How to Choose the Best Mt Cook Helicopter Flight: The Ultimate Guide

Last Updated on June 18, 2022 by ashleighsatlas

Are you wondering which Mt Cook helicopter flight you should book? Feeling overwhelmed about which helicopter in Mount Cook is the best?  

A Mt Cook scenic flight is one of the best things to do in Mt Cook that you shouldn’t miss. 

When I was planning my recent trip, I felt overwhelmed trying to decide which Mt Cook scenic flight to choose: Helicopter or ski plane? Which company? How long? 

I spent many hours researching the best helicopter flights in Mt Cook (and even called the pilot to ask for his opinion). I also did one of the longest Mount Cook helicopter flights, and the pilot pointed out where the shorter flights go, so I know what views you’ll see on each flight. 

Keep reading for my Ultimate Guide on How to Choose the Best Helicopter in Mt Cook:

  • How to choose the best scenic flight in Mt Cook?
  • Review of Inflite Mt Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters flight 
  • Mt Cook accommodation
  • Best things to do nearby

(If you just want to know which helicopter in Mount Cook I ended up choosing, I did this 45-minute scenic helicopter flight with Inflite Mt Cook, also known as Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters. You can read my detailed review of it below). 

RELATED: Ultimate Mt Cook Travel Guide, 7 Best Mount Cook Walks, 9 Best Things to Do In Mt Cook

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HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MT COOK HELICOPTER FLIGHT?

These are the main considerations I researched when I was trying to decide which Mount Cook helicopter flight to choose. Ask yourself the questions below to help you decide which Mt Cook scenic flight you should do. 

Scenic flight or glacier heli-hike?

The first thing to consider is whether you want to do a glacier heli-hike or a scenic flight in Mt Cook? They offer quite different experiences. 

  • Glacier heli-hike: The main focus is on hiking on the glacier, although you also get a lovely scenic flight. The flight takes you to the lower part of the glacier, which looks like a typical glacier with blue ice and crevasses. You will have two hours hiking on the glacier with a guide.  You won’t get to fly to the top part of the Tasman Glacier (which I thought was the prettiest part of the flight) or to Franz Josef or Fox Glacier. 
  • Scenic flight: The focus is on the scenic flight. Shorter flights will fly a similar path as the heli-hike, whereas longer flights will see a lot more of the glacier than the heli-hike. If you choose a snow landing, you will have around 10 minutes on the snow. It’s still beautiful, but it’s packed snow at the top of the glacier, rather than the typical blue ice glacier which you only walk on if you do the heli-hike. 

Which is best? It depends on what you’re looking for. 

I decided to do a scenic flight, because I’d already hiked on Franz Josef. Although I loved it and would be really keen to hike on Tasman Glacier, I was more interested in doing a long scenic flight where I got to see more views. 

As unhelpful as it sounds, they are both amazing experiences and I would really recommend doing both. I would recommend doing a heli-hike on Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, andscenic helicopter flight on Tasman Glacier. 

(I’m sure it’s also amazing doing a heli-hike on Tasman Glacier, and a scenic flight on Franz Josef, but I’m just recommending what I’ve done). 

INSIDER TIP: If you want to do a Mt Cook heli-hike, I recommend doing this one. This is the company I did my scenic flight with and they were amazing.

Helicopter or ski plane?

The next decision is whether you want to go on a ski plane or helicopter in Mount Cook? They generally fly the same routes, although the ski planes are better value for money (you can get a longer ride for the same price as a shorter helicopter ride). 

For me, the decision was very easy. I’m really scared of flying, so I felt more comfortable on a helicopter.  

But I was also tempted by the ski plane, since it’s so unique (they literally land on skis, like a floatplane) and it’s the only place in New Zealand you can do it. 

If you want the ski plane, your choice will be very easy, since Mt Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters are the only company with a ski plane. You will just need to choose whether you want a 35 minute, 45 minute or 55 minute flight with a snow landing, or a 30 minute flight with no snow landing.

INSIDER TIP: You can also do a 45 minute ski plane and heli combo where you go one way on a ski plane and the other way on a helicopter, which would be a great way of trying both.

Snow landing or not? 

Most scenic flights in Mt Cook come with a snow landing, although there are some options (which are cheaper) that don’t have one. 

You will land at the top of the Tasman Glacier and have about 10 minutes on the snow. You’re not allowed to walk very far from the helicopter, because of safety concerns. 

I must admit I had quite low expectations for the snow landing. I knew it would be on the “snowy” part of the glacier, rather than the typical-blue-ice-and-crevasses-glacier part of it (only the heli-hikes go to this part).  

I work on a ski field in Wanaka and see snow every day, so I didn’t think it would be that exciting. 

But I really loved the snow landing and would definitely recommend doing it. You are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains. You also get to see the glacier better because when you descend to land you get so close to it.   

INSIDER TIP: If you don’t want a snow landing, the best value for money flight is the Mt Cook 360 Flight which is a 30 minute flight which also flies over Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.

How long do you want to fly? 

Flights at Mt Cook are between 25-60 minutes. The longer the flight, the more you will see (and the more expensive it is). 

  • Generally, the shorter flights will fly over the Tasman Lake, up the Tasman Glacier for a little bit, and then loop back.
  • (Be aware that some of the shorter Helicopter Line flights land on the Ben Ohau Range, rather than Tasman Glacier. Most of their flights land on Tasman Glacier though). 
  • If you do a longer flight, the loop will be bigger. You will go further up Tasman Glacier (where the better views are) and get closer to Mt Cook on the way back. 
  • If you want to do an even longer flight (around 55 minutes), you can also fly to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier

I did this 45-minute flight, which is the longest flight that only goes to Tasman Glacier. The next level also goes to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. 

I chose this so I could see the best of Tasman Glacier and Mt Cook, and then could see the best of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier on a separate heli-hike or scenic flight there.  

I probably wouldn’t recommend doing the shortest 25-minute flight. It will be beautiful, but you will only see a small part of the Tasman Glacier. One of my highlights was flying the full length of the Tasman Glacier, and seeing how it changed as it got higher. I also thought some of the best views were near the top of the glacier, which you would miss.

Obviously, it will depend on your budget, but I felt like if you’re spending that much, it’s worth spending a bit more to do the best trip, since it’s a once in a lifetime experience. 

INSIDER TIP: Do the 45-minute flight (I did this one) if you want to see the most of Tasman Glacier and Mt Cook, or the 55-minute flight if you want to also see Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Avoid the 25-minute flight which doesn’t go as far up Tasman Glacier.

Mt Cook helicopter ride price?

How much is a Mt Cook helicopter ride or ski plane? The biggest factor is time. The longer the flight, the more expensive it is. It’s also more expensive if you do a snow landing (most of them come with this). 

Roughly, if you were doing a scenic helicopter flight in Mt Cook with a snow landing, it would cost:

  • 25 minutes: $300pp
  • 35 minutes: $365-$425pp
  • 45 minutes: $465-$500pp
  • 55-60 minutes: $565-$660pp (these will also go to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier) 
  • Heli-hike: $500-$600pp 

I chose this 45-minute flight which is $499pp. I wanted the best Tasman Glacier and Mt Cook flight. I wasn’t as worried about seeing Franz Josef and Fox Glacier which I preferred to do separately.  

What is the best Mount Cook helicopter company?

There are three companies that do helicopter rides in Mt Cook:

  1. Inflite (also known as Mt Cook Ski Planes and Helicopter)
  2. Heliworks
  3. The Helicopter Line  

Inflite and Heliworks depart from the Mt Cook Airport. The Helicopter Line departs from Glentanner (15-minute drive from Mt Cook Village). 

They all have excellent reviews, so I wouldn’t choose a helicopter flight based on trying to choose the “best” company. Instead, ask yourself the questions above and let that decide what flight you should choose.

I ended up doing this flight with Inflite/Mt Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters. They were excellent and I couldn’t recommend them more. You can read my detailed review of my flight below. 

REVIEW OF INFLITE MOUNT COOK HELICOPTER FLIGHT

I did the 45-minute Glacier Highlights flight with Mt Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters (who are also known as Inflite).

When we arrived at Mt Cook Airport to check-in, it was very cloudy. The staff were incredible. They let us change to a flight later in the afternoon, which had the best chance of blue skies. We went back to our hotel to wait and they kept us updated over text message.

When we went back to check-in again, the process was very easy and we didn’t have to wait around too long.

The actual flight itself was incredible. I’m so glad I did the longer 45-minute flight with the snow landing. We got to see the full length of the Tasman Glacier. I thought some of the prettiest views were near the top of the glacier, which we would have missed if we did a shorter flight.

The pilot was also very friendly and informative. The whole flight he told us really interesting commentary, pointing out what everything was and explaining the different sections of the glacier. 

I am a very nervous flyer, and the check-in staff and pilot put me at so much ease. 

As I told my husband while we were on the helicopter: this is one of the best days of my life. It was incredible and I would definitely recommend the helicopter ride I did to anyone. 

INSIDER’S TIP: The weather can be very unpredictable in Mt Cook. Your flight may be delayed, so don’t plan on doing anything else the same day. Stay in Mt Cook for a few days so you have time to do everything in case the weather is bad.  

MOUNT COOK ACCOMMODATION 

I recommend staying in the Mt Cook Village. The accommodation is very expensive and there are only a few options, but it’s worth it. 

The weather in Mt Cook is very changeable, so it’s worth staying in the village so you can see when there is a break in the weather (and have somewhere to hang out when you’re waiting for the clouds to leave). There are also beautiful views of Mt Cook from the village. 

There are also a few beautiful luxury boutique hotels with amazing views of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook. Just be aware they are about a 40-minute drive from Mt Cook Village. 

You could also stay in Twizel or Lake Tekapo. Personally I don’t love Twizel (it’s a fairly uncharming small town), but Lake Tekapo is one of my favourite places in New Zealand

Looking for the best places to stay in Mt Cook?

  • Hermitage HotelThe Hermitage Hotel is the best and most luxurious place to stay in the Mt Cook Village, and also has incredible food. 
  • Aoraki Court MotelI stayed here on my last trip, because the room had a spa bath and I wanted cooking facilities. It was a lovely modern apartment, and I would definitely recommend it and stay again. It’s in the Mt Cook Village.
  • Mt Cook Lakeside RetreatBeautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki. 
  • Lakestone Lodge TekapoAnother beautiful luxury boutique hotel on Lake Pukaki. 
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BEST THINGS TO DO NEARBY? 

Looking for other things to do in Mt Cook? Read my guides to find the best things to add to your bucket list:

Planning a trip to other places in the South Island? Read my Ultimate Destination Guides for: 

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