When you have a country with a diverse terrain like New Zealand, sightseeing comes in many different flavours. From spectacular glaciers to magnificent mountains and golden beaches to active volcanoes, there’s so much to see around New Zealand. If you don’t plan your trip in advance, you will be spending most of your time on the road. If you’d rather spend your time sightseeing than on the road, take a Heli-hike to some of the most spectacular locations around New Zealand. Rather than considering it an expense, think of it as an investment towards making the most of your vacation.
Heli-hikes are the best way to explore New Zealand’s glaciers and far-flung natural wonders. Just imagine zooming over the landscape at breathtaking speeds that reduce the scenery to a blur. Your helicopter ride is the sightseeing before the sightseeing, a preamble of sorts to what is in store for you at the end of the ride. Your Heli-hikes in New Zealand, beautiful as they are, will be incomplete without experienced guides who add flavour to simple sightseeing with their expert insights. As your destination nears, the sightseeing begins while you’re still in the air. After you’re set down you can get your fill of wanderlust before heading back in the same helicopter.
Some pricey Heli-hikes include multiple stops along the tour. If you’re excited to take to the skies to explore beautiful New Zealand, read on to find out some of the best Heli-hikes that will take you to truly glorious corners of the country.
The White Island volcano is New Zealand’s most active marine volcano. The tour starts from Rotorua and takes about 30 minutes to reach White Island. On the way, you might even catch a glimpse of a pod of whales in the ocean. As the smoking island comes into view, it will take your breath away with its stark beauty. After you land and start exploring, you’ll find the landscape a sharp contrast to the rest of New Zealand. This island, which is barely a kilometer across is the closest you can get to the moon’s surface. The landscape is studded with black rocks, grey mineral deposits, hissing steam and acrid, yellow sulphur, but no vegetation.
Upon landing you will be handed hard hats and breathing masks. A guided walking tour will take you close to the steaming and highly toxic crater lake or caldera. The next stop on the tour is an active area with belching blow holes and huge deposits of yellow sulphur material. This is definitely one of the best Heli-hikes in New Zealand.
As soon as Mt Owen or Mt Olympus come into the view, you might recognise them from the movie ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Your helicopter ride will take you around the movie’s filming locations and let you experience the otherworldly beauty of the region. You can follow the trail of the Fellowship as they escaped the horrors of Moria and hid from Saruman’s Orcs before escaping into the Chetwood Forest. Of course, the names will be different, but that doesn’t affect the magic one bit. Located at the southern end of the Kahurangi National Park, the Mt Owen tour is 90 minutes long with 50 minutes of flying time, while the tour to Mt Olympus takes 2 hours with a flight time of 60 minutes.
But you’ll get the best experience when you combine the two tours into a 3+ hours tour. You’ll have one landing at each of the locations. Feel the magic flow around you as you walk around the rocky landscape. But it is the views around the mountains that will captivate you with their ethereal beauty.
Smack dab in the middle of New Zealand’s Southern Alps sits Mt Cook, perhaps its most iconic mountain. The 25-kilometre-long Tasman Glacier starts from the eastern face of the mountain and runs towards Christchurch and Mount Cook Village. It is one of the longest and the largest glaciers of New Zealand. The Tasman Glacier Heli-hike does not need hiking expertise and offers a pretty safe experience. Once on the glacier you have a stunning 360-degree panorama with Mt Cook on one side and Lake Tasman on the other. You’ll find the Tasman Lake often filled with calving icebergs off the Tasman Glacier.
Fun fact: the Tasman Lake did not exist in the 70s and was formed by the retreating glacier in the 90s. A stint on the Tasman Glacier will make you appreciate the massive scale of the Alps and let you experience the joy of exploring a new world. This one is highly recommended for its magnificent views.
This is one unforgettable Heli-hike that takes you through the heart of New Zealand’s stunningly beautiful World Heritage Conservation area. Deep within the Southern Alps, bordering the Mt Aspiring National Park, the 4-hour tour will introduce you to New Zealand’s alpine outdoors at its best. The helicopter ride starts from the picturesque Matukituki River Valley with a soaring bird’s eye view of the valley’s surroundings. It will take you past the majestic peaks inside the national park and climb up 1400 metres to show you three sparkling and untouched alpine lakes nestled amidst the impressive backdrop of Mt Aspiring.
But the highlight of the tour is the 2-hour hike that passes over stunning ridges, around the crystal-clear lakes and through alpine herb fields. It offers plenty of photo opportunities along the way. As the hike ends, you will be flown to a highly secret mountain-top location to shoot photos, before taking you back to the base. This Heli-hike is recommended for the bird’s-eye view of the pristine lakes and the invigorating hike.
The Fiordland Heli-hike is one spectacular show put on by mother nature, especially the Kepler Track guided Heli-hike. A part of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this is an exclusive tour on one of the country’s conservation tracks. You can reach your hiking base in a helicopter from Te Anau or Queensland. The ride begins from the foothills of Te Anau and flies over the beautiful Lake Te Anau and its gorgeous surroundings before dropping you off at the top of Mt Luxmore. From Queensland, your helicopter ride will start from the Glenorchy-Queenstown highway and drop you off at the top of Mt Luxmore.
From the summit, it is a 3-hour descent to Lake Te Anau. The trail further leads into an ancient lichen-covered beech forest before reaching Brod Bay, the end of the trail. This is recommended for the weeping natural beauty of Fiordland.
Heli-hikes are an integral part of the outdoor adventures in New Zealand. They open up the avenues to new adventures and showcase the varied landscape of the country from a different perspective. They make your hikes adventurous and add an element of thrill and excitement to your nature walks. A Heli-hike also opens up the gateway to difficult-to-access areas such as glaciers and volcanoes.