There are few options for accommodation in Mount Cook village. However, those options cover the complete spectrum of price and features, from basic backpacker hostels to almost-luxury hotels. The well known Hermitage Hotel for example, has luxury units, two restaurants and a concierge/activities desk on site. On the other hand, Mount Cook packpacker lodge and the YHA hostel provide some basic and shared facilities at lower prices. Since Mount Cook village is not that big area wise, location does not really matter as far as traveling or walking for day time activities is concerned. However, location does matter a lot if you are interested in the kind of view that your room will provide. With all those factors in mind and some research, I found the Mount Cook Alpine Lodge, which in my opinion has the best balance between price, views and features. After exchanging some emails with the owners, I decided to book the alpine lodge for our overnight stay at Mount Cook.
As most people mention on review websites, the views from the alpine lodge are indeed stunning. The key is to book one of the front facing rooms (there are two sizes, double and family). However, with so much demand for few units of the front facing rooms, you sometimes may find these front facing rooms sold out months in advance. If that does happen, do not worry, as you can go to the common kitchen area on the first floor and relax on sofas which face the mountains. We were lucky enough to book the front facing room which is on the ground floor. There are also front facing rooms on the first floor, but according to us there is no big difference between the ground floor and first floor rooms.
(alpine lodge with a viewing balcony on the first floor)
(view from our room on ground floor)
(parking lot, just outside the lodge)
(Mount Cook clearly visible from the room)
(morning view from our room)
(viewing and sitting area next to the kitchen)
As we booked a front facing room with a double bed, it was a little smaller than some of the family units available on the first floor. However, the room is more than adequate for an overnight stay for two people. There was limited space to keep our bags and open them, but we managed it without much trouble. The bathroom was quite spacious, but there is no bathtub. The shower area is separated from the wash basin area with just a curtain. Everything was clean, and the bathroom was stocked with two bars of soap and some conditioner/shampoo. The television has just the basic 3-4 channels, which was common across many places on the South Island. But you don’t really need TV as the night sky is stunning, with stars clearly visible. We were also provided with wi-fi during our stay, which was great considering we did not have to pay extra for it.
(our room as seen from the entrance door side)
There was no fridge in our room, though there is a common fridge in the kitchen area. The kitchen area was really clean and well maintained. It had all kinds of utensils and cutlery that one would need; there were even cooking pots, bowls, mittens, etc. The napkins were also clearly marked as new and used.
(common kitchen, clean and organized)
I must also mention that if you are planning to cook a meal here, bring your groceries in advance. You can store them in the common fridge, but you must bring them yourself. Though the lodge reception desk has a few food items stocked, do not expect to find a large selection. Some items were out of stock when we were there. They did not have any vegetarian food items either. If you are not planning to cook, then the other option is to take a short 2 minute walk to the Old Mountaineers Cafe, or head up to the (relatively expensive) restaurants of Hermitage Hotel.
(the walk to old mountaineers cafe)
(stunning setting of Mount Cook village)
Overall, I would rate our experience at the alpine lodge very positively. It is very accessible to walks in the Aoraki region, it is within walkable distance to restaurants in the area, there is parking available frontside and behind the lodge, and the views are fantastic. You get all this without having to break the bank and spend $250 at the Hermitage. My advice would be to book early, as there are few rooms in this small establishment.