A Fantastical Helicopter Tour in Kahurangi National Park in New Zealand

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It's most likely happened to you.

You've found yourself watching a movie filmed in New Zealand — by this point there are a ton of them — and you've looked at the scenery and thought… “There's no way that's real.

Countryside in New Zealand
Can't be real… right?

I say that this has most likely happened to you because it's definitely happened to me. Before my first trip to New Zealand, I was worried that the real landscapes would never be able to live up to how they looked on the big screen.

But guess what?

All those snowy mountains and green valleys and blue lakes ARE real. They are 100% real, and they look even BETTER in person.

New Zealand is just incredible like that.

Rock formations on Mount Olympus
Not a movie set
Flying over Kahurangi National Park
Flying over mountains in New Zealand

A helicopter tour in Kahurangi National Park

This was hit home for me again on my fourth trip to New Zealand when I booked a helicopter tour out to a remote location in Kahurangi National Park. The location is known as Mount Olympus, and it's accessible only by helicopter.

Reid Helicopters tour to Mount Olympus
Reid Helicopters in the wild

Mount Olympus in New Zealand

This site was used as a filming location in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie (the scene where the Fellowship hides from evil black birds sent to spy on them by Saruman), and it's one of those places you see on screen and just assume that it was filmed in a studio with the background CGI'd in.

But no. Peter Jackson does nothing half-assed when it comes to the movies he makes – AND he loves to spotlight some of New Zealand's most epic landscapes.

Flying over Mount Olympus
Approaching the site from the air

This site, with its ridiculously cool rock formations, definitely qualifies as “epic.”

Rock formations on Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus

And the flight there isn't too shabby, either.

Flying over Kahurangi National Park
Helicopter flight views
Flying over Kahurangi National Park
Flying over Kahurangi National Park

I got to this spot on a tour with Reid Helicopters out of Nelson. It was actually one of their pilots who flew Peter Jackson and his crew of location scouts to this site when they were looking for locations for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

They know their stuff, and they also love showing off this part of New Zealand to anyone who's interested.

Reid Helicopters tour
Inside the helicopter
Reid Helicopters tour in Nelson

Since this tour is an optional extra when you book a Lord of the Rings tour with Red Carpet Tours, there were 16 of us flying in three different helicopters to the site. Seeing how difficult it was to get 16 of us up there, I can't even begin to imagine how tough it must have been to orchestrate getting a full cast and film crew up there to film those “South of Rivendell” scenes!

“South of Rivendell” filming location

We landed on Mount Olympus, and had some time to climb the rocks and re-enact a few scenes. Our pilots doubled as tour guides, pointing out where different things were filmed and also telling us some stories (like how actor Sean Bean was terrified of helicopters).

Hiding just like Frodo on Mount Olympus
Hiding spot
Rock formations on Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus in New Zealand
The view from Mt Olympus

It's one thing to take a helicopter ride in New Zealand over a remote national park. But it's another to actually get to LAND at an incredible location in said remote national park. The wind was blowing and bitterly cold, but none of us really cared.

Mount Olympus
Me, absolutely loving it.
Reid Helicopters tour to Mount Olympus
Our group at Mt Olympus

Helicopter tours aren't cheap (because they guzzle gas at an alarming rate). But, if you have the chance to do something this unique in a place as incredible as New Zealand, I would definitely tell you to go for it. I don't think you'll regret it at all.

Reid Helicopters tour
No regrets here!
Flying over Kahurangi National Park


I went on the “Mt Olympus, South of Rivendell” tour with Reid Helicopters. This tour consists of about an hour in the helicopter, and one landing atop Mt Olympus.

Price: Based on how many people are in the helicopter; with a full 3-person or 6-person group, you can expect to spend $375-$400 USD per person.

(They also offer a longer combo tour where you also get to visit Mount Owen, the tallest mountain in the national park, and the filming location for the exit of the Mines of Moria.)

Reid Helicopters tour

READ NEXT: 5 Middle Earth Locations You Can Visit in Real Life

Is this an adventure YOU would want to have in New Zealand?

*Note: I did receive a discount on this tour from Reid Helicopters, which was an optional extra as part of my 14-day Lord of the Rings tour with partner Red Carpet Tours. As always, though, all opinions are my own!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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22 Comments on “A Fantastical Helicopter Tour in Kahurangi National Park in New Zealand

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  1. […] Fantasy Meets Reality on a Mountaintop in New Zealand Bottomless Champagne and Topless Dancers A Crazy Day of Dune Bashing in Southern Qatar Five Must-See Spots in São Paulo Five gorgeously located camping sites in France […]

    Absolutely stunning! New Zealand is quite literally the edge of the world, which I think only adds to its magical, ethereal feel. I’ll be researching every Lord of the Rings location I can find as soon as I make it over there!

      It’s definitely magical! Make sure to check back here once you start that LotR research. 😉

    […] the country — because Peter Jackson did not do anything half-assed and chose some truly INCREDIBLE places for on-location […]

    Great pictures. The second one looks like a hand made from stones!!!

      I LOVE that rock formation!

    Ah! New Zealand, the landscapes are surreal. Would certainly love to visit NZ and taking a helicopter tour would be an icing on the cake 🙂

      “Surreal” is right! Such stunning scenery just about everywhere you go! It’s one of the reasons I love this country so much.

    Looks beautiful! I’d love to take a helicopter tour someday and I think New Zealand sounds like the perfect place to do it!

      It definitely is a great place to do it – there are so many epic landscapes in NZ!

    Incredible photos. I was blown away by the colour of the rivers and lakes in New Zealand. People often describe water as being blue but I never believed water could actually be full on blue. I find it almost mesmeric.

      Oh yes, I agree! The colors in NZ are unreal!

    Amazing! I wish helicopters weren’t so expensive, I do agree it is worth it though, we took helicopter tours over an active volcano in Hawaii and over the Grand Canyon and I will remember those experiences forever 🙂

      Yes, it would be nice if they weren’t so expensive. But, if you pick the right tour, I don’t think you regret it much, because it’s such a unique experience!

    A helicopter ride over such splendid mountains must be an awesome experience. New Zealand is truly an incredible land, and the best part is that it is still quite unexplored.

      Yes, there are still plenty of places in New Zealand that you can describe as “remote!”

    Great! I am really up for a helicopter scenic flight. It is definitely on my to do list whilst I am here in New Zealand. Thanks for the tip Amanda! btw. Great shots! I have to rewatch Lord Of The Rings because I probably will be able to recognize some locations in the movies, that I have already visited. I think I am gonna start today:)

      Oh yes, re-watching Lord of the Rings before visiting New Zealand is a must! There are some really cool helicopter flights you can take there – but this is probably one of the most unique!

    Beautiful as it is, I’ll stick to your photographs of the place. I’m too cheap to spend 310USD to fly there and too sensitive to cold to trek there. So feel free to keep the photos coming 😀

      Haha, fair enough! You can’t actually hike there (there are no trails/it’s dangerous), and as far as activities in New Zealand go, this is actually pretty good value! But I’m happy to have you travel there through my photos. 🙂

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