One of the best ways to experience the visually stimulating views of the vast and dramatic mountainous landscape surrounding Queenstown is to get some altitude. Flying in or out of Queenstown is a great way to get a sense of the incredible scenery surrounding the township. During the cooler months once there is a dusting of snow on the peaks the outlook is simply breathtaking. Depending on the path the airlines take it is possible to come in or leave following the edge of Lake Wakatipu. The Alps seem to go on for miles.
The Queenstown Airport is located at the end of the Frankton Arm of the lake. It was first given a license to operate in 1935. Mount Cook Airways were flying in and out of the Queenstown in 1938 and 1939 carrying 719 passengers up to 31 March 1939 – but by 1940 all commercial flights stopped due to the impact of World War 2. Following the war flights increased significantly and by 1964 after a 1500 metre extension to the runway DC 3’s were regularly flying in and out of the airport. A large part of activity from the mid 50’s out of Queenstown Airport has been flightseeing either around the local region – or further afield into Milford Sound. This continues today with a number or operators using the airport as a base for their Scenic Flights.
You do not need to fly far to find an isolated ledge or plateau amongst the mountains. While a trip to Milford Sound will take a little longer and give you the opportunity to combine the flight with a Fiordland cruise. It is hard to put into words the feeling of being on top of the world, far from civilisation with views looking across to one mountain top after another. Flights may seem expensive for the amount of time you are in the air – but if there is one activity to spend your money on while you are in Queenstown, I would highly recommend taking a flight in a Helicopter. And then I’d suggest spending a little bit more for a landing somewhere remote.
For many travelling to Queenstown there is often a celebration involved. It might be a special birthday, an anniversary, or maybe even a marriage proposal in the planning. The Helicopter Line can help with any number of ideas for a special celebration. One of their romantic packages include flying to a high point above Queenstown, often to a ledge on Cecil Peak and providing a delicious platter together with bubbles for the couple. They will then leave them behind (with a radio transmitter for contact) and return an hour so later to collect them. In winter this may even involve laying the spread out on the snow and proving a couple of chairs to sit on. It will provide an experience that will never be forgotten.
If flying isn’t your thing or doesn’t quite match your budget there are still ways to get some altitude and enjoy the views. Many visitors to Queenstown will visit Arrowtown while in the region and the short drive there makes a path through Speargrass Flat along the base of Coronet Peak with views across to the Remarkables to the south. It is worth taking a detour off Malaghans road towards the Coronet Ski Field. If you hook a left at the turn off to Skippers Canyon there is the Skippers Road Lookout, which offers expansive views across the Flats to the mountains beyond.
Closer to town, just a short walk from the centre of Queenstown is the Skyline Gondola. It is the steepest Gondola in the Southern Hemisphere and travels 450 metres to the top of Bob’s Peak. Once at the Skyline complex there is the opportunity for luging, lunching or lounging. The Luge offers fun for all the family and the Market Kitchen restaurant provides a wide range of food. But most importantly, the reason for heading up the Gondola must be to take advantage of the sensational views across the town, lake and mountains.
Inspired New Zealand tours offer a range of tours which include a visit to Queenstown. They all offer freedom time for travellers to choose their own activities while in this alpine playground. For those that want to take the opportunity for flightseeing, The Helicopter Line is the recommended operator and the tour coach captain will be happy to help with arrangements.
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