This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
New Zealand has to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Millions of visitors flock here every year to marvel at its diverse and dramatic landscapes. And in my opinion, one of the best ways to soak in all of the scenery is on a helicopter tour.
There are endless ways to enjoy New Zealand’s natural beauty from the ground. However, nothing beats getting bird’s eye views of it all. I’ve taken several helicopter rides in NZ, including tours over Queenstown and flights to Milford Sound. And if you’re visiting the North Island, there are several awesome opportunities there, too!
But with so many epic places to visit in New Zealand, you might be wondering where the best helicopter tours are – or if there are tours available where you’re going. That’s why I’ve put together this guide on the best places for a helicopter tour in New Zealand. Trust me, I know first-hand that it can be so difficult to choose!
- The BEST Helicopter Tours on the South Island
- 1. Queenstown
- 2. Milford Sound
- 3. Glenorchy
- 4. Mount Cook National Park
- 5. Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
- 6. Kaikoura
- 7. Te Anau
- The BEST Helicopter Tours on the North Island
- 8. Bay of Islands
- 9. Lake Taupo
- 10. Rotorua
- 11. White Island
- 12. Wellington
- Thanks for reading!
- Why I Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
- Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
The BEST Helicopter Tours on the South Island
It’s no secret that Queenstown is ridiculously beautiful. It’s surrounded by dramatic scenery, including the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu, the Southern Alps, glaciers, and the Remarkables mountain range (which certainly lives up to its name). When you fly over on a helicopter, you can take in all of this epic scenery at once. It’s so gorgeous that you can’t help but pinch yourself.
It’s also not a secret that I am absolutely in love with the city of Queenstown. Flying over it in a helicopter has to be one of the best things that I’ve ever done here – and trust me, that’s a very competitive list!
I also love that helicopter tours in Queenstown show you natural features that you can’t access by vehicle or foot. You really do get a unique experience up in the air. And for that reason, I think a helicopter tour in Queenstown is a must!
Pilot’s Choice Scenic Flight
This pilot’s choice heli tour is my top pick because it should work for most budgets and itineraries. I also love the fact that the entire route is based on the pilot’s favorite places. So it’s a helicopter tour with a local expert!
The flight is 20 minutes long, which doesn’t sound like much…but speaking from experience, time seems to move super slowly when you’re up in the air. You get to see so much in 20 minutes, including Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, and part of the Southern Alps.
You also get an alpine landing somewhere on The Remarkables. In winter, you can step off into fresh snow. And if you’re visiting Queenstown in summer, you’ll have a refreshing breeze to cool you off. Plus, you’ll have amazing views over the beautiful city of Queenstown as well.
It’s also one of the top-rated helicopter tours in Queenstown. People love how the pilot adds their own personal touch. Also, it’s super easy to fit into your schedule even if you’re only in the city for a short time.
The tour costs $337 NZD per adult and $236 NZD per child (ages 4-14). There are only 6 people in the helicopter (including the pilot!), so it’s a nice, personal experience. Tours are offered daily at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. They also include roundtrip transport to and from the landing pad.
35-Minute Alpine Scenic Flight
This 35-minute helicopter tour is another fantastic way to see Queenstown from above. This is almost double the flying time as the previous tour, so you’ll see even more! This tour flies over Skippers Canyon, which is super scenic. It’s also much safer to fly over than to drive Skippers Canyon Road, which is often referred to as “the most dangerous road in New Zealand”!
You’ll also fly over the Wakatipu Basin for beautiful lake and valley views. The tour includes a landing on a snow-capped mountain. The snow stays for most of the year, so you should still be able to experience this during the summer. Make sure to bring your camera to capture that perfect shot next to the helicopter!
Your pilot will give you a headset so you can hear them clearly. As you fly, they’ll share fun facts about each location. Trust me, both kids and adults are fully entertained the whole time on this tour!
This tour costs $458 NZD per adult and $322 NZD per child (ages 0-11). This price includes hotel pickup and dropoff in Queenstown. Considering everything is taken care of for you, I think it’s a great deal for a 35-minute helicopter flight.
For a longer tour, book this Queenstown helicopter ride right here!
Related Read: For other ways to explore the Queenstown area, check out my favorite day trips from the city!
2. Milford Sound
Milford Sound is easily one of the most beautiful destinations in New Zealand – and the world. It’s a beautiful and untouched fiord on the South Island known for its towering mountains, gorgeous waterfalls, and rare wildlife. I’ve seen bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, Fiordland crested penguins, and keas here, to name just a few!
I always bring friends and family to Milford Sound when they come to visit me in Queenstown. In fact, I’m starting to lose count of how many times I’ve been here because I jump at any excuse to go.
The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound is 288 km (179 mi) long and takes around 3.5 hours. Lots of people stay overnight in Te Anau to break up the journey. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an option if you’re short on time.
However, it’s only 70 km (43.5 mi) from Queenstown to Milford Sound as the crow flies, and the flight only takes around 45 minutes each way. This means that with a helicopter, you can fit a trip to Milford Sound into a busy schedule without totally exhausting yourself. Plus, the scenic flight is such an amazing experience in itself!
You’ll fly over Lake Wakatipu and lots of mountainous landscapes before arriving at Milford Sound. And here, the views only get better. You’ll see glaciers, the famous Mitre Peak, and the mysterious waters of Milford Sound.
If you’re staying in Queenstown, I absolutely encourage you to visit Milford Sound. And luckily, there are several Milford Sound helicopter tours from Queenstown. To help you narrow it down, I’ve written about my top two below.
Milford Sound Helicopter Tour from Queenstown
This 2-hour helicopter tour takes you to Milford Sound and includes two unique landings. One is atop Mount Tūtoko, the highest mountain in Fiordland National Park. You’ll be able to step out of the helicopter and soak in the epic views of Milford Sound from up here. The mountain will be covered in snow, which makes the experience even better.
You also get another landing in Milford Sound itself so that you can take in the scenery from the ground. This area feels super remote and untouched, and while I love seeing it from above, its magic feels even more visceral close-up.
On the way back to Queenstown, you take a different route to see as much as possible. You really get your money’s worth in views! You’ll get to see the Tūtuko glacier and more of the South Island’s gorgeous scenery.
I love the fact that this tour also includes hotel pickup and dropoff in Queenstown, as it makes everything so easy. The whole experience is unforgettable, and it’s definitely one of the best helicopter tours in New Zealand. Plus, it makes visiting Milford Sound so much more convenient!
The tour costs $1,116 NZD per adult and $781 per child (ages 4-14). You can choose to depart at 8 am, 10 am, or 2 pm. The whole tour lasts for 2 hours in total, with 1.5 hours of flight time.
Trust me, words cannot do this tour justice. Book it online to see for yourself!
Milford Sound Heli Flight including Scenic Landings, Boat Cruise
Okay, so the helicopter tour I just talked about is pretty amazing. But if you’ve got room in your budget, I think this Milford Sound Heli Flight is even better! Not only do you get scenic helicopter flights between Queenstown and Milford Sound, but you also get to do a nature cruise (the quintessential Milford Sound activity!).
I love getting to experience Milford Sound from the water because you can see its gorgeous scenery up close. Plus, Milford Sound nature cruises are just so amazing. You brush up against enormous waterfalls and spot so much of New Zealand’s unique wildlife!
This tour also gives you more time in the air for a full overview of the region. You’ll make three alpine landings so that you can take in the scenery from all angles.
One of these landings is actually at a filming location for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which is extra special if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan! It’s actually the spot where the Middle Earth Waterfalls were filmed. Here, you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch (wine or beer in hand) while surrounded by this beautiful scenery.
This tour costs $2,200 NZD for adults or $1,850 NZD for kids (ages 4-14). This price includes hotel pickup/dropoff, your flight with multiple landings, the boat cruise, and an unforgettable picnic with beverages. You’ll depart around 9:30 am and return roughly 5.5 hours later.
Overall, you get 3 incredible experiences in one day. What better way to see Milford Sound and the South Island’s scenery?!
Glenorchy is one of my favorite places to visit from Queenstown. It’s a tiny town at the head of Lake Wakatipu, and it’s surrounded by the Southern Alps, so it’s safe to say that the scenery here is super dramatic. A helicopter ride here won’t disappoint!
In fact, Glenorchy is a very popular location among filmmakers. Since this is New Zealand we’re talking about, it’s not surprising that several scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed here. I even wrote a whole blog about the best Glenorchy LOTR tours.
But that’s not all! Glenorchy was also featured in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Prince Caspian, and even the latest installment of Mission Impossible.
One of the best things to do in Glenorchy is to visit Mt. Earnslaw and see the famous hanging glacier. To do this on foot, you have to do the Earnslaw Burn hike. This trek is pretty grueling, can be dangerous, and requires one night of camping (unless you’re some kind of superhuman). Luckily, this hanging glacier is also accessible by helicopter, which is a much safer, easier, and quicker way to see it!
Related Read: For even more LOTR adventures, read about the Weta Workshop and Cave in Wellington. This is the special effects and prop company responsible for the LOTR trilogy, among other famous movies!
Mt Earnslaw Glacier Tour
This helicopter tour takes you flying over Glenorchy and its gorgeous surroundings. You’ll head towards Mt Earnslaw, where you’ll get a close-range flyover of the hanging glacier. Then, you’ll land in the basin to marvel at the glacier and waterfalls from below.
Visiting the Earnslaw Burn completely transports you to another world. This is probably why this location was chosen for both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It’s definitely one of the best helicopter tours in New Zealand for Tolkien fans. But even if you haven’t seen either series, there’s no denying the spine-tingling beauty of this place.
The standard version of this tour costs $510 NZD and lasts for around 35 minutes. It includes the Earnslaw Basin landing I already mentioned. However, you can add some fun extras.
Upgrade by adding another alpine landing for an extra $120 NZD per person. Alpine landings are one of my favorite experiences because you truly feel on top of the world. And at this second location, you’ll get awesome views of the Dart River and Lake Wakatipu. This option will take your tour up to 45 minutes.
Alternatively, you can add a glacier landing for an extra $225 NZD. With this option, you get to experience both alpine and glacier landings in one day for a seriously epic tour. Plus, this tour is a little longer than the others at 55 minutes.
Tours leave from Glenorchy at 10:45 am and 2:15 pm. However, you can add return trip transport from Queenstown for no extra cost, which I think is a fantastic bonus! While this tour runs year-round, we recommend going in spring, summer, or fall. The glacier’s waterfalls are much calmer in the winter, so won’t have as big of a wow effect (although they’re still gorgeous!).
4. Mount Cook National Park
Mount Cook is known as “the cloud piercer” because of its immense height. At 3,724 meters (12,218 feet) tall, it’s the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It goes without saying that flying over it is an incredible experience! Plus, it means you don’t have to take on a very long, difficult, and technical hike to the top!
But Mount Cook itself is not the only reason to take a helicopter flight over Mount Cook National Park – far from it. This stunning national park is home to many other jagged, snow-capped mountains as well as bright blue lakes. It also has over 70 glaciers – including the famous Tasman Glacier.
To say that the scenery here is beautiful would be a huge understatement, so naturally, Mount Cook National Park is one of the best places to take a helicopter tour in New Zealand.
A helicopter flight over the park is also great if you’re short on time. Usually, you need at least 2-3 days to explore this national park. However, you need less than an hour for a helicopter ride – and you’ll see all the same sights from above in mere minutes!
Mount Cook Alpine Vista Helicopter Flight
This Mount Cook helicopter tour is the perfect introduction to the area. On this 20-minute flight, your helicopter will soar over the Ben Ohau Range. You’ll even have time for an alpine landing, usually with snow on the ground.
After hotel pickup, the flight departs from Mount Cook township. As soon as you ascend, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful views of the park’s snow-capped peaks, as well as the famous Mount Cook itself.
I think the best part, though, is that you get to fly over Lake Pukaki. This lake is a vibrant aquamarine, and the color really shines from high above. If you’re visiting New Zealand in the winter, you might even see the lake partially frozen!
Throughout the flight, your pilot will offer interesting commentary as you observe the rugged landscape. I’m always surprised by how much I actually learn on these helicopter flights! You’ll also have plenty of photo opps, so don’t forget that camera.
This tour costs $337 NZD for adults and $236 NZD for kids (ages 4-14), including hotel pick up and drop off. Tours depart daily at 9:30 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm.
For a short but very sweet flight, book this Mount Cook helicopter tour here.
Mount Cook and The Glaciers Helicopter Flight
If you want a longer helicopter ride over Mount Cook, go for this 50-minute tour. What I like about this tour is that you get to lots of fantastic alpine viewpoints without having to hike there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking in New Zealand! But let’s be honest, a helicopter ride definitely has a better reward-to-effort ratio!
On this helicopter tour, you’ll fly over Mount Cook, which is a spectacular experience because it’s New Zealand’s highest peak. Then, you fly over the Blue Lakes and along the length of the Tasman Glacier. You also pass by the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, which are also well-known for their natural beauty. All in all, I’d say that this is a pretty sweet flight path!
Of course, this tour also includes a scenic landing. This time, it’s in some of the most pristine snow I’ve ever seen. Make sure to get out and snap some photos in front of the helicopter like I did!
This tour costs $780 NZD for adults, $546 NZD for children (ages 4-14), and $390 NZD for infants (they must sit on an adult’s lap). You can choose to go at either 11 am or 3 pm, and hotel pickup and dropoff are included in the price.
For the full Mount Cook experience, book your seat on this longer helicopter ride!
Related Read: Are you driving yourself to Mount Cook? If so, check out the best stops between Christchurch and Mount Cook right here.
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
5. Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
The Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are both in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. They’re both spectacular and since they’re located just 25 minutes apart, you’ll get to see them both on a helicopter tour.
Generally speaking, Franz Josef Glacier is the more famous of the two because it’s so steep. It descends from the Southern Alps to just 300 meters (984 feet) above sea level. It’s actually among the steepest of New Zealand’s 2,900 glaciers.
Franz Josef Glacier is 12 km (7.5 mi) long, while Fox Glacier is 13 km(8 mi) long but not as steep. Still, they’re both very impressive to see from high above – and make quite the dynamic duo on a helicopter tour. Plus, most helicopter tours offer the chance to touch down on a glacial snowfield and snap some amazing photos.
Fox and Franz Josef Twin Glacier Helicopter
This 30-minute helicopter tour from Fox Glacier takes you over the twin glaciers. You’ll experience close-up views of their amazing ice formations and crevasses, as well as the impressive ice falls. The highlight is a snow landing, which makes for some epic photos too!
The helicopter departs from the town of Fox Glacier, and you’ll immediately start noticing unique ice formations as you fly. Along the way, your pilot will tell you all about these awesome glaciers and the stories behind them. You learn more about why they’re so unique and well-known.
There’s a brief landing in a snowfield to take some photos. Snow landings have a different feel to them – and this is the perfect chance to see why! You can hop out, toss some snowballs at each other, and capture that super Instagrammable shot.
It’s a quick – but amazing – way to see both glaciers, especially if you’re short on time. But even if you have plenty of time, this is still an amazing thing to do.
This tour costs $434 NZD per adult, $303 NZD for kids (ages 4-14), and $217 NZD for infants (ages 0-3). it covers the 30-minute flight, but you’ll need to find your own transport to and from the meeting point. Tours leave throughout the day, so it’s easy to fit it into your schedule.
If you’re near Fox Glacier, don’t miss this opportunity – book your tour online here!
Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight from Franz Josef
This 30-minute helicopter tour is super similar to the one above, except it leaves from Franz Josef. You’ll witness both Franz Josef and Fox glaciers in all their glory. Plus, you get the chance to land on one of the glaciers, where you’ll see frozen icefalls, ice fields, and glacial crevasses. It’s safe to say you’ll be treated to some pretty stunning views, making for amazing photo opportunities!
Flying over the twin glaciers is truly unforgettable. From the air, you can really see how big they are, which is something that’s quite hard to grasp from the ground. Throughout your flight, your pilot shares interesting info about the landscape, which helps you appreciate it even more.
Just like the tour above, you get a snow landing and a chance to play in the fresh snow. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture this beautiful moment!
This tour departs once an hour between 9 am and 4 pm, so it’s easy to fit into your day. It costs $434 NZD for adults, $303 NZD for kids (ages 4-14), and $219 NZD for infants (ages 0-3). It doesn’t include hotel pickup and drop off – there’s a meeting point in Franz Josef instead.
If you’re heading to Franz Josef, book this helicopter experience in advance!
Franz Josef Heli Hiking Guided Tour
Those who love adventure should definitely book this Franz Josef heli hike! I can safely say it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in New Zealand! First, you take a helicopter ride over the Franz Josef glacier. Then, you land on it for an incredible trek across the glacier’s surface.
It’s so amazing not only to walk on the glacier but to see its deep crevasses and ice pinnacles up close. Plus, it’s so nice to be led by a professional guide who makes you feel super safe every step of the way. Walking on the ice is often a new experience, even for avid hikers. So if you love a novel activity, this tour is for you.
I loved that this tour allowed me to enjoy both breathtaking views of the Franz Josef Glacier from the air and then spend two whole hours hiking on its surface. And don’t worry, all the ice trekking equipment is provided (boots, talons, socks, ice axe, and waterproof jacket).
It was such a fantastic experience, and I would do it again tomorrow if I could! It’s definitely one of the best helicopter tours in New Zealand because you get the full trifecta: helicopter flight, glacier landing, and glacier hike!
This 3-hour tour costs $709 NZD per person, including your flight and knowledgeable guide. It also covers all of your hiking gear, so you don’t need to worry about buying any specialist equipment.
Transportation isn’t covered, and you’ll need to arrive at the meeting point an hour and 15 minutes before your flight. I’d also bring some water and a light snack in case you build up that appetite while trekking across the snow!
This tour is in high demand and often sells out. So check availability and book it well in advance!
Kaikoura is a coastal town best known for its amazing marine life – specifically dolphins and whales! It’s just a 2.5-hour drive from Christchurch and makes for a gorgeous day trip. So if you want to escape the city, I suggest heading to Kaikoura for a helicopter ride and stunning scenery!
There are many fun things to do in Kaikoura, and flights are one of my favorites! Helicopter tours give you beautiful views of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway and the coastline. However, the real draw on these tours is whale watching! Kaikoura is home to many different species of whale, including blue whales, humpback whales, and sperm whales, which can be seen all year round.
And sure, you can certainly do a dolphin or whale-watching cruise in Kaikoura. But if you’re as passionate about marine life as I am, seeing them from a helicopter really takes things to the next level. You often spot many more whales this way, and it’s completely different seeing them from above.
Kaikoura Classic Whale Watch
This 30-minute helicopter tour takes you on a whale-watching adventure – without ever worrying about seasickness or shivering in the sea breeze! Instead, you’ll glide along the coast, watching majestic whales swimming just below you. The pilots do a great job of pointing them out and teaching you more about their behavior.
You also have a good chance of seeing baleen whales and bottlenose dolphins, depending on the time of year. However, Kaikoura is best known for being home to adorable dusky dolphins. These dolphins are one of New Zealand’s unique animals, so if you’re an animal lover, I highly recommend joining this tour!
There will be a maximum of 6 passengers in your helicopter, so rest assured that there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions. And trust me, you should because these pilots know everything about the area! Plus, the headsets are equipped with microphones, making it super easy to communicate throughout the flight.
This tour costs $330 NZD per adult and $265 NZD per kid (ages 3-11) and has a stellar rating. Tours leave daily at 10 am from the meeting point, which is centrally located in Kaikoura. It’s a fantastic way to see a ton of the marine life that Kaikoura is so famous for, and in such a short space of time, too!
7. Te Anau
It is one of my favorite stops on the journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound. But while you can just stop for a meal, I actually think it’s worth spending a night or two here. There are great accommodations in Te Anau, and the whole place has such good small-town vibes.
Plus, there are plenty of things to do in Te Anau. This charming mountain town has yummy restaurants, wildlife sanctuaries, scenic roads, and tons of hiking. And if you want to check out glow worm caves, there are some nearby!
It’s also home to the Kepler Track, which is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It’s easy to see why it’s considered a Great Walk. When I did this hike, I was absolutely blown away by the views of the mountains and fiords. The track is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) long in total, but you can just tackle a portion of it by doing a single-day heli-hike!
As well as being close to Milford Sound, Te Anau is also close to Doubtful Sound. Doubtful Sound isn’t as famous as Milford Sound, and it’s even more remote. It’s pretty difficult to get to, which is where a helicopter tour comes in handy.
Doubtful Sound is three times longer than Milford Sound. Although its landscape is not quite as dramatic, it’s still very beautiful. It’s amazing to see from above because the fiord branches out into three arms, which isn’t something you can appreciate as much from ground level.
Discover Doubtful Sound Helicopter Scenic Flight from Te Anau
This scenic helicopter tour stands out as one of New Zealand’s best because it allows you to access Doubtful Sound. Doubtful Sound is very difficult to access – in fact, that’s where its name comes from! But if you want to witness this gorgeous fiord, this helicopter is the way to go.
You actually can’t get to Doubtful Sound by road, so you have to take a helicopter or a cruise. The latter option is very time-consuming. If you want to maximize your time, I always recommend a helicopter tour!
A helicopter tour is not only a convenient way to explore Doubtful Sound, but it also gives you the most stunning views! You’ll have aerial views of the mountains, lakes, and rainforests. Some highlights on this tour are flying over the Fiordland National Park and Lake Manapouri. And if the weather permits, you also get to land in the fiord and take beautiful panoramic photos of the landscape.
This helicopter tour costs $845 NZD per adult and $592 per kid (ages 5-14). It lasts for an hour and includes the flight, your knowledgeable pilot, and a weather-dependent landing (fingers crossed!). Even if you don’t land, the pilot gives such nice commentary on the journey, pointing out the best sights. This tour doesn’t cover transportation, so you’ll need to drive yourself to the meeting point.
I really would describe this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because very few people ever get to see Doubtful Sound, much less fly over it in a helicopter.
Don’t miss this chance to see Doubtful Sound. Book this tour online right here! I have no doubt you’ll love it!
The Kepler Track is one of my all-time favorite hikes in New Zealand. However, it’s 60 kilometers (37 miles) long and takes 3-4 days to complete in full. Even doing a shorter portion of the track in Te Anau often requires you to stay overnight somewhere. But if you don’t have the time or desire, then this guided heli-hike is the perfect alternative.
First, you’ll fly over Lake Te Anau on a 25-minute helicopter ride, so the day definitely starts off on a fun note! You’ll also be able to gaze down at the Hidden Lakes, the Main Divide, and the Kepler Mountains before landing at the Luxmore Hut.
If you choose to do the half-day hike, then it’s a 3-hour hike down to Lake Te Anau along the Kepler Great Walk Track. However, I recommend doing the 6-hour hike as it’s the same price. On this hike, you get to go up to the Luxmore Summit (which has insane views) before heading down to the lakeshore.
Whichever option you choose, you’ll finish the day off with a quick water taxi ride back to Te Anau.
I love the fact that this tour combines 3 totally different experiences into a single-adventure-filled day trip. And each portion provides nonstop insane views!
You should allow 4 hours for the half-day tour and 7 if you want to go up to the Luxmore Summit. The tour costs $385 NZD per person, including the flight, hike, water taxi, and guides. Make sure to bring water and food and dress appropriately for a long hike!
There will be no more than 9 people per group, so it’s a nice, personalized experience. Your guide will let your group know what time to be at the meeting point in advance.
The BEST Helicopter Tours on the North Island
8. Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a stunning enclave made up of over 140 islands, so a helicopter tour here promises beautiful views! You won’t find glaciers and snow-capped mountains here; it’s all about untouched beaches, lush green hills, and enchanting blue waters.
You can often see dolphins in the water here too, although sadly, I had no such luck when I went!
This is such a beautiful part of New Zealand, and it’s so different from the places that I’ve talked about so far. It just goes to show how varied New Zealand’s landscape really is!
One of the best things about visiting the Bay of Islands is the chance to see the Hole in the Rock. It’s a very literally named natural attraction. It’s a huge hole in the middle of Motukokako Island, which looks like a giant rock emerging from the ocean. You can even take a boat cruise through the hole in the middle, but very few people get to see it from a helicopter!
Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour
This scenic helicopter tour. is the best way to see the Bay of Islands from above. On this tour, you have two options. You can stick to the skies or choose to upgrade by landing and walking directly on the Hole in the Rock.
The Scenic Helicopter Flight includes 20 minutes of flying above the Bay of Islands. Your friendly pilot will narrate the journey and point out all the important landmarks you pass. Some of them include Cape Brett, Russell, Waitangi, and of course, the Hole in the Rock. You can just sit back and enjoy gorgeous views of the islands and bright blue waters below.
This option costs $288 NZD per person and leaves at 12 pm daily. It doesn’t include transport, so you’ll need to make your own way to the Salt Air helicopter pad.
However, if you can, I really think it’s worth upgrading to the scenic flight + Hole in the Rock Landing. In addition to the 20 minutes of flight time, you also get to land on Motukokako Island. There, you’ll enjoy a 15-minute soak up the views from atop the Hole in the Rock. This is the perfect spot to capture those vacation photos!
Landing this island is such a unique experience and a rare one too. Not a lot of travelers get to do this, which is why I think it’s one of the best helicopter tours in New Zealand.
The scenic flight plus landing costs $440 NZD per person. It lasts about 35 minutes in total, including the 20-minute flight and the 15-minute landing. This tour also leaves daily at 12 pm from the Salt Air helicopter pad.
Related Read: One of my favorite road trips is the drive from Auckland to Paihia (Bay of Islands). It has a beautiful coastline, waterfalls, and even glow worm caves on the way!
9. Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is a gorgeous crater lake that’s roughly an hour’s drive from Rotorua. It’s pretty amazing to fly over this body of water in a helicopter, especially because it’s home to so many gorgeous bays. The lake also has a surface area of 616 square km (238 square mi), so flying over it is the best way to really see its vastness!
On the cliffs of Mine Bay, you can also see a 10-meter-high Maori rock carving. This carving was made in the 1970s to protect Lake Taupo from volcanic activity – so far, so good!
Meanwhile, the town of Taupo is also one of my top destinations on the North Island. It’s known for the Huka Falls, which are so powerful that they could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just 11 seconds.
And as if that weren’t enough, Taupo is also home to the Craters of the Moon. This crazy geothermal park features steaming vents and bubbling crates, which is also quite a sight to see from a helicopter!
Taupo Helicopter Flight
This Taupo helicopter flight takes you over all of the top sights!
You fly over Huka Falls and the Waikato River and soar over the lake’s most beautiful bays. Guides also point out the famous Maori carvings in the area. Then, you head back to Taupo via the Craters of the Moon, which is awesome because you get to see all of the geothermal activity from above!
This tour lasts for 15 minutes, and you see a ton during that time. It’s the perfect way to see as much of Taupo Lake as you can if you’re short on time. And at $229 NZD per person, it’s also one of the cheapest helicopter tours that you can do in New Zealand. However, it does require a minimum of two people to book.
To see Taupo from the air, you can book this helicopter flight directly through the company.
Rotorua is one of the standout destinations on New Zealand’s North Island. It’s famed for its geysers, volcanoes, hot springs, and of course, Lake Rotorua. I love the geothermal parks here – especially Te Puia, which is home to the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere.
Naturally, flying over volcanic landscapes is a pretty spectacular experience. It’s so dramatic, and you’ll feel like you’re in a sci-fi movie! I mean, seeing all those eruptions and steaming bodies of water from above is sure to be pretty surreal.
There really is so much to see and do in Rotorua, and one of the area’s most famous attractions is Mount Tarawera. This impressive volcano has a crater system that was formed by an eruption in 1886. The Eruption of Mount Tarawera covered the village of Te Wairoa and killed 154 people. It also destroyed the Pink and White Terraces, which were a famous tourist attraction in the 19th century,
The Mount Tarawera volcano is close to Rotorua. With all of its fissures and lava domes, it looks pretty crazy from the air. You often get to see this dramatic volcano on Rotorua helicopter tours, and you can even land on it! In fact, the tour I highlighted below lets you do both!
Mt Tarawera Helicopter Tour with Volcano Landing
This 40-minute helicopter tour takes you gliding over beautiful Rotorua and the Northern Lakes district. The final destination is the famous Mt Tarawera, where you’ll land directly on the volcano. You’ll get to explore while your guide teaches you all about the volcano’s history and geology. Plus, you’ll have amazing views of the surrounding volcanic terrain!
One of my favorite things about New Zealand is the volcanic landscapes. They’re just so striking, and this tour lets you experience this firsthand. I mean…how often do you get to actually land on a volcano?!
And if you’re interested in volcanic geology, this helicopter tour is a must! It’s such a fun way to explore Rotorua’s famous volcanic landscape. Even without background knowledge in geology, this tour is super enjoyable. The guides are a wealth of information and explain everything in a clear but super interesting way.
Although you can hike Mt Tarawera, most hikes are several hours long. So, if that’s not your thing, a helicopter is a much better option. And I love that you still get a 20-minute walk on the actual volcano – which feels like the perfect amount!
This tour costs $571 NZD per adult and $430 NZD per child (ages 2 -11). It includes the 20-minute flight and a 20-minute guided walk on Mt Tarawera. Tours depart from Rotorua’s Lakefront at 9 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm, lasting 40 minutes total.
11. White Island
White Island, or Whakaari, is an active marine stratovolcano off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. It looks like a giant crater floating in the middle of the sea – just check out my photo above! Whakaari is also the most active cone volcano in New Zealand!
Whakaari’s most recent eruption was in 2019, and 22 people tragically died as a result. Consequently, you can’t set foot on White Island. However, you CAN fly over it in a helicopter, and it certainly is a spectacular sight.
You’ll often see steam rising from the volcano as you fly over, which is an epic experience. Honestly, White Island is just such a unique geographical feature. As such, it’s definitely an amazing place to take a New Zealand helicopter tour.
Volcanic Extremes – Whakaari/White Island Plus Mount Tarawera Landing
On this helicopter tour, you can experience both Whakaari AND Mt Tarawera in one go. You’ll fly over Whakaari, looking straight into its craters. Then, your helicopter will land directly on Mount Tarawera, where you’ll explore the volcanic terrain on foot.
Apart from these two volcanos, you’ll also get amazing views of Tarawera Falls and Waimangu Volcanic Valley. and of course, you’ll see a plethora of farms, forests, and gorgeous crater lakes. Talk about a well-rounded experience!
This whole tour is 1 hour and 45 minutes long. The flight over White Island is 1 hour and 20 minutes, and you’ll have a 20-minute landing on the now-dormant Mount Tarawera. As discussed above, Mount Tarawera’s landscape is pretty crazy, so I love that you get to do a guided walk there.
The tour costs $1,610 NZD for adults and $1,209 for kids (ages 2-11). Tours depart from Rotorua’s Lakefront at 9 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm. Make sure to wear comfy closed-toed walking shoes, and jacket, and sunscreen!
This tour does sell out, so check availability and book it online here.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and one of my favorite cities of all time! There are so many awesome things to do in Wellington, and I love its balance of city and nature. On a helicopter tour, you can fully appreciate both its natural beauty and urban landscape.
As you soar over Wellington, you can see the capital’s best-loved landmarks. Some of my favorites are the famous beehive-shaped Parliament Buildings, Te Papa, and the “Cake Tin” Sky Stadium. Plus you get to see the city’s beautiful beaches. And on clear days, you can also see as far as the Southern Alps!
I always say that Wellington is a super underrated capital city. After taking a helicopter tour here, you’ll understand why. These flights really show you all that the city has to offer. Its landscape is beautiful, and the Miramar Peninsula looks amazing from above!
Wellington might not be the most obvious choice for a helicopter tour in New Zealand, but it’s a very scenic city. I think it’s definitely worth considering, especially because you can do it pretty cheaply here!
Scenic Wellington Helicopter Flight
Helicopter flights are never the cheapest thing to do in a city. However, this Scenic Wellington Tour costs just $155 NZD, which is by far the most budget-friendly option on this list. Even though it’s only 9 minutes long, you still get to see a ton of impressive landmarks and landscapes!
I’m always surprised by how far helicopters can travel in just a few minutes. On this flight, you’ll see all of Wellington’s best-known buildings, plus the forests and trails nearby. Your pilot will provide interesting commentary the entire time, so this is basically a quick city sightseeing tour!
It’s a short and sweet way to get a new perspective on the capital! I also think it’s a great way to see Wellington if you’re just passing through briefly before catching a ferry to the South Island.
Tours leave daily at 9:30 am and 1 pm, so it’s super easy to fit into your schedule. The $155 NZD price covers the flight and commentary only. You’ll need to make your own way to and from the meeting point.
If you’re on a budget in Wellington, book this sightseeing helicopter tour online here!
Related Read: If you’re staying in Wellington longer, check out these awesome day trips from the city!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
- JUCY – JUCY is one of our favorite rental companies in New Zealand! They have a huge inventory and offer regular cars, small campervans, larger campervans, and even motorhomes! The prices are also super competitive and their multiple offices around NZ make pick-up and drop-off a breeze. You can check availability, prices, and book with JUCY online here.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
New Zealand is such a gorgeous country with diverse landscapes, from volcanos and glaciers to gorgeous mountain ranges. One of the best ways to experience it all is on a helicopter tour. There’s nothing like witnessing these views from high above – and landing in unique terrains is also exciting! So if you’ve always dreamed of taking a helicopter flight, I hope my list has helped you find the right one.
If you’ve found this guide useful, read my other blogs about New Zealand. There’s so much to see in this country, and I love helping other travelers plan their trips here! I write about everything from the best road trips to detailed destination guides, and to make it easy, I’ve linked to some of my articles below.