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How to Take the Famous Mount Cook Road Photo

How to Take the Famous Mount Cook Road Photo

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Have you ever wanted to capture that perfect photo of Mount Cook you see all over Instagram? Well, in this blog I show you exactly where and how!

One of the most stunning roads I have had the pleasure of traveling along is the road to Mount Cook National Park. A visit to Mount Cook National Park is without a doubt one of the best places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand.

As you drive along this windy road you’re welcomed with stunning views of Lake Pukaki and the giant mountains that surround it in the distance. Lake Pukaki literally shines bright blue on a sunny day, and as you approach the township of Mount Cook, the views only get better.

One view, in particular, is as spectacular as it is famous, and that’s the view of Mount Cook Road with Mount Cook (the mountain) towering above in the background. Getting this iconic shot has become one of the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park.

In my opinion, taking the time to check out this view is so worth it. However, getting the perfect photograph can be difficult if you’re not super camera savvy.

So in this post, I will not only outline the exact spot where so many people get this amazing shot, but also the little trick that gets it looking so good – so you can too!

Where to Stay in Mount Cook

hermitage hotel in mount cook
The Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook National Park. Photo Credit: Jiggo Travel on Bigstock

If you’re heading to Mount Cook then you simply must stay at least one night – I guarantee you won’t regret it! There isn’t much accommodation and it books up fast (especially in summer) but here are your options:

The YHA Hostel – The YHA is the best budget option for those not camping. Dorm beds here start at $38 per night. It’s a quality hostel that’s clean and social (and even has a sauna!)

The Hermitage Hotel Mt Cook – The Hermitage is the biggest hotel in the national park and where the visitor center is. It has some of the best views and the restaurant is amazing!

White Horse Hill Campground– This is a DOC campground and costs only $15 per person per night. They also have specials for kids and students. The campground is set up for tents, cars, and motorhomes.

Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge – The Alpine Lodge is a mid-range budget hotel that has stunning views of the entire national park.

Aoraki Court Motel – Another beautiful hotel that has the best reviews in Mount Cook National Park.

The Alpine Chalet – This is a one of a kind chalet built for 8 guests. It has 3 bedrooms and as a fully equipped kitchen! It’s the best option for large groups or families.

Mount Cook Lodge and Motel – One of the newest hotels in the park but quickly becoming one of the most popular and highly rated.

If the accommodation in Mount Cook Village is booked up, the next closest town is Twizel (45 minutes away) or you can also stay in Lake Tekapo (1.5 hours away).

For more detailed information on the accommodation in Mount Cook and where to stay nearby, check out our Mount Cook accommodation guide!

Where is the exact spot for the photo?

Bailey and I sit on the road to Mount cook

The famous Mount Cook photo is taken 10 kilometers outside of Mount Cook Village.

As you drive out of Mount Cook Village (leaving from the village out of the national park) you will pass the airport on your left. Keep heading towards Lake Pukaki for another few minutes and you will begin to see Mount Cook’s peak pear out from its base as you drive further away.

Then, you will come to a long stretch of road that has four small streams on it all in a row (these streams are spread apart so it’s best to use Google Maps to find them).

As you can see in the photo above, the road curves to the right so keep that in mind when looking for the correct spot.

It’s on this stretch of road that you get the perfect angle of Mount Cook and also a good view to see if cars are coming (that’s kind of important). Below are a few screenshots of the location on (one of my favorite apps for travel.) The red markers show where this photo is taken from. In my opinion, taking the photo from the last stream is the best spot.

The 4 small streams
The same spot zoomed out

Is there a place to park?

Another photo on the road to Mount cook

Well, not exactly but there are places with flat ground where you can pull safely off the road. You’ll find areas to park on the side of the road at each one of the streams. Be sure to pull well off the road to avoid any accidents!

It is always best to leave your hazard lights on and never shoot in the dark. Although on this stretch of road you have plenty of time to see cars coming, it’s still important to pay attention and always use a spotter when you’re behind the camera.

So, what’s the trick to getting the Mount Cook photo?

Best Mount Cook photo!
Same spot, same camera, just no zoom!

If you line up at the exact spot mentioned above and simply click your camera or phone the photo won’t quite look like the photos above. This is especially true if you shoot with a wide-angle lens.

With the wide-angle, your view becomes too large and Mount Cook appears tiny in the background and not as huge as you see with your eyes.

The trick to making Mount Cook appear huge is using some zoom! By making the person in the photo further away and zooming in you can decrees your field of view and also make your subject appear smaller, thus making Mount Cook larger.

That’s it, no crazy complicated trick, just some plain old zoom. The great thing about this technique is you can use it in other photos. Like the one below!

For some more great photography tips, check out this blog I wrote: How to Take Better Travel Photos!

Bailey standing in the shodow of Mount Cook on the Hooker Valley Track
Can you spot Bailey?

Related read: For more advice on taking epic photographs in Mount Cook National Park, check out my blog, where to take the best photos in Mount Cook!

Before you go…

Bailey watching the sunset behind Mount Cook and the Hooker Lake, New Zealand
Thanks for reading! (Photo from the Hooker Valley Track in Mount Cook.)

Well, now you know where to take the famous Mount Cook photo and the “secret” to get it! You can take this knowledge to Mount Cook and take another cool shot from this iconic spot!

Thanks so much for reading our blog, if you have any questions please leave them below in the comments section and we will get back to you! If not, then be sure to check out our New Zealand page for more great travel guides!

Keep Reading…

Read all about visiting Mount Cook here! Or check out some of our most popular blogs below:

Guide to the Mueller Hut – Want to know whats it’s like to hike to the Mueller Hut and why it’s my favorite hike in New Zealand? This post answers all your questions as well as how to book the hut.

The Hooker Valley Track – It’s easily one of the best hikes in New Zealand, but if you don’t avoid the crowds the experience can be a little less amazing. Here’s how to beat the crowds and all the things to look out for along the way!

Tasman Glacier Viewpoint – Want to find the best views of the Tasman Glacier? Our post is a guide to the best viewpoint and why you really should go for sunrise!


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