Untouched Backcountry Heli Tour
Duration: Full day from Queenstown (10am to 3:30pm)
Distance: Less than an hour of walking
Rating: Adventurous but easy
The chopper is yours for the day to explore some of the most remote corners of the lower South Island with your pilot, touching down in magical places where it feels like Giant Moas could still wander out of the wilderness. This backcountry heli tour is exclusive to Alpine Adventures and will have you getting up close to wildlife, rainforests, waterfalls, glaciers and NZ’s most famous attraction without crossing paths with another tourist.
Mt Nicholas Station: Pioneer Living on a Remote Farm
You’ll be picked up at your accommodation this morning and taken to the Queenstown heliport where you’ll meet your pilot before boarding the chopper. The first leg of your journey takes you across Lake Wakatipu to historic Mt Nicholas Station, a 100,000-acre family-run working sheep and beef farm. Here you’re invited to tag along with the “cocky” (a Kiwi “rancher”) for an intimate look at rural New Zealand life on this remote farm accessible only by aircraft or boat.
Lake Erskine: An alpine lake with icebergs surrounded by hanging glaciers
Then board your chopper again to fly over the Earl Mountain range past the head of Lake Te Anau to land on the edge of Lake Erskine, a surreal turquoise pool (the result of glacial silt) ringed by hanging glaciers. Icebergs floating in the high mountain lake create stunning natural sculptures.
Picnic at Lake Quill above Sutherland Falls
You should have worked up an appetite by now trying to capture the grandeur of the views with your camera so we’ll hop back into the helicopter and fly over several rainforest covered valleys to touch down next to Lake Quill for a picnic lunch to remember. This area averages 7m (that’s 23ft) of rain a year, which is enough to power one of the tallest permanent waterfalls in the world, the Sutherland Falls. Lake Quill is the small mountain lake that feeds Sutherland Falls, New Zealand’s second highest waterfall standing at 580m (1904ft).
Martins Bay via Milford Sound to visit a NZ fur seal colony
After lunch we’re on our way up the West Coast, but not before an unforgettable fly by of New Zealand’s most popular attractions — Milford Sound. Rudyard Kipling dubbed it the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and it’s truly spectacular from a bird’s eye view high above the packed cruise boats and buses. Flying out of the sound (a misnomer as it’s actually a fjord) the rainforests framed by the Tasman Sea on our left now feel completely different than they looked just an hour earlier. We’ll land at Martins Bay and walk about 20 minutes to a NZ fur seal colony. It’s something else to be able to watch these beautiful creatures frolicing and playing in their natural environment. From July to December, we’ll also look for rare Fiordland Crested penguins, who travel back from the Antarctic to nest, before we walk back to the waiting chopper.
Isobel/Tyndall Glacier via valley of the waterfalls
Then we’ll continue our scenic heli tour over the Earnslaw Burn, known as the valley of the waterfalls and one of the most dramatic locations featured in “The Hobbit”. Our last stop is on the Isobel or Tyndall Glacier to touch the ancient blue ice before returning to Queenstown over the Richardson Mountain range and the Shotover River, rich in stories from the gold rush era.