Destinations Magazine

Mount Cook Scenic Flights, New Zealand

By Davedtc @davedtc

Why New Zealand?

The answer is simple. It is breathtakingly beautiful! My first visit to this island country left me awestruck and mesmerised to say the least. I haven't seen a more scenic landscape before this. Among many, most noteworthy is the Mount Cook Scenic Flights, New Zealand. To my utter surprise the experience of that journey surpassed that of Jungfraujoch in Switzerland. The country lying in the southwestern Pacific Ocean has two main landmasses - the North and the South Island. Apart from the the natural beauty of the country there are quite a few reasons to travel New Zealand.

First of all, while doing my research, I realised that the month of December (when I also get my paid Christmas holiday from school) would be most suitable. Taking leave is not much of an issue for my husband who is equally passionate about travelling. Therefore, we decided to travel during the summer months. It was even more appropriate as the chilling winters might not be conducive to travel with my 18 months old son. In December, the average temperature remains between 14 - 18 degrees and its gorgeous out there.

One of the best road trips ever

After leaving India in 2016 both of us longed for a road trip which was a usual phenomenon then. So finally here comes the opportunity after 3 yrs! A road trip in New Zealand, our first venture in the Southern Hemisphere. When you're in New Zealand, self-driven cars or caravan are the best option. It gives you the freedom to stop anywhere and just enjoy the journey without thinking about the destination. Car rentals are quite reasonably priced and we picked up ours from Greymouth station. I certainly recommend it.

We deliberately wanted it to be a leisure trip. Well spaced out and relaxed because of a toddler on board! At the same time, packed with activities feasible to do with my son. I searched all the options and I was thrilled to know that the scenic helicopter rides in Mount Cook, did offer tours where toddles can be accompanied.

There's something for everyone

New Zealand has something for everyone in store. Therefore, we could fill up our itinerary with various activities ranging from adventure sports like skydiving to visiting animal farms and even snow landing on Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. My daughter (8yrs old) thoroughly enjoyed the animal farm experience at Glenorchy, lavender farms at Wanaka and of course the alpine landing and fascinating Milford Sound.

Where to start

Now the trip to New Zealand can be approached from various cities depending on your preference and choice of places. In South Island the points of entry could be Christchurch or Queenstown. Dunedin could be another option if you wish to start from the southern part of the South Island. Those who wish to begin their journey from the North Island, Auckland and Wellington are two options.

I chose Christchurch to be the first point of entry. One of the main reasons being the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth. This passenger train operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand is routed through the gorgeous mountains and the Canterbury Plains of South Island. It's one of the most scenic train journeys that I've been to.

Thus, finally I chalked out a 15-day plan including few main attractions of the South Island i.e. Christchurch, Greymouth, Twizel, Queenstown, Fairlie and Wellington in the North Island.

Honestly, one could've covered much more in 15 days but we deliberately wanted to have a laid-back vacation with the hope of coming back to this beautiful country someday, sometime soon.

In those magical 15 days in the Southern Hemisphere, there were quite a few firsts in my life. We drove around 2000 kilometers, saw turquoise blue glacial lakes from a vicinity, witnessed the famous Alpine lavender in full bloom, landed on a snow-capped mountain top in a helicopter, jumped off a plane from a height of 15,000 feet, experienced the most dramatic fiord lands of the country, discovered the hidden bays of Lake Wakatipu.... well, the list goes on.

Why Mount Cook?

Visiting New Zealand is all about soaking your mind and soul in the absolutely spectacular beauty of the nature without thinking about time and tide. Mount Cook, New Zealand is the highest peak of the country at 12,316 ft. Originally the Māori called it Aoraki which literally means "the cloud piercer". Afterwards, it has been renamed by European settlers. To incorporate the Māori heritage, presently it is called the Aoraki/Mount Cook.

About Mount Cook Scenic Flights, New Zealand

The magnificent experience of the Mount Cook Scenic Flights, New Zealand is one of its kind. It gives the most stunning views of the Southern Alps. The helicopter flights are the best way to enjoy its natural beauty and aerial view of the surrounding valleys and mountain peaks. The helicopter tours offer stunning views of New Zealand's esteemed national park. There are quite a few operators providing various options of snow landing and heli-hike. We selected The Helicopter Line, one of the premier helicopter companies in New Zealand.

After a one-night stay at Greymouth we headed towards Twizel. It is a stunningly scenic town in the Mackenzie Basin with the Southern Alps at the backdrop. This Alpine town is a popular base for exploring the Mount Cook National Park and associated activities. Another interesting fact about Twizel is that its is a dark-sky reserve area. These areas limit artificial light pollution. Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is one of the five such reserves in the world today. Unfortunately, due to bad weather we missed it in Twizel. But at the end of our trip we had the amazing experience of stargazing at Fairlie.

How to get there

Twizel is around 457 kms from Greymouth. We had to take quite a few breaks. As a result, it took us more than 9 hours to reach Greymouth. However, Google Maps estimated it to be 5 hours 42 mins (via SH 73 and Inland Scenic Route). In Twizel, we had put up in Rose Cottage, an excellent 3-bedroom house very close to the Twizel Market Place. True to its name, the house was indeed surrounded by rose bushes. This accommodation can be booked through Airbnb. If you happen to book it, don't forget to say Hi! to Amy, the wonderful host on my behalf.

Mostly, the planning of our trips is done by me whereas my husband is primarily in charge of booking the flights and hotels. But this time, I'd like to take a little credit for selecting our hotels and Airbnb apartments as well.

We stationed at Twizel for the next 2 days and planned to make day trips to Mount Cook Village which is just 65 kms away. It's a 45 mins scenic drive.Our main attraction was of course the scenic flights. The fact that it could be done with my 18 months old son made it even more special.

Scenic Flights Mount Cook - The most fascinating experience

This is the highlight of our journey to Mount Cook, New Zealand. The overall experience of the scenic flight is an amalgamation of two things - the journey to and from Twizel and the helicopter ride. Our abode was 41kms away from the helicopter departure base, Glentanner Park Centre. The drive along Lake Pukaki which is famous for its amazingly beautiful milky blue colour was heavenly. It is the largest alpine lake on the South Island.

I must admit that the weather God was kind and we could see the mesmerising blue colour of the lake on a gorgeous sunny day. The road is more or less straight and easy to drive. The turquoise blue Lake Pukaki surrounded by the snow-capped mountains would definitely compel you to stop by, take few snaps or just breath some fresh air. Thus, I would recommend to keep ample time in hand and reach the location at least 30 mins prior the departure time.

While driving along Lake Pukaki, we found vibrantly coloured Lupins. Every year, Lupin flowers bloom along the riverbeds and lake shores of the Mackenzie Basin between the months of November through February. The colour of the Lupins may range from pinks, purples and yellows to even whites. December is the best time to see the Lupins which are considered to be huge tourism boosters. The Lupin fields are a dream of any landscape photographer and attracts tourists across the globe during the said period of time.

Glentanner Park - Our departure location (Mount Cook Scenic Flights, New Zealand)

How to get there

Situated on State Highway 80, the Glentanner Park is the gateway to the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. It is around 30 mins from Twizel Market Place and approximately 81 kms from Lake Tekapo i.e. 55 mins of drive (as estimated by Google Maps). Whichever route be convenient, do rent a car and enjoy the stunning beauty of the glacial lakes on the way. However, coach transfers are also available from selective locations.

The Highlights of Alpine Vista

We chose Alpine Vista by The Helicopter Line, a 20 mins short scenic flight option including snow landing. Before the snow landing, the helicopter glides through the terrains of Ben Ohau Mountain Range providing a closer look at the hanging glaciers and glacial valleys. As the local Māori would call it, the helicopter actually pierces through the clouds to take you to a safe location for alpine landing. The moment of touch down was magical.

Seeing New Zealand's highest mountain from the top was truly amazing. This experience will stay with us forever and ever. It's worth every penny that you spend and all the hassle that you take to reach there.

Operation of all flights are subject to weather conditions. If cancelled, you can opt for an alternate date or get a refund. Apart from the stunning views of the glaciers, there are few things which definitely needs a special mention -

  • Informative commentary and friendly pilot.
  • Comfortable seating and special arrangements for children below 2 years.
  • Small aircraft accommodating only 6 passengers.
  • Thorough safety instructions before boarding.
  • Perfect for families with babies and toddlers in terms of both duration and facilities.

What to bring

  • Warm clothes.
  • Sturdy covered shoes.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Camera and mobile phone for sure!

There are few experiences in life which can't be penned down to a tee. The journey to Mount Cook was amongst the very few that I had. It'll stay with me, forever.

Kia Ora! Did you know?

Sir Edmond Hillary, New Zealands most prolific mountaineer and one of the greatest alpine explorers started his journey of ascent from Mount Cook.

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