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11 BEST Scenic Flights in Queenstown

11 BEST Scenic Flights in Queenstown

A scenic flight tour in Queenstown is truly a bucket-list-worthy experience. Surprisingly, there are several different tours to choose from – from a helicopter ride to a secluded peak that includes a champagne picnic to a fixed-wing plane to the gorgeous Stewart Island.

There is no “one size fits all” experience when it comes to scenic flight tours in Queenstown. This is why you need to know about all of your options before you book!

One of the most popular scenic flight tours in Queenstown is the Glacier Explorer tour which is short and sweet at just 50 minutes long and includes (as you’ve probably guessed from the name) a glacier landing. It’s also one of the most reasonably priced options on the list!

While if you want to have a memorable experience in Milford Sound, a flight there is the best way to go, in my opinion, because you avoid the long drive and get to see some pretty spectacular scenery. This fly-cruise-fly tour is highly recommended because it includes a return helicopter journey and a boat cruise!

In this blog post, I’ve listed 11 of the best scenic flights in Queenstown, and which one you choose depends on what you want to see and what your budget is!

Why Book a Scenic Flight in Queenstown 

A plane fly's through Milford Sound, NZ
It can be scary, but scenic flights in NZ are a must-do!

In a region as beautiful as Queenstown, with its giant mountains, cobalt blue lakes, rivers, and hiking trails, the only way to see it all in a short amount of time is on a scenic flight – whether that be on a helicopter or a fixed-wing plane – the views from the window will be the same after all. 

While we’re on the topic, I should note the difference between a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane for those that may not know. A fixed-wing plane is essentially a small airplane; it typically has 12 seats and will get you from A to B faster; however, because of its size, it can only land on a runway, unlike the helicopter, which can land pretty much anywhere.

A helicopter is smaller and noisier, but because most helicopter tours in Queenstown include an exclusive landing, they tend to be more popular with tourists. However, they tend to be pricier because they can seat fewer guests (usually a maximum of 6 people!)

Regardless of the type of plane, booking a scenic flight in Queenstown is highly recommended if you’re short on time; with most tours taking less than an hour, it’s a great way to get a feel for the region and take some epic photos.

Of course, as I mentioned above, the only downside to these tours is the price – they tend to be pricier than other Queenstown activities, but if you have the budget, there’s no better feeling than flying over the stunning South Island with a knowledgable guide pointing out all the sights below! 

The BEST Scenic Flights in Queenstown 

1. 50-Minute Glacier Explorer Helicopter Flight

Helicopter ride from Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters

One of the most popular and best scenic flight tours in Queenstown is this 50-minute Glacier Explorer helicopter tour. In just under an hour, you’ll fly high above the lush Mount Aspiring National Park – a picturesque park filled with looming mountains, bright blue 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 region’s largest. What’s cool, though, is that the pilot will turn the engine off so that you can explore the glacier on foot, in silence. It’s a truly dreamy experience! Be sure to take plenty of photos here! 

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!

2. Pilot’s Choice 20-minute Helicopter Flight

Helicopter view of Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: The Helicopter Line, New Zealand

If you’re tight on time, 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 Queenstown, including the mighty Remarkable mountain range and even part of the famed Southern Alps.

This tour even includes a quick landing; yep, your pilot will expertly land you at 5,056 feet (1,538 meters) above the deep blue waters of Lake Wakatipu. This helicopter seats just six passengers, making for a more intimate and personalized trip! 

This is one of the most popular scenic flights in all of Queenstown, with nearly 100 5-star reviews!

The price is great too at just $200 NZD per person and includes collection and drop-off to your Queenstown accommodation. You can read about all the details and book online here.

3. Walter Peak Fly, Cruise, and Dine Tour

Richardson reflections at Lake Wakatipu
Photo credit: Air Milford

One of the most unique scenic flights in Queenstown is this tour which includes a 20-minute flight over Lake Wakatipu in a fixed-wing plane. It also involves a farm tour and delicious lunch at Walter Peak Farm, as well as a boat ride back into Queenstown on the famous TSS Earnslaw – which is an Edwardian Steamer Ship which was built all the way back in 1912.

This ship is one of the most recognizable sights in Queenstown. Once on board, you can visit the engine room to witness the giant steam engines at work – kids especially love this! Or you can relax with a drink from the onboard cafe and take in the scenery. It’s one of the best lake cruises in Queenstown for a reason.

The farm tour is excellent too and includes a sheep shearing demonstration, you will also watch the farmer round up the sheep with the help of his loyal sheepdogs. Oh, and don’t get me started on the BBQ lunch offered as part of the tour, easily, one of the best meals I’ve had in Queenstown

Considering this particular tour includes a flight, a farm tour, lunch, and a boat ride, it’s excellent value-for-money at $295 NZD per person. The trip begins at noon from the Visitor Centre on 88 Beach Street and you can book it online here in advance.

4. Stewart Island Return Scenic Flights from Queenstown 

flying over mountains and Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Glenorchy Air

Stewart Island is an unspoiled slice of paradise located just 30 km from the southern tip of the South Island. Considering its 164-kilometer-long coastline, it’s no wonder this island is renowned for its stunning beaches. Stewart Island is also famous for being home to the elusive Stewart Island Brown Kiwi, a whopping 20,000 of them, to be precise! 

Visiting Stewart Island is a must-do on most tourists to New Zealand’s bucket list, so why not do it in style on this scenic flight in a fixed-wing plane? Enjoy the spectacular views of the Foveaux Strait on your way, and when you land, you will have a couple of hours to explore the island on your own. What I love about this tour is that because there are just six seats onboard, the experience feels personal.

This particular tour costs $515 NZD per person and includes hotel drop-off and pick-up – it’s worth noting that it’s a full-day tour, so allow at least eight hours! You can read all about it here as well as book!

5. 35-minute Scenic Helicopter Flight

flying over the  historic Skippers Canyon in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters

If you’ve only got a short time in Queenstown, consider this 30-minute helicopter tour that flies over Skippers Canyon and the Wakatipu Basin. It even includes a landing on a snow-topped mountain, don’t worry if you’re visiting in the summer; the snow stays here pretty much year-round. My top tip for this tour is to take lots of photos, as the ride includes some epic aerial views of Queenstown! 

This particular tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off in Queenstown and costs $355 NZD. You can secure your spot online here.

6. Heli-Hike Tour from Queenstown 

scenic flight in a fixed-wing plane in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: True South Flights

Queenstown is known for its fantastic hikes, but did you know that you can hike on a glacier on the South Island? Yes, this specific tour involves hiking on the famed Franz Josef and Tasman Glaciers, which, if you were to drive to these glaciers from Queenstown, would take you a minimum of 4.5 hours! While the scenic flight here is just an hour (I know which mode of transport I’d prefer). 

As if the hour-long scenic flight in a fixed-wing plane isn’t impressive enough, once you reach the town of Franz Josef, you will switch to a helicopter to make the journey to the glacier. You will be provided with crampons so that you can explore the glacier and the ice caves! You will have about two hours on Franz Josef Glacier before being transported to the Tasman Glacier, where you will also have two hours on the ice with your experienced guide! 

This 6-hour tour is priced from $1340 NZD per person and includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. I think it’s one of the best scenic flight tours in Queenstown! If you’re budget allows, don’t miss it! You can read all about the tour and book it online here.

7. Champagne Picnic and Scenic Flight 

Champagne Picnic with scenic views in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Over The Top – The Helicopter Company

A truly romantic activity in Queenstown is this scenic helicopter tour which also includes a private landing with a champagne picnic. Fly through the Southern Alps on the short helicopter ride before landing at a peaceful alpine spot known locally as ‘the ledge’ – this spot boasts epic views over Lake Wakatipu. Your pilot will set up your picnic spot with a picnic blanket and chairs before you sit down to enjoy your picnic feast, including local meats and cheeses. And not forgetting the champagne for you to toast your beloved while admiring the scenery. 

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.

8. Golf and Helicopter Flight 

Over the Top Golf in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Over The Top – The Helicopter Company

If you love golf, then you’ll definitely love playing at New Zealand’s most scenic hole, located at 4,500 feet above sea level. Altitude Golf runs this unique experience – and it’s a par 3 hole that is only reachable by helicopter, which makes it an even worthier bucket-list experience, in my opinion!

You can choose one of four tee boxes up here and try for the hole-in-one of a lifetime! This particular tour includes a short return scenic helicopter trip as well as 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.

The Best Queenstown to Milford Sound Scenic Flights 

If you want to do a scenic flight in Queenstown as well as visit Milford Sound, why not combine the two and fly to Milford? The below scenic flights include visiting Milford Sound – a two birds one stone kind of deal!

9. Half-Day Milford Flight and Cruise (Fixed Wing Flight)

A plane fly's into Milford Sound on a tour from Queenstown
The views from above are magnificent!

This tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound involves a flight there, a cruise once you arrive in Milford Sound, and then a flight back to Queenstown. A 40-minute return scenic flight in a small fixed-wing plane is a fantastically quick option to get to Milford Sound that also boasts stunning views along the way.

On this tour, you get the best of both with a fly-over Milford Sound and a 2-hour boat cruise through it. This cruise is on a smaller vessel (I’ve learned these are the best cruises in Milford Sound) allowing you to get up really close to famed Stirling Falls as well as some of the cutest wildlife.

On your 40-minute flight back to Queenstown, your pilot will take you a different route so you can see another side of the national park, giving you even more amazing views of Fiordland National Park – you can’t complain about that!

This whole tour is around 5 hours in total, so it’s a great option if you’re short on time. And during the summer months in Queenstown, you can choose either a morning or afternoon departure from Queenstown.

Unfortunately, these Queenstown tours aren’t cheap and prices for this tour start from $593 NZD per adult. However, for such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s really great value and less than double the cheapest tours by coach.

Worth Noting: For all flying tour options listed here – infants are classed as under 11kgs and are free of charge. Children over 11kgs will require their own seat and will be charged at a child rate.

You can book this specific Milford Sound tour here!

10. Drive to Milford Sound with a Scenic Flight back to Queenstown

A flight through Milford Sound
I never get sick of this view! I just wish I got to go more!

This tour is a very popular option as it combines a coach tour that takes the scenic road from Queenstown to Milford, a cruise in Milford, and then you return to Queenstown with a scenic flight. Basically, it’s the entire package in one!

Your coach will depart Queenstown in the morning to take you into Milford. As with the other tours, it’s a long journey, but it includes lots of photo stops along the way. When you reach Milford, you will board for your 2-hour scenic cruise through the fiord. You will be given a packed picnic lunch as part of the tour package, which I advise enjoying on the cruise.

At the end of your cruise, you will be taken to the Milford Sound airstrip to board your small fixed-wing plane for the 40-minute scenic flight back into Queenstown. You’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of Fiordland National Park while your pilot points out hidden lakes and tall mountain peaks.

This tour, in my opinion, is one of the best options for tours to Milford from Queenstown because it gives you the chance to see Milford Sound from all angles – by bus, on the water, and from the sky! It’s perfect for anybody who suffers from FOMO (like me) because you really get to experience it all!

At 10 hours in duration, it is classed as a full-day tour but you will make it back to Queenstown with plenty of time for dinner at one of its fantastic restaurants.

Prices for this tour start from $582 NZD per person and you can book the tour in advance here!

11. Half-Day Milford Helicopter Flight from Queenstown

aerial view of Milford Sound in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters

This 4-hour tour includes a round-trip helicopter flight, a glacier landing, as well as a boat cruise through Milford Sound, also known as the 8th wonder of the world. It truly includes two of the best ways to see this natural wonder – from the air and from the water! 

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 get to 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 amount of time; prices start from $1029 NZD per person! You can book this tour online here.  

Where to Stay in Queenstown

The Hilton Resort and Spa Queenstown
The stunning Hilton Hotel!

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. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!

To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget privates 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! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown.

If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.

There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown as well as bach/holiday homes to rent! You can choose between modern homes, central apartments, cozy cabins, and so much more when staying in an Airbnb.

Thanks for reading!

standing on a glacier after a helicopter ride in New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

Phew, and there it is, a breakdown of all the different types of scenic flights available from Queenstown. I know there are a heap of options to choose from but deciding hopefully won’t be a difficult choice for you! 

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:

Things to do in Queenstown with kids

The Best Time to Visit Queenstown

Top Adventure Activities in Queenstown