New Zealand: Heli Adventures in the South Island

The only requirement for a stay at Minaret Station is that you’re comfortable with helicopters. What started as a private sheep and deer farm is now home to one of New Zealand’s most unique and remote luxury lodges; accessible only by, you guessed it, helicopters. Located on 65, 000 acres in the middle of the South Islands’ Fjordland, the four cabins of Minaret Station are the base for extra ordinary excursions such as: hiking, heli-fishing, heli-hunting and heli-skiing. Martha Handler, a writer, columnist and activist just back from a trip around New Zealand takes Daytripper365 along on a memorable day exploring nature at its best.

Tripper Tips:

Combine Minaret Station, either before or after with a stay in lively Queenstown, just a 25-minute flight

The Minaret team prides itself in providing guests with their own individualized itinerary. At the time of your booking your stay is tailored to your interests, with added flexibility that allows guests to receive the most from their stay depending on the season and weather.

Martha: Trying to come up with a way to properly describe Minaret Station is, I imagine, a bit like trying to describe heaven. It was that special, that magical.

At the heart of the Minaret is the much-revered Sir Timothy William Wallis. Knighted in 1994, he’s an aviation enthusiast who survived not one but two horrendous plane crashes and went on to build an aviation empire by recovering live deer via helicopters. He eventually moved into deer farming and he currently exports live deer, velvet, antlers and pizzle (i.e. penis) around the world. His four sons, Toby, Jon, Matt and Nick, all incredibly humble and soft spoken, run Minaret Station and odds are one of them will be your pilot on any given adventure (they don’t like to talk about themselves, but pester them long enough and you’ll be rewarded with fabulous stories!)

To keep this short, I’ll describe just one day--our very first day. We rendezvoused with our Minaret Station helicopter, piloted by Toby and co-piloted by our guide Paul, just outside of Queenstown. After brief introductions we rose up and over the extraordinary vistas of that region which included snow-capped mountains, meandering rivers, lakes and spectacular waterfalls.  (It’s no wonder this was the location chosen for filming Lord of the Rings.) Landing on a deserted beach (totally inaccessible by vehicles) about 40 minutes later, we were instructed to relax and enjoy while they organized lunch. While we walked on the glorious soft sand beach, littered with beautiful shells while waves pounded the shore and seals barked at each other, our helicopter rose and flew out over the ocean. Where could they possibly be going and why didn’t they tell us they were leaving, we wondered? Next thing we knew they returned with a long chain and what looked like some sort of cage hanging from the undercarriage of the helicopter.  Once they landed we saw that the cage contained five giant, glistening lobsters. Fishing by helicopter – who even knew that was a thing? Moments later we sat down to a beach barbeque that included perfectly grilled lamb chops (my husband devoured 16!) and lobster served with assorted side and salads. All accompanied by delicious New Zealand wine. And just when we thought life couldn’t possibly get any better, we were once again whisked back up into the air and just a few minutes later found ourselves on top of a glacier toasting our extraordinary day with a fabulous glass of bubbly. Our last stop was Minaret Station - our home for the next three nights. The lodge is rustic and cozy with a dinning room, kitchen, library and living room with a welcoming fireplace. Attached by raised boardwalk are four cabins, each with a porch, hot tub and views for miles. We unpacked, jumped in the tub to soak while watching the sunset and then headed back to the lodge to have cocktails with the other guests. We enjoyed a delicious dinner together while sharing stories of our day’s adventures. The next two days were equally outrageous but better than me telling you about them - go and see for yourself! I promise you won’t be disappointed.