Flight-seeing New Zealand

There can be no doubt that New Zealand is, kilometre for kilometre, one of the most visually attractive countries in the world.

With rugged coastlines, soaring mountains, massive glaciers, geothermal hot spots, incredible lakes and fjords and offshore volcanic islands, there is much to see and one of the most practical ways to get the best views of New Zealand is to see it from the air.

No matter whether you choose to travel by hot air balloon, fixed wing aircraft or helicopters there is a lot of choice in New Zealand for getting up into the sky and admiring the scene below. Here are just a few of the options:

Near the top end of the North Island is White Island which is an active marine volcano off the Bay of Plenty coast. Rising 321 metres (1,000 feet) above the sea and New Zealand’s largest volcano, it is a spectacular and unique landmark. Scenic flights over the island operate from Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane, along with helicopter tours that land on the island for a hiking option.

New Zealand’s famed central North Island volcanic plateau also sets the scene for flights over Lake Taupo, that country’s largest freshwater lake. One this trip you fly over a cluster of volcanic peaks, namely Tarawera, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe as well as seeing the treasured dual world heritage Tongariro National Park.

On the bigger South Island, with its sweeping Southern Alps mountain chain, and continuous parade of lakes and glaciers you can enjoy an aerial feast.

Start with an early morning balloon flight to take in the vast expanse of the Canterbury Plains, Pacific seaboard and the snowy mountain peaks. The Grand Traverse is a dramatic scenic flight exploring the highest peaks on both sides of the island and over Mt Cook and Westland national parks.

Aviation pioneer Mount Cook Ski Planes has been landing fixed wing planes on a glacier for more than 50 years, and it is still the only opportunity in the world for tourists to make this kind of glacier landing.

In Westland National Park, helicopters take tourists on a spectacular ascent onto the twin West Coast glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier with the added element of an ice landing and hike across the frozen landscape.

The ski fields of the Southern Alps are the launching pad for heli ski excursions away from the crowds on resort slopes. Methven Heliski operates from a Canterbury high country sheep station, taking powder hounds into the mighty glaciated Arrowsmiths mountain range to make first tracks across the fresh powder.

Queenstown’s Over the Top luxury helicopter excursions reveal stunning hidden gems that set the scene for gourmet picnics, extreme golfing, exclusive wine and fly fishing experiences.

Brilliant aerial adventures, amazing experiences, touring New Zealand properly means occasionally getting your feet well and truly off the ground.

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