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New Zealand might be a relatively small place when compared to other countries, but when you visit, you will find that every day there is a new sight to behold or a new adventure to experience.

When you are among the high New Zealand mountain peaks and sublime landscapes, it's easy to forget that all of this beauty is situated on two small islands. It is this compact size that makes it an even more wonderful place to visit. On your holiday you don't have to compromise or leave out any experiences. You can travel throughout the whole country and experience as much or as little as you like.

When planning your holiday, one thing you should avoid missing out on is New Zealand's stunning and colossal mountain peaks. On the South Island, you have ample opportunity to view sublime mountain peak after peak as you travel through this beautiful country. Make sure you have time for plenty of stops so that you can make the most of the myriad of opportunities there are for hikers, mountain bikers or any nature enthusiast.

Choose a New Zealand mountains road trip

We may be a little biased, but is there truly a better way to see as much as possible in New Zealand than with a road trip? The country is small enough to drive around and fit in a lot into one trip, yet you will find yourself driving through new and different landscapes each day. You will never get bored of the scenery, and if you book one of our planned out itineraries, you can feel secure, have the planning made easy and be confident that whichever of our motorhomes or caravans you choose for your trip it will contain everything you need for a beautiful journey. If this wasn't enough, you can even book yourself onto our excursions and make sure you are getting the most out of your New Zealand mountains road trip.

Mount Cook from across a bridge
Mount Cook from across a bridge

The New Zealand mountains you don't want to miss

We recommend that you incorporate a little bit of both the South and North Island into your road trip. If it's mountainous landscapes and snow-capped peaks you are looking for, then you need to head to the South Island. This is where the majority of News Zealand's mountains sit. The most famous of these is the range of Southern Alps that runs almost the length of the South Island. The most impressive sections of this range can be found on the Western side of the island, and you will find that the name applies to the entire mountain range, but it is split into smaller ranges within this.

We would recommend that you take a look at our South Island Discovery Tour. This itinerary takes you on a road trip you will never forget. You start in Christchurch and then spend thirty days travelling in a loop around the entire South Island, ensuring you don't miss out on a single part of this stunning island.

We have other itineraries for you to consider, such as our Wonders of New Zealand Road Trip or our Grand New Zealand Tour. Both of these take you on a trip through both the North and South Island and includes plenty of time for you to explore the Southern Alps and the mountain peaks this beautiful region has to offer.

Wherever you travel in New Zealand, especially the South Island, there are peaks and hills to explore. Here are just a few that we would recommend you include on your trip through the New Zealand mountains.

Mount Cook and the Southern Alps from above
Mount Cook and the Southern Alps from above

Mount Cook

Also known as Aoraki, Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and stands at an impressive 3,724 metres (12,217ft) tall! This is where Sir Edmund Hillary practised and perfected his climbing skills before heading to Everest.

Mount Cook is situated in the Mount Cook National Park, and although this is the tallest, there is much more to see in the area. You have the choice of 23 peaks and plenty of snow-capped mountains, glaciers and snow lakes to choose from in the area. If you fancy some outdoor pursuits, you can book yourself onto a climbing course, indulge in some skiing or take some incredible hikes through the peaks.

If you are heading up Mount Cook, always make sure you have the correct equipment. You will need to complete a trip intentions form at the department conservation visitor centre. For safety and to ensure you see the best sights, you can book a local tour guide to show you around or book one of our Mount Cook excursions in the region. You can choose from an epic helicopter ride, hikes or a glacier boat cruise.

Mount Tasman

Mount Tasman is the second highest peak in New Zealand. It is located within the same region as Mount Cook and has the impressive Maori name of Rarakiora, which means 'long unbroken line'. The Maori themselves don't head right to the mountains' summit because of their traditional belief that the mountains are the sons of Raki, the sky father. Because of this, the summits are considered sacred. So, if you do head on an excursion to the peak, bear this in mind and avoid standing on the summit itself.

A trip to the summit is not a small feat to undertake. A mountaineering expedition should be taken with care and only with appropriate guides. This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the region surrounding Mount Tasman. Aoraki National Park is a beautiful region, and there are plenty of hiking and outdoor excursion opportunities available.

While you are here, you can take a trip to the nearby Fox and Franz Glaciers, an impressive sight of a moving glacier which you can walk on and hike around the area. If you want something extra special, you could book a helicopter ride around the area, taking in sights such as Mount Tasman, Mount Cook and these impressive glaciers.

You can make a stop at Mount Tasman on three of our road trip tours. For plenty of time in the area, book the South Island Discovery tour. Alternatively, please take a look at our Wonders of New Zealand and Ultimate New Zealand holiday options, both of which take you on a fantastic trip through both the North and South Islands.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a spectacular sight to see. This is a fjord surrounded by impressive mountain peaks and, until recently, travellers overlooked it due to the difficult entryway. Luckily we have since discovered this haven of natural beauty that encompasses high mountain peaks, lush alpine forests, impressive waterfalls and deep and serene lakes.

Milford Sound lies within the Fiordland National Park, and you can either take a hike to view this impressive peak or view it by boat. We have some fantastic cruise excursions you can book to view the sublime beauty of Milford Sound and the surrounding area. Milford Sound is located a little further south than the mountain peaks we have talked about so far, but it is still well within your reach on any of our New Zealand holidays that take in the South Island.

Mount Aspiring

For an impressive mountain that lies outside of the Mount Cook range, head to Wanaka. The mountain is called Mount Aspiring and sits at an impressive 3033 metres. This is still located on the South Island but lies within the Otago region in Mount Aspiring National Park. This is the largest peak outside of the area surrounding Mount Cook and is lovely to visit no matter the time of year. Wanaka is the local resort town, open year-round for tourists to enjoy outdoor pursuits. In winter, you can explore snowy mountains and hills and even hit the ski slopes.

On our South Island Discovery holiday, the itinerary takes you through Mount Aspiring National Park, giving you have plenty of opportunities to stop and take a walk through the area or stop to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take pictures of this stunning mountain peak.

Mount Ruapehu

The South Island is generally the most mountainous of the two islands. If peaks and mountainous hikes are on your holiday priority list, this is the best place to go. There are still some impressive and beautiful mountains to visit on the North Island. The highest of these is Mount Ruapehu.

Mount Ruapehu is located in the Tongariro National Park and is just under 3000 metres tall at 2797 metres. Not only is this an impressively large mountain, but it is also the largest active volcano in New Zealand. At the volcano's top, a large crater fills to create a large crater lake between eruptions. These eruptions are how the mountain inherited its name. The local Maori named it Ruapehu, which means 'pit of noise', perfectly describing this crater lake during its active times.

You pass by Mount Ruapehu on our Grand New Zealand Caravan Tour, and it's well worth a stop to view the volcano from a safe distance and take a hike around the area. You can also visit the serene and beautiful Lake Taupo, which is also on route and is just a little North of Mount Ruapehu.

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