Best Heli Hiking New Zealand

What is the best Heli Hiking New Zealand has to offer? That’s a good question with a short answer – all of them! Let’s go one step back and look into that the key advantages of using a helicopter. Rather than seeing it as a costly way to get around, think of it as covering long distances in a short amount of time.

Also, a helicopter is able to access remote areas you wouldn’t have a hope of getting to any other way. So especially for time-short travellers, using a helicopter in combination with a hike makes total sense. It actually elevates a tour like this to a whole new level. And who doesn’t enjoy getting away from mainstream tourism – everyone loves that!

Helicopter – a classic transport vehicle

Helicopters are widely used in New Zealand. In fact we have some of the best helicopter pilots in the world. Think about a New Zealander in the 1980’s flying for Jacque Cousteau on his ship research vessel ‘Calypso’. Given the nature of New Zealand’s remote wilderness locations, helicopters have been essential for research, conservation, hunting and tourism. In a matter of a few minutes you can escape into the real wilderness. No one has the time to go to these remote areas on foot – this would involve weeks of strenuous hiking and scrabbling over hills.

Escape the crowds into pure nature

What I personally find amazing is the total contrast between our sophisticated ‘coffee culture’ and the  moss-covered, yeasty smell of a classic New Zealand rainforest. And instead of traffic noise, you’ll get the pure sound of bird song. Two different worlds!  Seriously, you have to do it. It’s a life-changing experience, that far outweighs any price tag.

Some of the best Heli Hiking New Zealand features

Travellers often associate glaciers with ‘heli hiking’.  But it is so much more than that. Here are some samples throughout New Zealand.

1 – Helicopter experiences Bay of Island

The far north has a number of unique places to visit with a helicopter. Think about remote beaches and islands. The main operator here is Salt Air, which is based in Paihia. Rather than the classic ‘hiking’, this is where you fly over the turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands. Stops are taken for beach walks and a picnic. What a nice way to start any New Zealand trip!

2 – Heli hiking White Island volcano

We have experienced this trip ourselves and have already written about it. This is such a cool thing to do. Its best if you fly from Rotorua. You’ll be spending about 30 minutes flying over classic New Zealand farm land. Then you continue the flight over the waters of the Bay of Plenty.  You may very well get to see see whales! – especially if you fly over and land on White Island. Landing on White Island, New Zealand’s active volcano, is like being on the moon!  Its a total alien world of smells, fumes and steams.

A guided walk is also included. And its a your chance to learn about the science of this incredible lunar landscape.

3 – Helicopter discovery Mt. Tarawera

Close to Rotorua is another volcano, Mt. Tarawera. On a fine day it offers spectacular views over craters and domes that were formed in the 1886 eruption. This trip can be done with a guided walk or mountain biking. View more details on Volcanic Air Safaris.

4 – Heli hiking New Zealand – Tasman region

On the top of the South Island is the Nelson Tasman region. This is a region famous for the beach and forest walks of the Abel Tasman National Park. It’s also where the famous ‘ring’ for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie series was designed/ create by a Nelson jeweller. Some of the filming was done  in the Mount Owen region. Taking a flight up there and seeing the granite top is something special. Friends of ours did this and were ‘blown away’ by the experience. See details on Tasman Helicopters.

Tasman Helicopters

5 – Heli hiking Glacier country

Now, this is the classic ‘heli hiking’ we’ve all read about. Flying into the glaciers of the Southern Alps – mainly Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. But what people don’t realize, is that this trip is also available from the eastern site, Mt. Cook. The hiking is done in the middle section of the glaciers. Here you have the ice caves forming and the pure blue ice colour coming out. Again, the weather will have a major impact if this tour goes ahead or not. In any case, book ahead – if the weather is good, everyone will want to fly up.

6 – Helicopter flights and hiking Queenstown and Fiordland

Queenstown and Fiordland are the ‘hardcore’ helicopter regions in New Zealand. The scenic beauty and natural wilderness is mind blowing. You can go for a local heli-hiking trip such as up to the Kepler Mountains with Trips and Tramps or fly into the wilderness area, such as the Murchinson mountains. May visitors also take a trip from Milford Sound. The mountains dividing the fjords and the village of Te Anau have a major impact on weather and the flying conditions.

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7 – Heli transfers and hiking on Stewart Island

Rakiura Helicopter are based in Bluff (near Invercargill) on the mainland. We have used their services before in flying straight over Foveaux Strait into the wilderness trails of Stewart Island. Surely this is the ultimate ‘civilisation – wilderness’ shock experience. It’s magic and we can recommend this hiking for more serious and experienced hikers only. Be very much aware that Stewart Island hiking conditions are very challenging (muddy tracks and stormy, fast changing weather).

As mention before, these are just a small selection on Best Heli Hiking New Zealand hiking options You will find more when travelling throughout New Zealand. The weather will play a major impact when planning a heli hiking trip. So, whenever the day is right and you have the opportunity for it, do it.

Happy travelling when heli hiking New Zealand!

Things to see between Wanaka and Fox Glacier

No matter how beautiful a region is, at some stage we have to move on. There are things to see between Wanaka and Fox Glacier.  There are several scenic highlights on this route and here are just a few of them. You may also want to check out some South Island itineraries with Wanaka and Fox Glacier.

Lake Wanaka Lookout “The Neck”.

Our first stop was at the “The Neck” between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Over the last ice age two vast glaciers covered those lakes. The part in between – ‘The Neck’ – was the separator between those ice fields. Hard to imagine now, but there’s a good spot where you can safely pull over and take photographs from the lookout. At times this location is busy with travellers, so watch out for people walking all over the place!

Lake Wanaka Lookout

During the busy busy season, you’ll probably find yourself jostling with other travellers with exactly the same idea, but in this country it doesn’t take long to find some breathing space and this is where you can find it. The beauty of New Zealand is lots of space, especially in the South Island. Especially if you are travel off the peak season.

Lake Wanaka Lookout with Michael

In the peak summer season, choose how you stop, wisely. Don’t take photos on a bend in the road and I beg you, DO NOT stop in the middle of a busy scenic major road to study a map! Yes, hard to believe people would do this, but we’ve seen it with our own eyes.

Wanaka to Fox Glacier

New Zealand roads are generally well maintained and occasionally you’ll come across roadwork gangs. This usually means only a 5 minute wait.  Today, our stop was brief, mainly due to this entertaining worker. We enjoyed his deep bows and exaggerated movements as he waved us through.

Wanaka to Fox Glacier roadworks

After a brief toilet stop at Makaroa, a 1 hour’s drive from Wanaka, we headed to the well-known “Blue Pools” on SH6 in the Aspiring National Park. This has become a major attraction for visitors. So, expect a few people around and watch out at the car park for walkers!

Blue Pools Forest Walk

Blue Pools Signage with Pam

The forest walk to the Blue Pools is so refreshing and easy – Rifleman and Fantail birds flit around waiting for the small bugs you disturb with your feet.

Blue Pools Forest Walk

The walkway is well maintained and the swing bridge is manageable for everyone.

Blue Pools Swing Bridge

The views are superb! You’ll see the purest blue water stretching out towards the Makaroa River.

Blue Pools scenic shot

So many angles with totally different views.

Blue Pools Michael's photo

Haast Bridge

Back in the car, we headed through to the Haast Bridge, an impressive crisscross of steel girders – beautifully designed and very sturdy.

Haast Bridge

Waiatoto River Safaris River Tour

We entered the lush-green West Coast region and travelled south of the Haast Village to the starting point of Waiatoto River Safaris. This fabulous tour should definitely be included in your things to see between Wanaka and Fox Glacier. The tour takes about 2.5 hours and travels into a remote world heritage area . Today we met co-owner and tour operator, Ruth Allanson.

Waiatoto River Safaris

Shipwreck Creek

Making good use of the fantastic West Coast weather, we stopped at Shipwreck Creek for an easy stroll along a boardwalk to the beach. We missed out Monroe Beach (rare penguins to be seen at the right time of the year) but managed to stop at the Knights Point Lookout. Once again, it was sensory overload.

To get a general idea on what you can do in the South Island…

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Knights Point Lookout

Knights Point1

From here we passed Lake Moeraki and Lake Paringa. It was such a ‘breeze’ to drive this part of the South Island with little traffic and spectacular scenery. Finally we passed the tiny settlements of Bruce Bay and Jacobs Creek before entering the Fox Glacier Village.

Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier

After a quick shower we headed out for dinner at Lake Matheson before completing a tranquil evening walk. Strolling around the lake sure is a great way to end a perfect day of discovering the things to see between Wanaka and Fox Glacier.

Lake Matheson small

Going further north from Fox to Nelson you might want to check out the second part of the West Coast travel journey here.

Happy travelling the South Island between Wanaka and Fox Glacier!

Nelson Lakes National Park – St Arnaud

The Nelson Lakes National Park – St Arnaud – This area is only an hour’s drive from the Nelson-Tasman region. The last time we visited St Arnaud, it was way back in 2013. Time just flies, but I’m pleased to say, not very much has changed.  We love the area around St. Arnaud for it’s pure natural beauty – and in particular, its remoteness. An added bonus, is that there are some great walks to do.

Nelson Lakes National Park - St Arnaud

If you really love visiting those less ‘mass tourism’ areas, St. Arnaud is definitely the ideal spot. Apart from some beautiful holiday homes that have recently been built, time has pretty much stood still.  This is such advantage for international visitors on the lookout for a true ‘heartland’ experience.  In the Spring and Autumn months especially, there are only a handful for tourists around. In fact, unlike other places in the South Island, there’s never a season when St Arnaud gets very crowded!

Nelson Lakes National Park – St Arnaud – Visitors Centre (I-site)

Before you attempt any of these walks, do stop in at the Visitor’s Centre.  You’ll find this to be a real ‘hub’ of information. There are huge wall maps all over the place. Best of all, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable. It pays to arm yourself with the info of the day- things like track closures

Mt. Robert Walkways in the Nelson Lakes National Park

Take a short drive, about 5 kms from the main St Arnaud settlement. Be aware that the road is windy and narrow. Therefore, your vehicle cannot be more than 7 metres long. Motor homes are not suitable for this stretch of gravel road. Head up towards the Department of Conservation headquarters at the Mt. Roberts car park. This will take you about 830 metres about sea level, so you’ll get lovely views even before you begin the ascent up the main track.

If you’re a serious hiker, head up the zig-zag Pinchgut track. This walk will be a challenge for those who are less than very fit. But even so, if you don’t mind a lot of stops on the way, its worth it. The views are just stunning. More info

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Forest Walks with stunning native bird songs

Now if a steep track is not really for you, then try the Speargrass Track bush walk. This track also starts at the Mt Robert Car Park and just walk as long as you like. What is really impressive here, is the bird life – there’s lots of it.  In fact you’ll find Tuis and Bellbirds pretty much everywhere. And their song is utterly gorgeous.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the very rare Rifleman bird.  These little sweethearts are New Zealand’s smallest birds. On the day we walked, there were 5 of these guys flitting about. The ‘play list’ that morning was ‘out of this world.

Lake Rotoiti walks and water taxi

As mentioned, we covered Lake Rotoiti before in 2013 with a water taxi ride. We’re pleased to see that this water taxi is still operating. The Lakehead Track provides very easy access to stretching legs after a longer drive. In fact , if you really want to get  ‘off the beaten track’, I recommend you stay for a couple of nights in St. Arnaud.  That way, you’ll get the full impact of mother nature’s beauty.

Staying in St. Arnaud Nelson Lakes National Park

Many travellers will come to the Nelson Lakes area to go tramping (or hiking as we sometimes call it). There are stunning wilderness experiences around.  But you’ll need to count on 3-5 days, a good fitness level and sufficient supplies. As everywhere in New Zealand, there’s a network of back country huts.  These are are run by DoC (Department of Conservation). There are also a couple of B&B options and a hotel in town. But you may want to consider a modern self-contained holiday home. These will give you space and a bit more privacy.

The more remoter areas of New Zealand have a special appeal for second-time travellers.  As we get older and hopefully wiser, we tend to see the world differently.  We’re looking for peace and tranquility -a time to reflect.  There’s no better place for you to this than in the Nelson Lakes National Park – St Arnaud.

Happy travelling to the Nelson Lakes National park!

Kayaking Abel Tasman NP

How’s your upper body strength? If its not too bad, then a kayaking Abel Tasman NP (National Park) is definitely recommended.  The Abel Tasman National Park is a real stunner for scenery.  You get it all – turquoise waters and gorgeous native bush. With this Kayak trip, everyone meets at Marehau Beach.  From there, everyone gets into the water taxi. A farm tractor will then two the water taxi out into deeper waters. It really is a weird sight to see all these tractors churning back and forth through watery pastures.

Sea Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park – sea & beaches!

There are so many beautiful golden beaches dotted around the Abel Tasman region. The water taxi lands on one of these beaches and that’s where our kayaks are waiting.  Also waiting for us, is a great guide.  The guide gets here priorities right and immediately hands out our lunch packs. “Who’s the gluten-free”? “Whose the vegetarian”? and “Whose kinda normal”? I had ordered the gluten-free lunch and it was really tasty – a couple of filled egg rolls, a gluten free almond slice and a crunchy apple.

Kayaking and hiking combos for a great day out

Sitting around at lunch, its a good chance to get to know the group. We still find it pretty alarming to see visitors showing a lot of skin. Our sun in this part of the world is very strong, so it pays to cover up a little more and apply plenty of sunscreen. Lifejackets and the ‘skirts’ to clip onto the kayak are all supplied.  The ‘skirt’ is actually an all-in-one lifejacket that hangs from a pair of braces.  This serves to fan out into a skirt shape. It’s the skirt bit that you tuck around your seat in the Kayak.  Its a great way to prevent anyone getting too wet. It does remind me of a toilet seat. I wonder if anyone’s thought about that before.

Kayaking Abel Tasman NP – Safety procedure

On all these trips, the guide spends quite a bit of time on explaining safety procedures. Everyone needs to understood how to cope in an emergency situation.

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

What you get to see when kayaking Abel Tasman

The guide gives you a gentle push into the water and suddenly you’re gliding through sparkling waters.  You’ll actually float away from the shore very quickly, especially if you get a tailwind. It’s all incredibly calming to hear the gentle lap of water against the kayak.  And of course there’s the ever-present birdsong. This is the habitat of the ‘others’ – birds and creatures who don’t seem to notice our presence. Its quite a sight to see Shearers plunging vertically into the sea to catch the fish-of-the-day. And who wouldn’t be thrilled to see a cute little blue penguins backstroking by. There are many people that only get to see this sort of stuff in books or videos. To actually be witnessing it firsthand is pretty darn special!

Kayaking Abel Tasman NP – Peace & Tranquility

Don’t worry if you get a little tired.  No one gets left behind.  The guide is constantly checking to see that everyone is keeping up. Although if you’re sharing a kayak, you are expected to take turns, if one of you needs a break. Now and then we paddle through beautiful narrow channels.  These channels are not accessible unless you’re in a kayak.  They’re incredibly beautiful areas with overhanging rock sculptures and plants. The sound of silence is golden. It sure cleanses the mind.

Kayaking Abel Tasman NP – modern equipment

In this photo you can see quite clearly the little water-proof security box for cellphone and wallets. This fits very tightly under strong elastic cords on top of the kayak – its always within easy access for photo-shoots. How I managed to take this photo and still remain upright, will remain a mystery. But these kayaks are very sturdy.

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking Abel Tasman NP – staying comfortable

When you’re Kayaking Abel Tasman NP, you won’t every be too far from Marehau Beach. But its amazing how deceptive distances can be when you’re in the water.  Twenty minutes can go by and you don’t seem to be getting any closer.  Then all of a sudden, you’ll notice that the few houses dotted around are looking more defined.  Do you get wet? Yes, you do, but it’s not enough to make you uncomfortable. Also there are sponges at the front of the kayak.  You can use these to wipe any excess water that happens to pool around your ‘skirt’.

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A wonderful day in the Abel Tasman National Park

One minute you’re floating through unfathomable depths and the next you’re in the shallows. Honestly, it happens that fast. I’m thankful to see the Abel Tasman Kayaks van waiting to pick us up. Good timekeeping at the right end guys. Don’t be surprised if you are expected to much in and rinse your own lifejacket.  You will be expected to assist with lifting the kayaks onto their racks back at base camp. Its actually quite a nice feel-good way to end this lovely Kayak trip. If kayaking is not your thing you may want to try Abel Tasman Eco tours or Abel Tasman Charter. In any case the region is stunning for holiday makers. Also, some accommodation options for your consideration.

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

Happy travelling with Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park!

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options will pretty much suit most budgets. It really depends on your level of comfort and what you’re prepared to spend.

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options – Premium Lodges

New Zealand has beautiful international styled lodges located on huge estates These high end properties offer a huge amount of personal space and the service to go with it.  They usually specialize in outdoor activities such as golf or fishing. Now if golfing is your passion, you would probably enjoy Cape Kidnappers .There’s no better place to to practice your putt. And at the end of the day, skilled chefs will provide a fine dining experience.

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options

Cape Kidnappers

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options – B & B Lodges

However, there is a less formal option of New Zealand lodge . This is  not fully understood by our international market. These lodges have the name “Bed & Breakfast” attached to them. So what does that mean? Well, these are smaller boutique lodges with a very relaxed vibe. They are often purpose-built. But there may also be a beautifully renovated heritage building. Both these styles are to be found in urban and rural areas. With this option, you’ll get to meet other people and interact with the hosts.  The hosts are usually the locals who may have lived very interesting lives. But what these hosts have in is the local knowledge. They know the best cafes, restaurants and tours in their region. Another option is a New Zealand farm stay experience.

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options

Dock Bay Lodge, Te Anau

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options – Self-contained

Now there are folks out there who prefer a bit of privacy and seclusion on their holidays. If this is you, then you’ll love New Zealand’s self-contained villas and vineyard cottages. These are fully equipped with all the modern conveniences. However, being self-contained, you’ll need to bring and cook your own food. What you will get, is a breathtaking view. Plus the only sound you’ll wake up to, will be birdsong.

There are also some PurePods acommodation options. These places are usually in stunning locations and totally off-the-grid.  However they also offer a good level of comfort.  The luxury is in the isolation and knowing you’re the only guest.

New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options – Brand Hotels

Now brand hotels are yet another option. There are many of travellers out there that love the ‘buzz’ of a stylish hotel for getaways. And there is of course the convenience of 24-hour service. Some international visitors feel more secure in a large hotel. It really depends on what you’re used to. But we all know that not all hotels are created equal. New Zealand has it’s Sofitel, Hilton, Peppers, Quay West. But there are other comfortable hotels that may suit those on a tight budget.

Whatever your preference, New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options are endless.  New Zealand is constantly evolving.

Happy travelling with beautiful New Zealand Holiday Accommodation Options!


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