With the nice summer we’re having, we must assume that your wanderlust is reaching peak levels. The countless natural wonders of New Zealand are beckoning, and few are louder than the Mount Aspiring National Park.
This sprawling national park on New Zealand’s South Island is a part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site and offers an endless array of activities for the outdoorsy type. From hiking to mountain climbing, fishing, or simply driving around, the summer in the Mount Aspiring National Park offers an abundance of activities and sights to explore and experience.
How to get there
Located in the southern corner of the Southern Alps, running alongside the Fiordland National Park, the Mount Aspiring National Park is reached by SH6 by car. There are several towns serving as hubs for further exploration of the national park, most notably Queenstown, Te Anau, Wanaka and Glenorchy. Queenstown has a major international airport, while Wanaka has a smaller airport that serves domestic flights.
There are also smaller settlements serving as access points for a number of attractive hiking routes. Check the local tourist info offices for additional information on those, since some of the nicest tracks are hidden out of reach of the main roads.
What to do once you’re there
The filming location for The Lord of the Rings’ Isengard, the Mount Aspiring National Park holds 100 permanent glaciers, including the three biggest ones in the region flanking Mount Aspiring, the park’s namesake.
Mountain climbing: At 3,033 meters, the mountain itself is second only to Aoraki/Mount Cook in all of New Zealand, providing wonderful opportunities for skiing and mountain climbing. There are various guided climbing tours offered by local organizations, from day-trips to week-long expeditions. While the degree of difficulty varies depending on the location and the duration of the trip, it is generally recommended for experienced climbers who can handle the strain of more demanding climbs..
Hiking: with some of the most idyllic scenery, featuring everything from dramatic mountain peaks, sprawling green valleys and imposing glaciers, the Mount Aspiring National Park is an absolute must for all fans of hiking. The park is best experienced through a multi-day hiking trip, with three phenomenal routes to choose from: the Routeburn Track cutting through the park all the way to Fiordland, the Greenstone & Caples Track following the traditional Maori road between the West Coast and Otago, or the Rees-Dart Track that follows the Rees and Dart rivers all the way to the Dart Glacier. Of course, if time and fitness are short, there are a few excellent day-hikes, such as the Rob Roy Glacier track or the Haast Pass Walks.
Driving: The national park and its surroundings provide a number of scenic driving routes that are so captivating they make it difficult for drivers to keep their eyes on the road ahead. The main roads connecting Queenstown with both Wanaka and Glenorchy are renowned for their surrounding scenery, but the main prize is the Haast Pass drive through the national park, with its mountainous and glacial surroundings. Just make sure you’ve got a reliable vehicle, because the terrain will surely put it to the test.
Where to stay
There is a variety of accommodations in and around the Mount Aspiring National Park. As the regional tourist center, Wanaka certainly offers the most diverse accommodations, ranging from hotels and winter resorts to private lodgings. Probably the most popular sleeping facilities are the huts located inside the park, as they place you right at the centre of the untouched natural magic.
Additionally, perhaps the best way to experience the Mount Aspiring National Park is to find a free campervan and take your lodgings with you, allowing you to explore the park in all of its variety.
If you have even the slightest inclination towards the outdoors, Mount Aspiring will provide a bundle of challenging and rewarding activities and more stunning scenery than you can fit on your camera.