With a colourful heritage spanning over 130 years, the Hermitage is the keeper of many dreams, secrets, and memories. Proudly New Zealand and family owned, the caretakers of this very special place celebrate the fascinating stories that fill the region’s storybook and are deeply committed to accommodating world travellers in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park for generations to come.  

The hotel’s story is peppered with dramatic tales of fire, flood, tragedy, and triumph, yet sitting in a landscape that has remained fairly untouched for thousands of years. A hotel that has been perfectly positioned for views of  Aoraki / Mount Cook and the majestic landscape that surrounds him. Having been rebuilt twice and with several extensions added over time, the building features nostalgic reminders of those who have walked the hallways, many decades before.

The inception:

The first Hermitage (pictured above) was built in 1884 by White Horse Hill, under the direction of Frank Huddleston. Huddleston, a surveyor, and water colour artist from Timaru, was appointed ranger for the Mount Cook area due to fears that local vegetation, especially the bush and the native buttercups, would be destroyed by grazing and burning. This initial accommodation house was set on twelve hectares of land near the base of the Mueller Glacier. It was a small cob building, with a pond formed from the hole where the clay was dug for the sun-dried bricks.

Huddleston sold his land and hotel to the Mount Cook-Hermitage Company in 1885, and it was formed to create a Swiss-style alpine village. The company bought rugged horse-drawn coaches to run from the railhead at Fairlie Creek (now known as Fairlie) to the Hermitage Hotel. It took visitors a total of three days to reach the Hermitage from the coastal port of Timaru. Huddleston remained as manager until 1894, and two years later the New Zealand Government took over the Mount Cook-Hermitage Company, which by then was in difficulties. 

The 1900s:

In 1906, the Mount Cook Motor Company began running service cars to the Hermitage. One of the first drivers was John Rutherford who had driven in the first regular horse coach twenty years ago, in 1886. 

Unfortunately, thirty years of bad weather and a damaging fire had taken its toll on the Hermitage cob building, and the original accommodation was struggling to keep up with the increased demand for accommodation. A decision was made to start building a second Hermitage, however extreme flooding on two separate occasions destroyed the building beyond repair. 

Finally, the second and improved Hermitage (pictured above) opened its doors in 1914. The hotel was controlled and promoted by what was known as the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. The Mount Cook Motor Company was keen to assist in expanding the region as a destination, primarily to increase the visitor numbers to the Hermitage throughout the winter season. Due to the growing demand for their services, eventually, the company applied to lease the property, taking it over in 1921. The Hermitage was extended, camping facilities developed and package tours offered - for perhaps the first time in New Zealand. Further extensions to the hotel came in 1924. 

In the 1930s the company was renamed as the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourism Company, and once the lease expired in 1944, they returned the Hermitage to the New Zealand government. The government also purchased several other hotels and tourist attractions during this time to promote New Zealand tourism. In 1955 the Tourism Hotel Corporation was established, to manage and run these hotels. 

The 50s

Sadly, disaster struck in September 1957 when the second Hermitage was razed to the ground in a spectacular fire. The Government moved quickly to design and build a new hotel on the present site, and it was operational by May 1958. 

In 1990, the government sold the Tourism Hotel Corporation to US-based South Pacific Hotels Corporation. Not long after, Trojan Holdings, a New Zealand tourism company founded and owned by a local family, purchased the Hermitage Hotel from them. 

The Hermitage, Aoraki / Mount Cook is still under Trojan ownership and the portfolio has grown over the years, now featuring a collection of accommodation outlets, dining establishments, and activities. These include the Mount Cook Lodge & Motels, the Alpine Restaurant, Panorama Room, Snowline Bar, Sir Edmund Hillary Café, Glacier Explorers, Big Sky Stargazing, Tasman Valley Tours, Aoraki/Mount Cook Guided Hikes, and the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre which includes the museum & theatre. This collection, plus a few other operators in the National Park, make up the renowned Mount Cook Village.