay with missing this one. We got some Thai food takeout and took it easy the rest of the night!

Up next, Wanaka!

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