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Stories from our backyard: Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds

Aug 23, 2021 | New Zealand, South Island

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
Marlborough Sounds Credit: MarlboroughNZ

There is no doubt about it, this pandemic is tough. Whilst international travel is heavily restricted, the one thing we can do if we are lucky enough is to treat ourselves to those special moments in our very own backyard. For those of you that call the Marlborough region in New Zealand home (sorry, international visitors will have to wait a little longer), then you have a world of adventure at your feet. The region boasts New Zealand’s largest wine region, as well as the Marlborough Sounds, which are a picturesque collection of bays, inlets, islands, and peninsulas. It’s simply nature’s playground and the perfect spot to reward yourselves with scenic flights across the Marlborough Sounds. The flight is not only a great way to take it all in, but an adventure with award-winning GCH Aviation who offer you a trip of a lifetime with sights and experiences you will never forget.

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
Marlborough Sounds Credit: MarlboroughNZ

The Marlborough region is located on the north-eastern tip of the South Island. It’s only a 4-hour drive north of Christchurch but can also be easily accessed via the Interislander Ferry which travels between the North and South islands or via the Coastal Pacific train which runs between Picton, Kaikoura, and Christchurch. The Marlborough region is all about the world-famous Sauvignon Blanc wines, plenty of sunshine, delicious fresh seafood and diverse landscapes including valleys of vines to a maze of sheltered waterways in the Marlborough Sounds. It’s home to one of New Zealand’s great walks, the Queen Charlotte track, as well as a plethora of luxury lodges that abut waterways, and not forgetting 35+ cellar door boutique wineries. The Marlborough region has definetly earned its spot for a day or a few days stopover for either the north-south traverse or the South Island circuit!

GCH Aviation ticks all the boxes for spectacular scenic flights over the Marlborough Sounds and in fact, the company operates 72 scenic flights which depart from their bases out of Christchurch, Kaikoura, Nelson, and Wellington. What is notable about their premium scenic flights is not only do you get to enjoy spectacular scenery and remote beauty, but you have the option to package the flight with activities to make the trip extra special. It’s all about creating memories. A luxury helicopter flight over the Marlborough Sounds can be combined with a gourmet lunch on the waterfront at the famous Bay of Many Coves Resort. Conversely, you can head from the base in Nelson to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Abel Tasman National Park before landing on pristine sands to enjoy a gourmet lunch at Awaroa Lodge. The flights departing Kaikoura offer the wild beauty of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges in combination with whale watching, summit landings and quad bike trips. From their Christchurch base you can catch a Heli-tour that visits 5 outstanding wineries….it sounds amazing right?!

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
Between The Vines North Canterbury

Going above & beyond…

GCH Aviation (incorporating Garden City Helicopters) are the most experienced air services operator and an impressive family-owned company. GCH Aviation represent over three decades of helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft services in New Zealand, Fiji, and Vanuatu. In addition to their scenic flights, they also operate premium commercial flight services, as well as air rescue and ambulance operations from their bases in New Zealand and the South Pacific. This is a business who places their community front and centre. The Nelson base operates both the Flying Doctors and Rescue Helicopters, and complete 1700 missions annually. The company is also a keen supporter of Project Jonah, a rescue operation for stranded whales in New Zealand. The bases in Wellington and Christchurch have supported and partnered with Camp Quality, a camp for children living with cancer for the past 18 years. Furthermore, GCH Aviation has been proud to receive The New Zealand Helicopters Association Diamond Safety Award for 33+ years of incident and accident free operations. GCH is the only helicopter company in New Zealand to proudly hold this prestigious award.

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
GCH Headquarters

The Tiaki promise…

The Tiaki Promise is a commitment to care for New Zealand and its people, for now and for future generations. The key aspects are about caring for both people and place. Treading lightly and leaving no trace. Travel safely showing care and consideration for all. Respect culture and travel with an open heart and mind. By following the Tiaki Promise, GCH Aviation are acting as a guardian, protecting, and preserving New Zealand. The aircraft they operate offers the lowest emissions possible. Their ongoing efforts were recently recognised with the Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Award. It is an acknowledgement of a high quality tourism product that offers world-class experiences which apply best practice in terms of sustainability by looking after the people and the land.

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Credit: Miles Holden

New Zealand is precious…

So, in delivering both scenic flights over Marlborough Sounds (and indeed throughout the north of the South Island), as well as their dedication to sustainable tourism, GCH Aviation have demonstrated a strong commitment to their local communities and country. It is a purpose to be proud of. It’s a remarkable achievement for a family-owned Kiwi business in a very special corner of the world. Make sure to include a GCH Aviation scenic flight on your wish list for your next New Zealand holiday…. I know I will be doing just that 😊.

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
Photo Credit: Only Marlborough


The summer season (December-March) is the warmest time to visit. The daytime temperatures range between 20-23 degrees Celsius and the nights are 15 degrees. Perfect weather for all activities.

Good to know:

Explore the Marlborough Sounds from the seaside township of Picton. The region makes for a fantastic holiday filled with great food, wine and craft beer, and unforgettable experiences in the mountains, among the vineyards or by the sea. Its temperate climate means it is a year-round destination begging to be explored! Apart from the must-do helicopter scenic flight, other top highlights include: enjoy a guided bike tour to some of the region’s best wineries, swim with dolphins in the sheltered waters of the Marlborough Sounds, catch the Mail Boat cruise, hike part or all of the 4-day classic Queen Charlotte Track and catch the Interislander ferry to Wellington or the Coastal Pacific train to Christchurch.       

Scenic flights Marlborough Sounds
The Mail Boat Credit: MarlboroughNZ

And finally:

AET Travel (formerly Australia Expat Travel) specialises in exceptional holidays to Australia and New Zealand. We make it simple with our local knowledge, seamless logistics and trusted advice since 2004. Expect a bespoke itinerary curated with the big picture and the small details. Contact us.

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