A Beginner’s Guide to the Southern Alps

Looking through the clouds to the snow covered mountains of the New Zealand southern alps.

The Southern Alps are celebrated around the world for their beauty. With incredible walks, tramps, skiing and outdoor adventures abound, it can feel like an adventurer’s paradise. However, if you prefer to enjoy the views in comfort, the Southern Alps still have plenty to offer. 

From accommodation that allows you to take in the scenery from your cosy bed to short walks that put you out in the elements — but not for long! — you’ll be able to experience the beauty of the Southern Alps in your own unique way. We’ve put together a list of ways to interact with the spectacular mountain range without having to get into the thick of it.

Room With A View

Sure, camping in the mountains offers a great view, but so does a cosy cabin with snowy scenery. All the beauty with the comforts of home!

The Hermitage - Aoraki

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park 89 Terrace Road, Canterbury 7999

It’s hard to get more up close and personal than this. The Hermitage is located right in the heart of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and offers sweeping views of the snow capped mountains in a luxury setting. The hotel, chalets and motels feature over 130 years of history and have a restaurant on-site. If you want to be as close as possible to all the short walks Aoraki offers, there isn’t a better place than The Hermitage. 

High Country Cabin

Ben Ohau, Pukaki Ward, South Island, New Zealand

Located in-between Christchurch and Queenstown and a 15 minute drive from Twizel, the High Country Cabin is a spectacular place to enjoy the Southern Alps with all the comforts of home. With a beautifully updated cabin outfit, the space features a cosy log burning fire, wooden accents and floor to ceiling windows to take in the mountain views. Step outside, and you may just encounter some high country sheep!

The Sherwood - Queenstown

554 Frankton Road, Queenstown 9300

The Sherwood is heralded for its sustainable efforts, and those efforts shine through in every aspect of this gorgeous hotel located just outside of Queenstown. Situated on three hectares overlooking Lake Wakatipu, you’ll relish the mountain views from their locally-sourced restaurant, their cosy, modern rooms, or perhaps from their outdoor spaces that feature bonfires for roasting marshmallows. 

Hot Pools

It’s hard work staring at all that beautiful scenery, right? It doesn’t matter if you have spent all day walking or had a leisurely morning in bed, you deserve a hot pool with a view.

Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa - Methven

35 Mount Hutt Station Road Methven 7782 Aotearoa

Experience the all-new Ōpuke pools in the heart of Methven. For adults, discover the Tranquility pools heated to 38.5-degrees and provide a relaxing experience while staring out at the mountains. For families, the Discovery Pools provide a crazy river and ‘leap of faith’ plunge pool, among other warming, fun pools. Ōpuke also offers a swim-up bar and eatery. 

Omarama Hot Tubs

29 Omarama Ave Main, Twizel Highway, Omarama, Ōamaru & Waitaki

For a more private experience, book a wooden hot tub for up to eight people overlooking the mountains in Omarama. These private tubs are secluded and filled with mountain water, making them a chemical-free relaxing treat. You can also order a platter to enjoy while you soak.

Onsen

162 Arthurs Point Road, Arthurs Point, Queenstown 9371

For a truly unique experience, head to Onsen Hot Pools Cedar-lined hot pools overlooking the Shotover River. With luxury in mind, the team at Onsen have created a range of experiences in private hot pools, alongside spa treatments, refreshments and more. The tranquil experience is enough to let you feel like you’re floating right out of there. 

Easy Strolls

One of the best ways to experience the Southern Alps is to walk among the trails at the foothills — or right in the mountains. New Zealand may be known for its challenging walks that require mountaineering skills and gear, but these walks are much more cruisy.

Blue Lakes and Tasman Glaciers - Aoraki Mount Cook

Enjoying the beauty of Aoraki Mount Cook is best done on the trails. Try your hand at the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glaciers trail, a one-hour return walk to New Zealand’s longest glacier. You’ll walk along bright blue lakes with ice chunks floating inside, as well as incredible views of the mountains above. 

Lady overlooking the blue lakes and glaciers from the walk way.

Roaring Billy Falls Track - Mt Aspiring

This 25 minute return walk ambles through tree fern, miro, mataī and silver beech to the Haast River, where you’ll enjoy stunning views of Roaring Billy Falls cascading over boulders from above.

Looking over a blue lake to bushy green hills with a waterfall running through them.

Blue Pools Track - Mt Aspiring

This flat, one-hour return walk meanders through mature beech and podocarp before taking a swing bridge over the Makarora River. You’ll discover bright blue pools of glacial-fed water, along with beautiful views up the river gorge. 

Person getting fresh glacier water from the crystal blue lakes.