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How to Pick the Best Mount Cook Helicopter Ride

A close up of Mount Cook on our scenic helicopter flight


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Choosing the best Mount Cook helicopter tour can be confusing, especially with all the different routes and companies available. So, here’s everything you need to know about a Mount Cook Helicopter flight and how to choose the best scenic flight in Mount Cook.


Mount Cook National Park is one of the most beautiful places on New Zealand’s South Island! The sharp sudden rise of the Southern Alps along with the many glaciers and the turquoise lakes that they feed into, make this one magical place.

Thousands of people visit Mount Cook National Park every year and enjoy the views from the many hiking trails in the area.

However, too truly get the best views, a Scenic Mount Cook helicopter flight is hands down the best way. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best things to do in Mt Cook / Aoraki!

Here’s everything you need to know about a scenic helicopter ride in Mount Cook National Park and how to choose to best one for you!

About Mount Cook Helicopter Flights

When it comes to picking the BEST Mount Cook helicopter flight for you, your budget is going to be one of your biggest deciding factor. Let’s face it, they’re not cheap. So deciding how much your willing to spend on your Mt Cook scenic flight is your big first step!

The reason?

Well, all flights are charged by time in the air and landings. You see, helicopters are not only expensive to run but also to maintain, so the more air time and landings involved the more you’re going to have to pay!

Standard scenic flight times in Mount Cook start at 20 minutes. These times continue until the longest flight of 50 minutes.

Let’s break it done: To make choosing easier and to get your budget sorted, here’s a guide to what you can expect to pay (in NZD approx) for each flight time:

20 minute helicopter flight – $280pp
30 minute helicopter flight – $365pp
40 minute helicopter flight – $470pp
50 minute helicopter flight – $580pp

These flight prices above will include one landing on a glacier (landings also affect the price). They are estimates but honestly are a great ballpark figure.

The Different Mt Cook Helicopter Tours Available

The mountains that separate the west and east coast of New Zealand on our scenic flight through Mount Cook National Park
The mountains that separate the west and east coast of New Zealand on our scenic flight through Mount Cook National Park

Each flight you take (although set out in time) isn’t going to go wherever you please. Instead, each time period is a planned route that the helicopter has to follow. This is because of flight traffic and safety requirements can’t have 10 helicopters just flying around as they please in Mt Cook.

For instance, I did a 40-minute flight in Mount Cook on my visit. If you too choose that flight we’ll just about take the exact same path and see pretty much the same things!

From looking at the map, the longer flight means the larger the loop you do. On the 20 minute flight, you’ll leave the airport fly through the valley to Mount Cook before looping back for your landing on the glacier and then back to the airport.

However, on a 50-minute flight, you’ll do the same except you’ll take a trip right over to the west coast and look down at Franz Josef and Fox Glacier! Before again landing on the glacier and returning to the airport.

The Mount Cook Helicopter Ride I Recommend

A close up of Mount Cook on our scenic helicopter flight
A close up of Mount Cook on our scenic helicopter flight

Let’s face it, some of you reading this will have a large budget and this flight won’t hurt it! So, if you have the money, I recommend choosing the longest flight!

However, if you’re more like me and to you this is a huge treat then I highly recommend going for the 30-minute flight. It’s the best value flight for $ per minute and enough time to really enjoy the flight. With only 20 minutes you’ll be up and down before you know it.

Another thing to add is that the first 5 minutes of flight is flying to the mountains from the airport. So the 30-minute flight gives you the 20 minutes in the mountains (which is what you came to see!)

Book my reccommedned 30-minute flight online in advance. These flights do book up in advance so it is vital to book in online ahead of time!

The Best Mt Cook Scenic Flight Experience

Another angle of Mount Cook on our scenic flight
Another angle of Mount Cook on our scenic flight

Below I talk about choosing between a helicopter and a plane. Both are very unique and are sure to be an unforgettable experience in New Zealand, however, there is one way to get the best of both worlds! And that’s on a helicopter and plane flight through Mount Cook!

On this tour, you’ll not only get the fly through the valley on a helicopter but also landing on a glacier on the ski plane!

In my opinion, the ski plane and helicopter tour is a high contender for the best scenic flight in Mt Cook!

3 Reasons you simply MUST take a Scenic Helicopter Flight in Mount Cook

If you’re still unsure about taking a flight around the National Park then don’t worry, I have 3 reasons to make the decision that little bit easier!

1. The Stunning Views!

A photo of the west coast from our Mount Cook scenic flight
The views are amazing on any Mount cook scenic flight!

As mentioned above, the views are what truly make the flight so worth it. Mount Cook is not only the tallest mountain in New Zealand but, in my opinion, the most beautiful.

Its sharp peak is picture-perfect and a magnificent sight to see from above!

Aside from seeing Mount Cook, you’re also going to see (depending on your flight) several glaciers including the Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier, wildlife, and so many other mountain peaks you’ll likely lose count!

2. You see a lot in a short amount of time!

Landing on the Tasman Glacier on a Mount Cook helicopter flight!
Landing on the Tasman Glacier on a Mount Cook helicopter flight!

If you (like many visitors) don’t have several days to explore the park, then a Mount Cook helicopter ride is the best way to see large amounts of Mount Cook National Park in of short amount of time.

Within seconds of taking off, you’re already taking in spectacular views and that doesn’t stop the entire flight!

3. It’s a helicopter!

Our Mt Cook helicopter fueling up before leaving
Our Mt Cook helicopter fueling up before leaving

Let’s face it, helicopters are cool as hell to ride in. The feeling of moving through the sky at 200km an hour in a tiny capsule is such an amazing experience!

I am so glad I chose Mount Cook for my first experience as its one I’ll never forget!

Related Read:   How to Take the Famous Mount Cook Road Photo

Plane vs. Helicopter

The Valley floor of Mount Cook National Park from a helicopter tour
The famous valley floor of Mount Cook National Park

Helicopter flights aren’t the only scenic flights available in Mount Cook National Park, planes are also a great way to get some great views!

I have done many small plane flights and really wanted to try the helicopter – which is the main reason I chose it. However, the scenic plane flights actually land on the snow which is something I’ve never done before and also really want to try!

Plane flights are also slightly cheaper, so if you’re looking for a budget option you really get more bang for your buck!

You can book a great scenic plane ride through Mount Cook here.

Related Read:   Our Little Adventure to Lindis Pass Lookout

Which Company to Fly with

Views of Mount Cook from a helicopter
Views of Mount Cook from a helicopter

In all honesty, I don’t think you can go wrong with any company in Mount Cook. In fact, there are only 3 helicopter companies in the park and they all have really amazing views!

However, for those who really want to have a similar experience as I did, I went with Heli Works. I actually know the pilot’s son and that’s who I chose the company.

Obviously I 100% recommend them to others as the flight was amazing!

*Disclosure*– This is not a sponsored post nor is any company paying us for a recommendation

You can book your Mount Cook helicopter flight here

Related Read:   10 New Zealand Road Trip Itineraries - New Zealand Road Trip Planner

Where to Stay in Mount Cook National Park

Booking stuff way in advance can be annoying and mean less freedom. However, when it comes to helping people book their New Zealand holidays, there are only a very select few places that honestly need to be booked well in advance.

One of them is, unfortunately, is Mount Cook Village. If you want to stay in the village (it’s the most beautiful place to stay in NZ) then you really need to be booking a hotel asap. There are only 4 hotels and one hostel in the village!

If the village is booked up then the closest town to the park in Twizel (40 minutes away), here you can find some great accommodation options. Alternatively, you can also stay in Lake Tekapo (1.5 hours away).

For more information on exactly where to stay check out our Mount Cook accommodation guide. It includes detailed info on where to stay near Mount Cook if the village is full booked!

Before you go…

three poepl stand on the Hooker Glacier next to a helicopter in Mount Cook National Park
Our glacier landing!

Our visit to Mount Cook is home to some of our fondest memories in New Zealand. The sheer beauty of the National Park really takes your breath away. The scenic flight only adds to this already amazing adventure, and to me, it made our trip as great as it was.

However, regardless of whether a scenic Mount Cook helicopter ride is in your budget, there are so many other amazing things to do that won’t cost you a penny.

Keep Reading…

The Sealy Tarns Track – Likely the most underrated day hike in the park this trail is only 4 hours long and takes you high off the valley floor towards the Mueller Hut.

The Hooker Valley – It’s a classic but we have a few tips that will help you beat the large crowds!

The Tasman Valley walk to Tasman Lake This is the shortest hike in the park with a 30 minute return time. However, it’s still so stunning and even better at sunrise.

The Mueller Hut – Fancy spending a night in New Zealand’s coolest alpine hut? Then check out our post on how to do it!

-Daniel

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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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