Step inside the perspex bubble of a sightseeing helicopter and rise like a phoenix into the bright shafts of sunlight falling on Glacier Country.

The West Coast hills are alive with the sound of rotor blades thwacking through the crisp alpine air. And with good reason. There is no better way to experience the alpine grandeur of the main divide of the Southern Alps, and the awesome scale of its glaciers. Visibility at this height is unbelievable. Vast ice fields glisten in the sun; pristine, pure, unblemished and frozen in time. An endless procession of peaks march to the skyline, flanked by jutting rock ramparts – monumental and immutable. No holiday in New Zealand is complete without a scenic flight over the awesome Southern Alps.

Scenic flight companies operate year round from both Franz Josef and Fox townships. They offer a range of flights from a short hop up the nearest glacier to a ‘Grand Traverse’ of Mt Cook, and extended flights as far afield as Milford Sound.

Helicopter scenic flight options are:- a basic 20 minute jaunt up a glacier directly to 2,000 metres elevation, a longer 30 minute flight exploring a glacier and traversing the sheer west faces of the two highest peaks, a 40 minute ‘Grand Tour’ embracing both glaciers as well as circling Mts Cook and Tasman. A similar ‘Grand Traverse’ operates from Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo airports.

Queenstown also has a range of scenic flights that cross the main divide to view Glacier Country. One combination is an air/land adventure safari offering superb views of the Mt Aspiring National Park. It follows the Arawhata River valley to the sea, touching down at Haast for a jet boat ride and continuing on by air to Milford and Queenstown.

Aerial sightseeing is the ultimate way to explore the country. For many visitors a scenic flight over the snow-capped peaks is the experience of a lifetime.