Best In World
The Best Scenic Flight in the World”. This is a lofty statement but I have travelled extensively to many great scenic destinations: from the Maldives, Botswana, Grand Canyon & Colorado, to the Bungle Bungle Ranges in Western Australia.
These are all remote areas where taking a smaller aircraft is part of the attraction. The flight from Queenstown to New Zealand’s Mt Cook/Aoraki National Park and back through the Aspiring National Park tops them all.
From the dry wine country of Central Otago to the West Coast rainforests of Fiordland along the Southern Alps, the remoteness of the region means that small aircraft are the only way to see the most stunning landscapes of New Zealand.
After being personally collected from our hotel by our friendly and experienced pilot, Gareth, we arrived at the True South Flights office. We were greeted by name and check-in took all of 10 seconds.
Gareth walked us out to the aircraft and gave us a quick safety briefing before loading up, taxiing out and taking off without delay. A stress-free way to start the journey and a reminder of the one-time civility of air travel.
The climb out past the ski fields of Mt Cardrona and Coronet peak gave us a close view of the skiers and snowboarders enjoying pristine snow and weather.
Below us the massive lakes of Wanaka and Hawea drifted past, evidence of the glaciers that once carved huge hundred-mile swathes of this rugged country.
Along the Southern Alps the mountains and glaciers gradually rise toward Mt. Cook while glaciers and waterfalls descend sharply into the steep valleys, flowing into hundreds of untouched and unnamed remote akes.
The descent along the schist ridgelines and over the major fault line of New Zealand’s South Island takes us down along the coast into the desolate rainforests of the West Coast.
Franz Josef is a different world from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown. Aside from a few birds chirping and cows curious about our aircraft there isn’t a noise to be heard.
Things happen at a slower pace here, and our shuttle from the airport to Franz township to check in for our helicopter flight takes us past cow pastures and honey-stands complete with honesty boxes for payment. The rainforest towers over the road.
The helicopter pulls up and away from the township, along the Franz Josef Glacier icefalls. The crevasses look close enough to touch while our helicopter climbs up and away toward the ice plateaus at the head of the glacier.
We come in to land, having gone from 400ft above sea level to a 7000ft, with towering views out along the glacier to the Tasman Sea.
Hopping out of the helicopter for a quick photo stop, long enough to play in the snow and get some epic photos! Behind us the peaks of Mt Tasman and Mt Aoraki/Mt Cook provide a backdrop.
Back into our helicopter to descend back to Franz Josef township to meet Gareth and our shuttle coach back to our aircraft. Departing Franz Josef we tracked along the spine of the Southern Alps back to Queenstown.
This time our path took us past the many glaciers of Mt. Aspiring (9951ft, 3033m) and down through the historic gold fields of the Shotover River.
Instead of the west coast’s rainforest, these canyons are dry and craggy with golden tussocks adorning the mountains. Crossing over the head of Skipper’s Canyon, we descend into the Queenstown basin spreading out below to land.
This flight was not just the highlight of our stay in New Zealand but simply the best scenic flight we had ever experienced.
True South Flights operate a fleet of GA8 Airvans with large windows providing fantastic views. Flights depart from Queenstown Airport to Franz Josef, Mt. Cook, or Milford Sound.
Door to door service is standard: a seamless and professional operation. We appreciated the personal attention and friendly service and left feeling on top of the world!