New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook (Aoraki in Māori) towers 3,724 metres into the sky, providing a stunning backdrop to the beautiful Mount Cook National Park in the centre of the South Island. Declared a World Heritage park in 1986, it boasts over thirty peaks 3,000 metres or higher. It also has five of New Zealand’s largest glaciers, including the Tasman Glacier at 21km in length. Scenic flights over the park provide unparalleled views of the Southern Alps. Inside the National Park is Mt Cook Alpine Village, home to the Hermitage Hotel which offers a luxurious space to relax and soak up the view. The region is also renowned for its clear, starry nights and was designated a Dark Sky Reserve in 2012 – the first in the southern hemisphere and the world’s largest, encompassing a 4300 km2 area.
South of Mount Cook, past the distinctive tussock land of the Mackenzie Country, the vivid blue glacier-fed Lake Tekapo, massive hydro-dams and the township of Cromwell (known as “The Fruit Bowl of the South”), is the world-renowned tourist destination of Queenstown, a lake and alpine resort and New Zealand's adventure capital. There are things to see and do in Queenstown in all seasons. From bungy jumping to wine tasting, Lord of the Rings film locations to historic gold mining towns and jet boating on the Shotover River, there are activities and attractions in Queenstown to whet every appetite. Sitting close to four excellent skifields, Queenstown is also home to boutique shops and a wide variety of bars and restaurants, making it a great spot to relax and spend time.
Queenstown is the home of bungy jumping - if you dare, launch yourself into the air from the Kawarau Bridge, 43 metres above the Kawarau River. Keep your adrenaline levels high with a jet boat trip on the Shotover River, where the dramatically narrow canyons and high speed ride will take your breath away. Movie buffs will want to visit the Kawarau Gorge, where scenes from The Lord of the Rings were filmed. Queenstown is part of the Central Otago wine region, where some of New Zealand’s best wines are made, especially Pinot Noir. The award-winning Gibbston Valley Winery just outside Queenstown is a must-see for a wine tasting, while in neighbouring Arrowtown you’ll feel you have stepped back in time to the 1860s when this historic goldmining town was booming.
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