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A helicopter tour is one of the best ways to see the beauty of Queenstown – and it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular things to do in this lakeside town. There are several helicopter tours to choose from here, including a gin-tasting helicopter tour and a Lord of the Rings heli experience that flies over many of the places from the popular movie series.
There is a helicopter tour for every type of traveler in Queenstown, which is why we’ve come up with this varied list to show that everyone can enjoy Queenstown from the air!
One of the most booked helicopter tours in Queenstown is this Mount Cook helicopter experience which includes a landing on Tasman Glacier. And it is one of the cheapest tours on this list!
And if you have a special occasion coming up, why not consider treating your loved one to a memorable helicopter tour with a champagne picnic? It includes an alpine landing where your pilot will set up a stunning picnic for you, complete with a delicious grazing board of local delicacies!
In this blog post, I’ve listed 10 of the best helicopter tours in Queenstown. There’s one for every budget and even a few short and sweet options if you have limited time in the region.
Why book a Helicopter Tour in Queenstown
As I mentioned, the best way to see the Queenstown region is from the air, as only then will you see the depth of the beauty of this special place. It’s home to looming snow-capped mountains, bright blue lakes, river valleys, and glaciers, most of which are not accessible by vehicle or foot, so they can only be truly appreciated from the sky.
So, why not consider a helicopter instead of a fixed-wing plane as your mode of transport? Helicopter tours are considered more luxurious than planes because they are smaller, meaning fewer people on board, and because of their size and their rotor, they can land in remote places like glaciers and other secluded alpine areas.
A helicopter tour is also the perfect way to get a feel for the Queenstown area if you’re short on time, as most tours on this list take just a few hours; I’ve even listed one that’s just 35-minutes long!
Of course, a helicopter tour is pricier than many other activities in Queenstown. Still, when you consider that you will be able to see sights that many other tourists can’t (and the epic photos you can take), it’s a no-brainer!
The BEST Helicopter Tours in Queenstown
1. Champagne Picnic and Helicopter Tour
One of the most romantic things you can do in Queenstown is this helicopter tour which includes a champagne picnic at a peaceful alpine location known by locals as “the ledge.” After a short helicopter ride over the Southern Alps, your pilot will land you at this secluded spot with views over Lake Wakatipu for your picnic, which includes a platter of local meats and cheese. And of course, the all-important champagne!
What’s great, too, is that the pilot will turn off the engine so you can enjoy your picnic in complete silence if you wish! It’s a great activity if you and your loved one have a special occasion to celebrate, and it’s not just for couples. In fact, it’s a popular thing to do for a small group of girlfriends or even for a mother & daughter!
Allow up to 3.5 hours for this specific tour which costs $1026 NZD for two people. You must book this tour online in advance.
Related Read: 11 Most Relaxing Things to do in Queenstown
2. 6-hour Helicopter Gin Tour
This one is for the gin lovers among you, and in fact, this particular tour is the world’s first of its kind! Yep, on this particular tour, you can go gin tasting via helicopter! What a treat!
Your tour starts with a scenic helicopter flight over the Crown Ranges to Cardrona Valley for an afternoon of gin tastings. Your first stop will be at the famed Cardrona Distillery, where you can learn how gin is produced, including getting an inside look at the distillation process. And, of course, you’ll get to sample some of their delicious gin.
Next up, you will be transferred in a luxury Mercedes van through the scenic Crown Ranges to The Winery in lovely Arrowtown. Here, choose from a selection of gin paddles and nibble on the yummy shared grazing board. Your last stop of the day will be in Arthurs Point at the Gin Garden by Broken Heart for a guided tasting of their premium gins!
Allow 6 hours for this memorable tour, and prices start from $615 NZD per person! This tour is a must-do if you love gin!
3. 50-minute Glacier Explorer Helicopter Tour
One of Queenstown’s most popular helicopter tours is this 50-minute Glacier Explorer helicopter tour. On this short tour, you’ll fly high above the lush Mount Aspiring National Park – a scenic park that boasts giant mountains, turquoise lakes, and river valleys!
The selling point of this particular tour is the glacier landing; your pilot will land on top of Clarke Glacier, a remote snowy glacier and one of the biggest in New Zealand. The best part is that the pilot will turn the engine off so you can wander the glacier on foot in complete silence. It’s a truly dreamy experience! In fact, it’s so pretty, so be sure to pack a camera and take plenty of photos!
On your return to Queenstown, you will fly over Skippers Canyon, also known as Ford of Bruinen, from the Lord of the Rings films.
This tour costs $591 NZD per person and includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. You can secure your spot online in advance here!
4. Mt Cook Helicopter Tour and Ultimate Alpine Experience
Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain at a whopping 3,724 meters (12,218 feet), and what better way to explore it from Queenstown than on a scenic helicopter tour? If you don’t fancy driving the 6.5-hour return journey by car from Queenstown to Mount Cook and truly want to see the best of this stunning area, then this particular tour is the way to do it!
You will be transported by vehicle to Mount Cook National Park, stopping at some scenic points along the way, including the famed Bungy bridge – the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, Lindis Pass, and gorgeous Lake Pukaki.
After Lake Pukaki, you’ll check into Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters for an epic helicopter/ski plane tour of Mount Cook, including a landing on the Tasman Glacier. You’ll have about 20 minutes to explore the glacier on your own and take photos. Afterward, you will be dropped off at Mount Cook village, where you have 2.5 hours to explore the many hiking trails (we recommend the Kea Point Track) or even grab some lunch.
On your minibus journey home, you will stop at High Country Salmon Farm, where you can feed the salmon and purchase some delicious salmon treats, and in the summer months, a stop at Mrs. Jones Fruit Orchard is included.
This is a full-day tour, so allow at least 12 hours for this experience; prices are pretty reasonable at $615 NZD per person! It’s worth noting that this is a very popular tour, so advance booking is recommended!
Related Read: Check out the best things to do in Lake Tekapo!
5. 35-minute Scenic Helicopter Tour
If you’ve got limited time in Queenstown, consider this 35-minute helicopter tour that flies over Skippers Canyon and the Wakatipu Basin. It even includes a landing on a snow-topped mountain; not to worry if you’re visiting during the summer months; the snow stays atop most of the year.
My top tip for this tour is to take lots of photos, as the ride includes some epic aerial views of Queenstown!
This tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off in Queenstown and costs $355 NZD – it’s one of the cheapest helicopter flights in Queenstown! You can secure your spot online here.
6. Lord of the Rings and Glacier Helicopter Tour
Whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not, you’re sure to love this unique helicopter tour that flies over many fictional places from the movie series including Isengard, Lothlorien, Amon Hen, Redhorn Pass, and the Misty Mountains. What’s really special, though, is that your pilot for this particular tour was the aerial film pilot for the LOTR movies!! So, as you fly over “Middle Earth,” Alfie (that’s your pilot’s name) will let you in on all the behind-the-scenes secrets and fun facts from his time as an aerial pilot!
This tour includes two landings – the first is on Clarke Glacier, located within Mount Aspiring National Park, and the second is in Skippers Canyon (aka Ford of Bruinen).
The flight time for this particular tour is 70 minutes, and prices start from $772 NZD. As you can probably imagine, this is a very popular helicopter tour in Queenstown, so spots tend to book out quickly!
7. Pilot’s Choice 20-minute Helicopter Flight
If you’re short on time during your vacation in Queenstown, consider this short but sweet 20-minute helicopter tour, it’s called the ‘Pilot’s Choice’ for a reason because it flies over some of the pilot’s favorite areas of this resort town, including the stunning Remarkable mountain range and even part of the Southern Alps.
This tour also includes a quick landing; your pilot will expertly land you at 5,056 feet (1,538 meters) above the cobalt blue water of Lake Wakatipu. This helicopter seats just six passengers, making for a more intimate and personalized trip!
This is considered one of the best helicopter tours in Queenstown, with nearly 100 5-star reviews!
8. Golf and Helicopter Flight
Golf lovers, listen up because we have got the perfect helicopter tour in Queenstown for you. Putt a few golf balls at New Zealand’s most scenic hole, which is situated at a whopping 4,500 feet above sea level. Altitude Golf operates this experience, and because this par 3 hole is only accessible via helicopter, it’s definitely one of the more unique things to do in Queenstown!
You may choose one of four tee boxes and try for the hole-in-one of a lifetime! This particular tour includes a short return scenic helicopter trip and hotel pick up and drop off. Prices start from $527 NZD per person, which considering the rate to play at some of the country’s best golf courses, is pretty reasonable!
You can learn about all the details of this golf/scenic flight tour and book online here. Allow 1.5 hours for this experience.
9. Heli Hike Tour from Queenstown
A 4.5-hour drive from Queenstown lies the famed Tasman and Franz Josef Glaciers, both of these glaciers are on most travelers to New Zealand, and for good reason! You can hike on both of these glaciers, which is a very cool experience. Well, this specific tour is a great option if you don’t fancy driving 4.5 hours to the glaciers from Queenstown – instead, hop on a scenic fixed-wing flight that will take under an hour. I know which mode of transport I’d prefer!
And if the hour-long flight over snow-covered mountain tops and lakes isn’t impressive enough, you will switch to a helicopter to make the journey into Franz Josef glacier once you reach the town of Franz Josef. When you land, you will be provided with crampons to explore this massive glacier (it’s 12 km long!) as well as the ice caves here!
You’ll have about two hours on Franz Josef Glacier before being transported by helicopter to the Tasman Glacier, where you will also have two hours on the ice here with your experienced guide! So, if you love hiking and have always wanted to hike on a glacier, then you can’t miss this opportunity. We will note that a reasonable fitness level is required for the glacier hikes.
This tour is 6 hours long and is priced from $1340 NZD per person. It includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. I think it’s one of the most unique helicopter tours in Queenstown! So, if you’re budget allows, don’t miss it! You can read all about the tour and book it online here.
10. Half-day Helicopter Tour to Milford Sound
This 4-hour tour includes a round-trip helicopter flight, a glacier landing, and a boat cruise through Milford Sound, also known as the 8th wonder of the world. It includes two of the best ways to see this natural wonder – from the air and the water! And so, as you can probably guess, it’s a very popular Milford Sound tour from Queenstown!
The glacier landing on Mount Tutoko is the icing on the cake! While in the helicopter, you’ll see the true scale of Milford Sound and from the water, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, and even the area’s most famous resident, the Fiordland penguin. You will even experience the “glacial facial” onboard; this is when the captain will take you up very close to the mighty Bowen Falls, and you will get to feel the refreshing water on your face.
This Queenstown to Milford Sound scenic flight is a great option for those who want to experience the best of Milford in a short time; prices start from $1029 NZD per person! You can book this tour online here.
Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown
Once you’re back in Queenstown after exploring Glenorchy, there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy. Honestly, there are so many things to do in Queenstown, that it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites:
- Take a cruise – Aboard this TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise you’re in for a scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown that’s great for any afternoon. This is one of the last coal-fired steamships in the world and you get to watch the crew add coal to the flames to power the vessel as you take in mountain ranges and lush green valleys. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Watch a sunset – As the day draws to a close in Queenstown, make sure to head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu to watch a sunset. It’s one of the best viewpoints to watch the sun sink behind the Southern Alps. I like watching from Queenstown Beach or Perky’s Floating Bar where you get a view of the lake and delicious food and drinks too!
- Go canyoning – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek as part of this Queenstown Canyoning Adventure with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
- See Milford Sound – This day trip to Milford South with a picnic lunch will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included.
- Wine tasting – This Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money as for $239 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices, but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance.
Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
Kamana Lakehouse – $$$
For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!
The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.
La Quinta Queenstown – $$
If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.
Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.
Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $
My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu!
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Thanks for reading!
And there you have it -10 of the best and most recommended helicopter tours in Queenstown. As you can see there’s something for everyone on this list – from hikers to golfers, to loved-up couples!
I hope this blog will help you in choosing the best scenic flight in Queenstown for you! If you found this blog post helpful, then don’t log off just yet. Check out more blogs on My Queenstown Diary! Seriously, I have so many Queenstown, Milford Sound, and New Zealand blogs that are packed with info! Check out these few in particular that I think you might like: