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10 Best Scenic Flights in New Zealand

Volcanic Air on Rotorua NZ

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.

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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, Te Anau with Te Anau Helicopter Services, Wanaka with Southern Alps Air, and Queenstown with Over The Top Helicopters.
Tourism NZ

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 or while ascending for a skydive. Additionally, there are dedicated scenic flights in Franz Josef Glacier, with the Alpine Adventure Centre, Glacier Helicopters and The Helicopter Line, which will get you to all the major highlights of this ever-changing glacier.

Location: Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, South Island.
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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. 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.
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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. Add it to your list of Tongariro National Park Must-Dos!

Location: Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Whanganui, North Island.
Travel & Shit on Wikipedia

5. White Island

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.
Volcanic Air on Rotorua NZ

6. 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 Reid Helicopters or Tasman Helicopters.

Location: Flights from Motueka, Abel Tasman National Park, South Island.
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7. 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.
Tourism NZ

8. 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, Glacier Southern Lakes or Milford Flights., See more 10 Queenstown Must-Dos.

Location: Queenstown, Otago, South Island.
tourism NZ

9. 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. It’s one of the 10 Taupo Must-Dos!

Location: Taupo, Waikato, North Island.
 Sarah-Rose on Flickr

10. 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 or Auckland Seaplanes.

Location: Auckland, North Island.
Craig on Wikipedia

11 (Bonus). Whale Watching flight

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 here.

Location: Kaikoura, Canterbury, South Island.
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