10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com
10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand

10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand

© NZPocketGuide.com

New Zealand Scenic Flights You Can’t Miss!

If there’s one reason you’ve ventured to this South Pacific land, it’s bound to be for the sensational natural landscape. New Zealand is blessed with snow-capped mountains, vibrant blue lakes, steaming volcanoes, beautiful beaches, glacier-carved fiords and so much more. To see as much of this breathtaking scenery as possible from an awesome perspective, why not consider taking a scenic flight?! Scenic flights might not be your cheapest activity option but hitting the skies at least once during your time in New Zealand is sure to create long-lasting memories. With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of the best scenic flights in New Zealand.

Make sure your camera’s SD card is empty and that your head is ready to but stuck to your plane or helicopter’s windows as you soar over Middle-earth scenery in flights usually ranging 10 minutes to an hour.

1. Milford Sound

Milford Sound is likely to already be on your bucket list, as it’s awesome fiord scenery carved by glaciers is not to be missed. Combine this experience with a scenic flight over the many arms of the fiords in the Fiordland National Park, as well as the grand mountain ranges! See here for more Milford Sound Must-Dos.

Location: Flights depart from Milford Sound with Milford Flights (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Te Anau with Te Anau Helicopter Services (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Wanaka with Siberia Experience (on Viator and Tripadvisor), and Queenstown with Over The Top Helicopters (on Viator and Tripadvisor).

10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand© Megan Thomas - Destination Fiordland

2. Franz Josef Glacier

See the Franz Josef Glacier and the dramatic landscape it has carved from above! There are many ways to get a scenic flight in Franz Josef, such as a 5-10 minute helicopter flight as part of a glacier hike (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or while ascending for a skydive (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Additionally, there are dedicated scenic flights in Franz Josef Glacier, with the Alpine Adventure Centre (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Glacier Helicopters (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and The Helicopter Line (on Viator and Tripadvisor), which will get you to all the major highlights of this ever-changing glacier.

Location: Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, South Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

If mountain scenery is what you crave then consider flying the skies of the magnificent Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. It’s the best example of New Zealand’s alpine scenery with flights including views of New Zealand’s largest glaciers, glacier lakes, braided rivers and New Zealand’s tallest peak Aoraki Mt Cook! Most flights will also cross “The Divide” of the Southern Alps giving you views of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers too! Book your flight with Inflight at Mt Cook Airport or on Viator or Tripadvisor. Check out more things to do in this national park in our 5 Aoraki Mt Cook Must-Dos.

Location: Aoraki Mt Cook Village, Canterbury, South Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

4. Tongariro National Park

The volcanoes of the Central North Island are enough to make your jaw drop when stood in their presence. Flying over Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro will make you appreciate this volcanic country more with views of their vibrant crater lakes, lava fields and rugged mountain peaks. Book your flight with Taupo’s Float Plane on Viator or Tripadvisor. Add it to your list of Tongariro National Park Must-Dos!

Location: Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Whanganui, North Island.

Travel & Shit on Wikipedia© Travel & Shit on Wikipedia

5. Abel Tasman National Park

If gorgeous coastlines are your thing, then it doesn’t get any better than the Abel Tasman National Park. See bay after bay of golden sand beaches backed with lush native forest. Flights in the area also take you over the Takaka Hill with Lord of the Rings scenery and plenty of touchdown photo opportunities. Book your flights with Helicopters Nelson on Viator or Tripadvisor.

Location: Flights from Motueka, Abel Tasman National Park, South Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

6. Canterbury Plains

It’s the childhood dream, right? Hop in a hot air balloon and drift over the patchwork patterns of the Canterbury Plains leading up to the Southern Alps. There’s no windows, wings or engine noise to disrupt the views! Relax on this unique scenic flight in New Zealand.

Location: Hororata, Canterbury, South Island.

10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand© ChristchurchNZ

7. Queenstown

In the South Island’s most popular mountain town, fly in any direction and you’re going to get sensational scenery. Head to Milford Sound, fly to Glenorchy on the edge of the wild and wonderful Mt Aspiring National Park, or land on glaciers in the alpine wilderness surrounds. Book your flight with The Helicopter Line (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Glacier Southern Lakes (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Milford Sound Scenic Flights (on Viator and Tripadvisor). See more 10 Queenstown Must-Dos.

Location: Queenstown, Otago, South Island.

10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand© Destination Queenstown

8. Lake Taupo

New Zealand’s largest lake has many awesome sights seen from the sky. See the mighty Waikato River squeezing through the rapid-filled Huka Falls and Aratiatia Dam. Circumvent the ancient volcanic crater which has formed Lake Taupo to various different geothermal valleys billowing steam. Book your Taupo flight with Inflight Experiences on Viator or Tripadvisor. It’s one of the 10 Taupo Must-Dos!

Location: Taupo, Waikato, North Island.

 Sarah-Rose on Flickr© Sarah-Rose on Flickr

9. Auckland

If you’re only going to do one city flight in New Zealand, make it Auckland! Not only is the skyline with the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building, the Sky Tower, an impressive sight, you’ll also be amazed by the city dotted with volcanic cones and offshore islands. Book your flight with Heletranz (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Auckland Seaplanes (on Viator and Tripadvisor).

Location: Auckland, North Island.

Craig on Wikipedia© Craig on Wikipedia

10. Kaikoura

Not your average scenic flight, a whale-watching flight provides a unique perspective of whales from the sky. From Kaikoura, see sperm whales at the ocean’s surface before they dive back into the depths. Seeing these ocean giants at full length is bound to take your breath away. Plus, the fixed-wing flights are the most affordable flights on this list! Alternatively, book your whale watching helicopter flight on Viator or Tripadvisor.

Location: Kaikoura, Canterbury, South Island.

backapckerguide.nz© NZPocketGuide.com

11. White Island

[Update: Following a major eruption, tours on White Island have been suspended until further notice.]

On the subject of volcanoes, a popular scenic flight is to the active marine volcano of White Island. Just off the shores of the Bay of Plenty, White Island is constantly billowing steam, as well as forming an unusual and colourful volcanic landscape. Take a flight from the coast in Whakatane or combine a flight with other nearby volcanoes like Mt Tarawera on flights from Rotorua with Volcanic Air.

Location: Flights from Whakatane or Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, North Island.

10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand© Pixabay


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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