Have you ever been in a helicopter? It’s cool. Like, really cool. Up until recently, I had a big helicopter-shaped void in my life. Then I went on six of them in one trip.
If you want your first (or any) helicopter experience to be a special one, New Zealand is the place. It is literally the only way to get around for many people in the country’s more remote regions. I bumped into locals who use them to commute to work, access their high country bach (short for bachelor, the Kiwi word for cottage), take their kids to school (!) and for other more mundane tasks such as hunting, fishing, mustering and mountain summiting.
I took some somewhat less routine helicopter rides while visiting the country on a research trip last month. Scenic flights over Milford Sound, landing on a deserted windswept beach, heli hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier, landing on a snow capped peak (just because), and chasing chamois were just a few of the highlights.
If helicopters are your thing, definitely pay a visit to Minaret Station. Anything including skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, or just good old fashioned sightseeing can be done from this heli-access only camp. If you want a little more nightlife, Queenstown is a great base with plenty of excellent operators, our favourite of which is Glacier Southern Lakes. When in Queenstown, stay at Eichardt’s Private Hotel, Matakauri Lodge or The Dairy, all of which have a different and special character. No matter which you choose, you’ll have access to incredible food and mountain views, and your own helicopter is just a phone call away. You know, in case you need to pick up some milk.
Mike Poppe is currently up on the roof constructing a helicopter pad for his morning commute to the office.