Arrive in style when you chopper in to one of these heli-friendly holiday spots.
By Lee Atkinson
You don’t have to be a celebrity or rock star to travel by helicopter in Australia. Some areas, like the Kimberley in north-western WA, have no roads and are so remote and inaccessible that getting to your destination by air is the only option – scenic flights are just part of the deal. Other spots, like the coral cays of the Great Barrier Reef, are too small for planes and too tricky for boats, so a chopper is the transport of choice. One thing’s for sure, flying in by helicopter is the ultimate way to get where you want to go.
Heli-friendly holiday spots
Imagine bathing beneath a waterfall so secret that it’s not even on the map. The Kimberley coast, north of Broome, is so isolated that the only way to reach its waterfalls, gorges, plunge pools and sandy coves is by helicopter, launched from a mobile helipad at sea. Expedition cruise companies such as True North Adventures, Kimberley Quest and Great Escape have onboard helicopters and can take you to places few other people have ever seen. Or combine a 4WD adventure along the Gibb River Road with a chopper transfer to the spectacular three-tiered Mitchell Falls and get dropped off – or picked up if you fancy a bushwalk – at the top of the falls.
If you want to go where no one else can, go by chopper. The Indigenous owners of Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park (near Katherine in the Top End) run exclusive adventure swimming tours by helicopter, landing at a rock pool so remote it doesn’t even have a name. In the Red Centre, flat-topped Mt Conner is so often mistaken for nearby Uluru it’s been nicknamed “Fooluru”. It’s on private land, but Ayers Rock Helicopters have permission to land on the top, with plenty of time to explore and take in the panoramic views, and a bonus scenic flight around Uluru on the way there.
Ultimate picnic spots
Is heli-picnicking a thing? It is on the Great Barrier Reef, where you can ramp up the romance on a deserted dazzling white sandbank surrounded by beautiful coral gardens and warm water teeming with tropical fish. Seclusion – along with a gourmet picnic hamper – is guaranteed on sand cay tours to Vlasoff Cay, departing from Cairns.
Private island escapes
For an overnight island adventure head to palm-shaded Wheeler Island, one of 20 or so islands off the coast of Mission Beach. You can get there by kayak or boat but a helicopter is much quicker and easier – pack a tent and you can stay overnight. Haggerstone Island’s another private island on the Great Barrier Reef only accessible by air (although it’s fixed wing rather than chopper) and a scenic flight is the best way to travel to the Reef’s luxurious Lizard Island. At the other end of the country, chopper-friendly Three Hummock and Satellite islands off the coast of Tasmania also offer the ultimate crowd-free island getaway.
Better from the air
Some things are just better from above. Sure you can see Victoria’s famous Twelve Apostles from the Great Ocean Road’s carpark lookout, but the only way to get a really good look at the limestone stacks is on a helicopter flight. The same goes for the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia’s Purnululu National Park: you can bump your way along the rough and gnarly 4WD track, and hike into a canyon, but the only way to see the full extent of the beehive-shaped formations is from the air – chopper flights leave from inside the national park as well as nearby Warmun, Lake Argyle and Kununurra. South Australia’s Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges is another natural wonder so big that it can really only be appreciated on a scenic flight. Rawnsley Park Station offers helicopter flights over the Pound as well as trips up to mountain-top lookouts for sunset drinks.
Fly-in fly-out resorts
There are no roads to The Berkeley River Lodge in the Kimberley, which means the journey (chopper, fixed wing and float plane transfers are available) is as important as the destination. There are more heli adventures to come once you’re there: heli-touring options include heli-fishing trips, visits to remote rock art galleries, wetland tours by air, and wilderness picnics in some of the country’s most remote locations.
Another magical spot where the scenic flight in (by small plane rather than chopper) is all part of the adventure is Par Avion’s luxury Southwest Wilderness Camp on the shores of Bathurst Harbour in Tasmania’s World Heritage-listed Southwest National Park. With no roads or walking track access, you’ll feel like you have this unique wilderness all to yourself.
Or make like a rock star and arrive by chopper at the Spicers Peak mountain-top luxury lodge in Queensland’s Scenic Rim. The landing pad is right on the front lawn, and skimming over the Great Dividing Range is much quicker than negotiating the two-hour steep and windy drive from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Close to Sydney, Cottage Point Inn on the Hawkesbury River is only accessible by water taxi or seaplane (OK, it’s not a chopper, either, but flying is flying). With waterfront accommodation and a fine-dining restaurant, you certainly won’t be in a rush to fly out.
You’ll be sky high with happiness on an outback joy flight.
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