Get a full description and see a video of the 55 km mountain and lake scenic drive on State Highway 80 to Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand.
State Highway 80 on the South Island of New Zealand follows the length of Lake Pukaki from State Highway 8 all the way to Mount Cook National Park.
The scenic drive described in this article starts at the junction of State Highways 8 and 80.
It is approximately 55 km from the beginning of highway 80 to the junction with the Hooker Valley Road in Mount Cook National Park.
Mount Cook National Park is a piece of conservation land that is maintained by the Department of Conservation [doc.govt.nz]. It is one of 14 national parks in New Zealand, was established in 1953, and has a size of approximately 70,696 ha.
Driving at about 80 to 100 km/h (50 to 62 mph) – the maximum speed limit on highways in New Zealand is 100 km/h (62 mph) – it would take approximately 30 to 40 minutes to reach Mount Cook National Park from the junction with State Highway 8.
The road is pretty straight with not too many sharp bends, so it allows for easy driving.
However, there is one one-lane bridge you will have to cross when you get closer to Mount Cook National Park.
Other than a few tourist facilities, you will not come across any houses here; you’ll be literally in the middle of nowhere.
How to get to State Highway 80
To get to State Highway 80, you would first have to land on the South Island. And the obvious airport to fly to would be Christchurch airport.
The Tekapo to Lake Pukaki scenic drive gives you an idea of what to expect when driving from Tekapo to the juction of SH 8 and SH 80.
Once you reach the junction of SH 8 with SH 80, you must travel north towards Mount Cook National Park on State Highway 80.
The total driving distance from Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park is about 331 km (206 mi) and the distance from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook National Park is 103 km (64 mi).
Apart from the shortest and most scenic route to Mount Cook described above, there are other somewhat less scenic driving routes you could follow to reach Mount Cook from Christchurch.
If you are approaching the junction of State Highway 8 and 80 from the south, so you are coming from Twizel or Omarama, you must drive north until you reach the junction and then travel north towards Mount Cook National Park.
The distance from Twizel to Mount Cook National Park is about 63 km (39 mi) and the distance from Omarama to Mount Cook National Park is 95 km (59 mi).
Basic info for the scenic drive on Highway 80 to Mount Cook
|Driving distance:||55 km (34 mi)|
|Driving time:||30 – 40 minutes|
|Road type:||Sealed (paved) two-lane highway with four one-lane bridges|
|Road condition:||Very good; smooth driving|
|Best time to drive:||Morning|
|What you’ll see:||Mountains, Lake Pukaki, bush, tussock grassland|
Click here to see a map for this scenic drive from the junction of State Highway 8 and 80 to Mount Cook National Park.
Video of the scenic drive to Mount Cook National Park
This 2-minute video gives you a taste of what to expect on this scenic drive on State Highway 80 towards Mount Cook National Park on the South Island of New Zealand.
This article falls under Scenic Drives.
Note: Roads can be changed or closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.