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8 Best Camping Spots near Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

A tent and a ute with a popup tent trailer camping in a meadow at the White Horse Hill Campsite in Mt Cook National Park, surrounded by green mountains with glowy lighting.

Mount Cook National Park (Aoraki) is one of my favourite places on the planet—and camping around Mt Cook is an absolute treat for anyone who loves the outdoors. 

There is only one campground actually in Mount Cook National Park, and that’s the White Horse Hill DOC Campsite. 

White Horse Hill is a basic campground with minimal facilities, but it’s one of the most scenic campsites in New Zealand. I highly recommend you camp there!

However, if you’re in search of a freedom camping spot, or a holiday park (with hot showers and power!), or something just close to Mount Cook National Park, there are lots of great options for you. I’ll cover them all in this guide.

I live in Queenstown and visit Mount Cook often on weekend camping trips, so I hope you’ll find this guide helpful. Whether you’re tent camping or campervanning, there’ll be a campsite for you on this list.

I’ve noticed another “Mount Cook Camping” guide online that includes campsites all the way in Franz Josef and the West Coast—a whole day’s drive away, despite what it may look like on a map! So, I wrote this guide to share the best campsites that are actually close to Mount Cook National Park. 

So let’s get to it—here are the best places to camp around Mount Cook National Park!

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Map of Camping Spots near Mount Cook National Park

Map Legend

⛺️ orange tent icon = campsite for all types of campers (including tent camping)


🚐 blue van icon = freedom campsite for self-contained campervans/motorhomes/caravans only

The Best Mount Cook Camping Spots 

1. White Horse Hill DOC Campsite

The White Horse Hill DOC Camping Ground in Mount Cook National Park, with campervans parked up at the campground and snowy mountains in the backdrop.

⛺️ Camping options available: unpowered campsites for tents & campervans/caravans/motorhomes

📍 Location: right in the heart of Mount Cook National Park

💲Cost: $15-$18 per adult & $7.50-$9 per child depending on time of year. Free for kids under 5 years old. 

🚻 Facilities: flush toilets; drinking water (taps are turned off in winter, though); cooking shelter (bring your own cookware)


The White Horse Hill DOC Campsite is the crème de la crème of Mount Cook campgrounds.

This is my #1 recommendation for camping around Mount Cook—it’s one of the best campsites on the South Island!

White Horse Hill is the only campground within the national park, and its location could not be better. You’ll get to camp below snow-capped mountains with scenic views any way you look.

You’ll also be mere steps away from the trailheads for some of the South Island’s best hikes, including the Hooker Valley Track, Kea Point Track, and Sealy Tarns. It’s so good being able to park up your campervan or pitch your tent, and not have to drive to go hiking!

Now, it’s worth mentioning that because this is a DOC campground, the facilities are basic (but completely adequate for a camping trip!). Also, there are no powered campsites here. 

If you prefer camping with more amenities (like hot showers) or want a powered campsite for your van, then you’ll want to camp at Glentanner instead (see below!).  

Tip: After a shower? There are coin-operated hot showers available at the public shelter 2.5 km away in Mount Cook Village. Have some $2 coins on hand for this (at the time of writing this, it’s $2 for 3 minutes of hot water).

A tent campsite at the White Horse Hill DOC campground in Mount Cook National park, with a car parked at the site, a blue REI tent, and a picnic table covered in water bottles. There are two pairs of hiking boots below the picnic table, and a hammock hanging between a tree and the car. In the background is another tent campsite and mountains beyond that.
The White Horse Hill campsite is epic for both hiking and relaxing in Mount Cook National Park!

2. Glentanner Holiday Park

Three campervans parked at the Glentanner Holiday Park near Mount Cook National Park, with pine trees lining the campground and mountains in the background.

⛺️ Camping options available: unpowered & powered campsites for tents and campervans/caravans/motorhomes

📍Location: 22km (20-minute drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲 Cost: unpowered campsites from $27 per adult & $13.50 per child; powered sites from $30 per adult & $15 per child. Free for kids under age 2. 

🚻 Facilities: fully-stocked camp kitchen; drinking water; bathrooms with hot showers; indoor and outdoor dining areas; barbecues; unlimited WiFi; laundry facilities; onsite cafe

The Glentanner Holiday Park is a great place to camp if you’d like to be close to Mount Cook National Park but prefer more amenities than a DOC campsite provides.

This campground has gorgeous mountain views and is located along the shores of Lake Pukaki. You can access the lake via a short, easy walking path. 

Glentanner is also the base for Mount Cook helicopter tours, so if you’re keen to give that a go, then this is a convenient spot to camp! It’s also just fun watching the helicopters come and go while you sit back and relax in your camp chair.

A teal-blue tent pitched at a campsite in a meadow at the Glentanner Holiday Park near Mount Cook National Park, with snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Views from the Glentanner Holiday Park are quite spectacular.

Free Camping Spots near Mount Cook National Park

3. Lake Pukaki Overnight Campervan Parking 

south-island-camping-lake-pukaki-freedom-campsite
At the Lake Pukaki freedom campsite, you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/Mount Cook!

🚐 Camping options available: Self-contained campervans/caravans/motorhomes only 

📍Location: 48km (42-minute drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲Cost: FREE

🚻 Facilities: non-flush toilets

The Lake Pukaki Overnight Campervan campsite has minimal facilities, and it’s basically just one big parking lot. 

But, it offers some of the most incredible views of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook—you honestly won’t believe how stunning this spot is until you see it!

There used to be other freedom camping sites available along Lake Pukaki on Hayman Road, but they’ve since been closed down. So this is now the only legal, official freedom campsite on Lake Pukaki. You do need to have a self-contained vehicle to camp here—tents (including rooftop tents) are not allowed.

If you’re travelling around the South Island in a self-contained campervan, it’s well worth spending a night here, as long as it’s a clear day and not too windy or stormy out. This is truly one of the best freedom campsites on the South Island—sunsets from this campsite are spectacular.

Ensure you get here early-ish (before evening) to secure a camping spot, as this is a popular place. If it’s full when you arrive, head to nearby Lake Wardell instead.

4. Lake Wardell Freedom Campsite 

A sign for the Lake Wardell freedom campsite near Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook National Park, with a gravel road leading into the campsite under a pine forest.

🚐 Camping options available: Self-contained campervans/caravans/motohomes only 

📍Location: 47km (41-minute drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲Cost: FREE

🚻 Facilities: non-flush toilets

Popular with anglers, the Lake Wardell freedom campsite is tucked under a pine forest in a sheltered and peaceful spot just 10 minutes from Twizel.

This camping spot is just steps away from the Pukaki Canal, which is known for its canal fishing opportunities (you’ll need a fishing license if you plan to fish).

Even if you’re not a fly fishing enthusiast, this is a good place to camp if the Pukaki Freedom campsite is too busy (or blustery). 

5. Lake Poaka Campsite

A green sign with yellow writing marking the Lake Poaka Conservation Area, which has a free camping ground near Mount Cook National Park. Beyond the sign is an open camping area covered in golden grass with bushy trees and mountains in the backdrop.

⛺️ Camping options available: unpowered campsites for tents and campervans/caravans/motorhomes (you don’t need to be self-contained).

📍Location: 59km (46-minute drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲 Cost: FREE

🚻 Facilities: non-flush toilets

Want to camp for free near Mount Cook National Park, but don’t have a self-contained vehicle?

Then head to the Lake Poaka campsite!

Campers of all types can stay here, even if you’re camping in a tent or non-self-contained camping car or van.

The setting here is nice and peaceful, but it doesn’t have quite the same level of epic views you’ll find at some of the other campsites on this list. 

That being said, this is a pretty great place to camp considering its handy location and the fact that it’s completely free.

To get to the Lake Poaka campsite, you’ll need to drive for about 2km on a gravel road, but the road has always been in great condition when I’ve been on it and shouldn’t be a bother even for 2WD vehicles.

More Camping Spots near Mount Cook National Park

6. Lakes Edge Holiday Park, Lake Tekapo

A view through a purple, pink and yellow patch of lupins over the Lake's Edge Holiday Park in Lake Tekapo, with campervans parked at campsites overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo.

⛺️ Camping options available: unpowered & powered campsites for tents and campervans/caravans/motorhomes; camping cabins

📍Location: 104.6km (1-hour 15-minute drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲Cost: Unpowered sites start at $64 for 2 people; powered sites start at $70 for 2 people.

🚻 Facilities: Bathrooms with flush toilets & hot showers; fresh drinking water; camp kitchen (bring your own pots, pans, cutlery, etc); free BBQs; free unlimited WiFi; card-operated laundry facilities; lounge area; campervan dump station; playground.

The Lake’s Edge Holiday Park in Lake Tekapo is a good place to camp for a night if you’re travelling north to south from Christchurch to Queenstown and want to visit Mount Cook the next day.

This is also a great camping destination if you’re after a weekend trip from Christchurch—you can easily set up base at the Lake’s Edge Holiday Park and day trip to Mount Cook.

One of the best parts about camping at this holiday park, besides its epic lake views, is its location near the Tekapo Hot Pools. After a day of hiking around Mount Cook National Park, nothing is better than a soak in the hot pools while enjoying the views of beautiful Lake Tekapo!

You’ll also be just a 15-minute walk from town when you camp here, which is quite convenient.

This campground is particularly special in late spring if you hope to do some lupin-spotting on the South Island. There are usually some large patches of lupins below the campground from the end of November through early December.

I love the cute camping cabins at this holiday park, but you can’t go wrong with a campsite, either. Most of the sites have great views and the facilities here are excellent.

7. Ahuriri Bridge Campsite 

A close-up image of pretty lupins in various shades of pink and purple on New Zealand's South Island.
In late spring/early summer, there are often heaps of wild lupins near the Ahuriri Bridge campsite.

⛺️ Camping options available: unpowered campsites for tents and campervans/caravans/motorhomes (you don’t need to be self-contained).

📍Location: 91km (1-hour drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲 Cost: FREE

🚻 Facilities: non-flush toilets

The Ahuriri Bridge campsite is located right along the main highway, and it’s a popular camping spot for travellers looking to camp between Queenstown and Mount Cook.

This camping spot is popular because it’s 1) free and 2) you can camp here in any type of vehicle—even if it’s not self-contained! Tent camping is allowed, too.

This spot is a bit too close to the road for my liking (meaning you’ll get some road noise at night), and it also kinda feels like one big gravel parking lot. However, it’s pretty great to be able to camp in such a convenient spot for free, and the surrounding scenery is absolutely beautiful. 

In late springtime, you’ll be able to walk down to the river to scope out the abundant numbers of lupins in the area. 

Note: no drinking water is available at this campsite, but you’re allowed to collect river water to use. However, you’ll need to treat or boil the river water before drinking it. Also, please make sure to not wash dishes or clothing in the river—tip out any soapy water well away from the river to avoid contaminating it.

8. Omarama Top 10 Holiday Park 

Tyson from Weekend Path wearing an orange t-shirt while looking up at the Omarama Clay Cliffs from a walking path lined in purple lupins and wild rose bushes.
Don’t miss the Omarama Clay Cliffs walk when you camp at the Omarama Top 10!

⛺️ Camping options available: unpowered & powered campsites for tents and campervans/caravans/motorhomes; camping cabins

📍 Location: 94km (1 hour 5-minute drive) from Mount Cook Village

💲 Cost: Unpowered campsites start around $50 for two people; powered campsites start around $60 for two people (prices vary depending on time of year).

🚻 Facilities: Bathrooms with hot showers; camp kitchen (bring your own pots, pans, cutlery, etc); BBQ area; lounge room; playground & jumping pillow; dump station for campervans; laundry facilities; free unlimited WiFi.

The Omarama Top 10 Holiday Park is a handy place to camp along the drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook National Park.

This holiday park is located right off the main highway and is just down the road from the lovely Omarama Hot Tubs. You can wander over from camp to the wood-fired hot tubs to enjoy a soak under the stars before tucking in for the night. Make sure to book your hot tub in advance, though, as they do sell out.

While camping at the Omarama Top 10, you should also pay a visit to the Omarama Clay Cliffs, which are a 20-minute drive from camp. There’s an entry fee of $5 per car, but it’s worth the small fee. You’ll get to walk along a beautiful trail to see unique badlands-esque rock formations that are unlike anything else on the South Island.

Tips and helpful info for camping around Mount Cook

A small camping table at the Glentanner camping ground with a view of snow-capped Mount Cook in the background. The table is covered in supplies for making a camping dinner, including local salmon, asparagus, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes along with capers, orzo, and seasonings.
Before heading into Mount Cook National Park, make sure you’ll well-stocked with camping food & drinks (there are no supermarkets within the park).
  • Make sure to stock up on groceries & petrol before entering the national park, as there aren’t any supermarkets in the park. You’ll find well-stocked Four Square supermarkets in Lake Tekapo (if coming from the North) and Twizel (if coming from the South).
  • Camping spots around Mount Cook can get really busy during peak camping season (December through February). I recommend booking campsites in advance when possible during peak season. You won’t be able to book freedom campsites in advance, though, as they’re first-come, first-served—so arrive at your chosen spot by late afternoon/early evening to try and secure a spot (and have a backup plan in case it’s full).
  • This area can see strong winds. Check up on the weather report before heading out to make sure there aren’t any wind warnings in place—tall campervans have been known to blow over during windstorms around these parts.
  • Bring lots of clothing layers because temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day and evening. You can sometimes experience all four seasons in one day here.
  • Please leave no trace at these camping spots—this includes properly disposing of any rubbish you bring in with you, not using the outdoors as a toilet, and not washing dishes or clothing in the lakes and rivers.
  • There are no fires allowed at any of the camping grounds around Mount Cook National Park. 
  • Dogs aren’t allowed in Mount Cook National Park.

🚐 Thinking of hiring a campervan for your Mount Cook camping trip?

A side view of a green and purple Jucy campervan in front of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown with a slogan written on the side of the van saying "find your happy."

You should—it’ll be an epic time.

These are my 3 favourite campervan hire companies in New Zealand:


I also like using Motorhome Republic to compare prices on campervan hires in NZ.

Thanks for Reading!

A tent without its rainfly pitched in a meadow at the Mount Cook White Horse Hill DOC campsite, with greenery and snowy mountains in the backdrop.

I hope this has helped you plan your camping adventure around Mount Cook.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

2 Comments

    1. Hi Kathy!

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m really happy to hear you found the article helpful!

      I hope you have the best time on your NZ trip ☺️

      Cheers,
      Jac

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