Listen, the mountains are calling. Way beyond a pretty backdrop for your social posts, West Coast mountains and glaciers are a surprisingly accessible year-round adventure playground.
Take to the skies from Haast, Hokitika, Fox or Franz Josef and within minutes you’ll be enjoying grandstand views of New Zealand’s highest mountains, landing on the snow or ice. Prime position for the adventure and holiday snaps of a life-time, no mountaineering experience required.
Here’s our countdown to the most exhilarating air-assisted alpine adventures on offer in New Zealand.
Land and take off from the ice on Franz Josef Glacier with Glacier Helicopters.
Nature has gifted the West Coast an unbelievable array of beautiful and spectacular landforms that are best appreciated from above. Marvel at the Southern Alps and New Zealand’s highest mountains Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Tasman, longest glaciers, the remote beauty of alpine lakes and valleys, and the endless wild coastline.
From just outside Franz Josef township, family-owned Glacier Country Helicopters operate 15 to 60-minute scenic flights along the ‘great divide’ of the Southern Alps to Aoraki/Mt. Cook, the glaciers and a snow landing with incredible views.
Precision Heli Tours, based near Hokitika, can put a different spin on the scenery with take off above the pure blue waters of the Hokitika Gorge and six awe-inspiring glaciers all in one memorable flight. Spot historic hunting huts and alpine wildlife such as Himalayan Tahr.
Mountain Helicopters, based in Glacier Country, offer scenic flights and private charters for personalised once-in-a-lifetime occasions: proposals, wedding ceremonies and exclusive tours.
If you’re wondering which glacier to visit, check out the differences on Glacier Helicopters website.
Snow landing on a remote mountainside in the great World Heritage Area of Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand.
Haast is the gateway to the great World Heritage Area of Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand recognised for the pristine nature and grandeur of its vast glaciated landscapes inhabited by rare species. There are no roads in and out of this remote region but helicopters can easily reach places where few humans have ever set foot.
Take off with Haast Heliservices for a breath-taking scenic flight into an alpine landscape teeming with waterfalls, tarns, glaciers, snow capped peaks and rugged coastline. Land beside a hanging lake in a hidden valley or go further afield to take in Milford Sound or the summits of Mt Aspiring National Park.
Greenstone Helicopters — operating out of Haast and Jackson Bay — have scenic helicopter experiences ranging from heli-surfing to excursions into remote high altitude and coastal locations with landings, picnics and wildlife encounters and the magnificent greenstone boulders of Cascade Plateau.
Exploring blue ice caves on a heli hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.
Take a walk on the ice on the twin glaciers. Franz Josef and Fox are among the world’s most accessible glaciers, close together at just 13 km (8 mi) apart, a short scenic helicopter flight from the townships of Franz Josef and Fox. You can’t walk up to these glaciers so a guided heli hike is the way to go. No experience is required, just moderate fitness; boots, crampons and outer-wear provided.
Franz Josef Glacier Guides and the Helicopter Line offer a scenic flight up onto Franz Josef Glacier and a 2.5 hour guided hike into a dynamic and surreal blue icescape. Climb up steps cut in the ice into a world of narrow crevasses, looming ice towers and ice caves with views all the way down to the ocean below.
Voted #1 in Tripadvisors’ 2021 Best of the Best awards, the Flying Fox Heli Hike on Fox Glacier lands on a remote beautiful part of the glacier. See the exquisite Victoria Falls and follow your guide on a 3-hour ice hike around pinnacles, caves, arches and tunnels. Fox Glacier Guiding also lists a full-day Extreme Fox Heli Hike.
Tackling a wall of ice on a thrilling day out with Fox Glacier Guiding.
Ever dreamed of conquering an icy mountainside? The mountaineering experts at Fox Glacier Guiding will make that dream come true with an exhilarating day out on Fox Glacier on dramatic terrain not easily accessed by foot.
Designed for the adventurous novice, the Fox It Up Ice Climbing experience takes place on the spectacular ice walls in the upper part of the glacier. A scenic helicopter flight lands you up there, then your ice-climbing guide teaches you how to use crampons, ice picks and the tools required to scale the icy heights as you progress to longer, steeper pitches, vertical climbs, overhanging walls and pinnacles.
There’s no experience required but you will need a good level of fitness. Boots and all the specialised gear is supplied.
New Zealand's highest tandem skydive starts at 20,000ft above the twin glaciers.
On Red Bull’s list of ‘most insane’ skydive locations, the skies above the twin glaciers are right up there with awesome views of snow-capped peaks, rushing torrents, mirror lakes, rocky shores, the wide blue ocean and those famous glaciers.
At 10, 13, 16 or 20,000 feet in the air, Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier offers New Zealand’s highest altitude tandem skydive. Start with a scenic flight then finish with a breath-taking 85-second free fall and up to 7 minutes under canopy floating back down to earth. The views are wild.
Carbon-zero, government safety-approved and awarded for their community commitment, Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier operates the only jump zone in Glacier Country.