Top 5 New Zealand scenic helicopter flights

Luxury Adventures picks its top 5 scenic helicopter flights in New Zealand for 2015.

A bird's eye view of New Zealand's top locations, views and stunning landscapes by helicopter is a fantastic experience. You can really get off the beaten track and up close to remote and unique locations otherwise not possible to access via road. Below are our top recommendations for exclusive helicopter adventures in both New Zealand's north and south islands.

"Best of the West" West Coast - Fiordland - Milford and more... This tour with Wilken River Jets/Backcountry Helicopters takes in the best of the South Island's West Coast. Departing in luxury you will fly over a multitude of snow capped mountains, glaciers, lakes, and ancient river valleys en-route to the West Coast of New Zealand. You will land on a remote beach and enjoy a paddle in the many rock pools while looking for one of New Zealand's great delicacies the infamous "Paua" known to many as Abalone. Or watch your personal guide snorkel for the many bounties that are harvested from the ocean, if you're lucky a crayfish for lunch! Enjoy a seaside or mountain top picnic or BBQ with a fabulous New Zealand wine to follow! 

This makes for a wonderful interlude prior to setting off to explore the Fiordland National Park - more glaciers, snow capped mountains and alpine lakes will be seen whilst following the coast line south to Milford Sound, viewing seal colonies and dolphins along the way. Land in the Fiordland National Park and enjoy a short wilderness walk or continue your helicopter adventure through the many fiords that this region is famous for on the way back to base in Wanaka.

The Wild North West operated by Reid Helicopters of Nelson takes you west of Nelson into the heart of the Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand's newest and second-largest national park. You'll land beside a pristine mountain lake, plenty of time for photo opportunities. Then onwards to Westhaven Inlet and track the rugged West Coast for a landing on the beach, where you can explore the sand dunes and eroded rock formations. Then then lift off and fly for views of Farewell Spit followed by Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park. Here we stop for a leisurely lunch at Awaroa Lodge. What a great way to appreciate the diversity of the North Western tip of New Zealand’s South Island.

The Fiordland Ultimate Experience operated by Glacier Southern Lakes traverses Milford and Doubtful Sounds as well as the lesser known George and Bligh Sounds. Fly west from Queenstown over Lake Wakatipu, above the famous Walter Peak Station and on-wards to the stunning waters of Lake Manapouri offering views up the Iris burn, home of the Kepler Track. Across the Wilmot Pass, Doubtful Sound appears, remote and spectacular, landing amongst the beautiful inlets and dramatic views. Experience the vastness of Doubtful Sound by flying out to the Tasman Sea and fly high above the wild west coast en route to the breath-taking Lake Quill and the 1900ft Sutherland Falls. View the famous Milford Track and McKinnon Pass before flying the length of Milford Sound past sheer cliffs and gushing waterfalls.

Experience an exhilarating flight past spectacular mountains and blue-green ice falls, and land upon Mt Tutoko Glacier, an awe inspiring experience with ice formations and crevasses to astound. Time for a gourmet picnic lunch and local wine in a remote exclusive alpine wilderness area before your return to Queenstown via Mt Aspiring National Park over the famous Moonlight and Shotover Canyons, rich in gold mining history.

West Coast Glacier Experience. Glacier Helicopters operate from Fox Glacier and Franz Josef village. The opportunity to view up close and touch the glacier formations - ice caves, seracs and pinnacles - makes for a truly memorable experience.  Combine a hike on the majestic glaciers with a heli flight and really get up close to these true wonders of the word. 

Your adventure starts with the helicopter flight in, during which you get to take in the majesty of the glacier from the air before alighting on a section of the glacier which is usually not reachable by foot alone.  This is a part of the glacier where the forces of change are strongest, often creating ice caves to be explored and ice arches to walk under. All the glacier hike equipment you need is provided, including sturdy leather boots and the specialist crampons which enable you to walk easily on the ice. Your guide will lead you to the most dynamic parts of the ice-fall and explain in detail what you are seeing and walking on and how it came to be that way. To be able to walk on Fox Glacier itself, touch the ice and be surrounded by its enormity is genuinely astounding, a really special experience.

Experiencing the stunning coastlines of the Far North by helicopter... Travelling by helicopter is just plain fun, and when you combine that with viewing of beautiful islands, beaches, harbours and inlets you really start to appreciate the value of seeing an area from the air. Helicopters also add in the flexibility to land at locations inaccessible any other way.  That's why Salt Air's heli tours around the Bay of Islands and across the far north to Cape Reinga are a superb way to experience Northland and it's special places. For more discerning travellers they offer private tours that will fly along both the west and east coasts of the region covering renowned highlights such as 90 Mile Beach, the Bay of Islands, Cavallis and Matauri Bay, Whangaroa Harbour, Parengarenga Harbour and much more.

The tours don't just fly you around though, you also get to stop and enjoy this incredible region. With a privately guided vehicle tour around the Cape Reinga area you will avoid the crowds on the bus tours and enjoy the local knowledge of the guide visiting the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, a beautiful white-sandy beach and the fun-filled Te Paki sand dunes for tobogganing. You will also be hosted near Henderson Bay on the far north east coast for a delicious lunch where you can also opt to have some fun quad biking on the white sand beaches.  One of the unique locations they can exclusively get you to as an added extra on this tour is landing on the infamous "Hole in the Rock" in the Bay of Islands. Known by local Maori as "Motu Kokako" this island, with it's incredible steep cliffs and natural untouched bush, is amazing to land on and walk on it's very top perch with sweeping views towards Cape Brett and back towards the islands. This is the only way to set foot on the island, an experience you will surely never forget.

Kay Campbell is a luxury travel specialist at Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.

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