Have you ever wondered what it was like to walk along an active volcano? We found the perfect helicopter adventure in New Zealand with Volcanic Air. The adrenaline junkies in us instantly booked this tour when we added Rotorua to our New Zealand itinerary. The verdict? Don’t miss this luxury, thrilling adventure! We’d do it again in a heartbeat. Helicopter tours are the ultimate way to see New Zealand.
THE HELICOPTER RIDE
We met our pilot/guide, Dave, at the waterfront in Rotorua. After a quick check of our weights and safety briefing we entered the helicopter. Dave explained that the flight path would take us north across the lake district then we’d cross the coast in route to White Island.
We quickly lifted off the ground and our birds eye view began. The first part was a leisurely ride across the lake district with beautiful views below.
Coming from southeast Texas which is largely flat with brown waters, we found the view to be breathtaking as we crossed the lake district. I don’t think we would have appreciated just how varied the landscape really was had we not seen it from the air.
After about 10-15 minutes of flying, the vibrant blue coast came into view! We were making progress en-route to White Island on our helicopter adventure in New Zealand! We continued to fly 48km from the coast to get there.
Dave pointed out a large billow of smoke coming from what appeared to be a large rock in the middle of the ocean. It was White Island and we would soon be landing!
THE VOLCANO TOUR
Rugged, colorful terrain with smoke everywhere was our first visual of the island. Dave quickly gave us another safety briefing. Since it truly was an active volcano, it could erupt at any time. Hard hats and gas masks that we had to wear during the tour were distributed as soon as we exited the helicopter. The most important safety tip on the helicopter adventure in New Zealand? If we see Dave start running, follow as it means an eruption is happening!
We learned that White Island is situated in the Taupo Volcanic Zone which extends from White Island to Ruapehu. It’s extremely active with 3 frequently active volcanoes including White Island which we were literally standing on! The thought of what was going on beneath our feet was both thrilling and unnerving!
We learned that White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano during the last 40 years. Ok, this may go down as one of the craziest adventure activities we’ve done to date!
Dave pointed out various rocks and had us feel the heat of the water that was streaming in small pool in various areas.
The island is actually a submerged stratovolcano. Of course you know exactly what that means like I did, right?!? It’s a fancy word for a volcano made up of alternating layers of ash and lava flow. Seriously the more Dave taught us, the more my heart rate accelerated thinking “please don’t erupt in the next 30 minutes White Island!”
Our tour was making its way toward the crater as identified with the billowing plumes of smoke. We learned that scientists are monitoring the activity of the volcano and come for testing 3 times per year. They also had several devices and cameras to monitor the activity. It made me think that geology would be a cool career path!
As we made our way closer to the crater, it was a little harder to breath. We used our gas mask once or twice for a little break as our nostrils filled with the smell of sulfur. Have we convinced you that this helicopter adventure in New Zealand is the ultimate adrenaline rush yet?!?
That liquid bubbling at the bottom of the crater? Don’t worry, that’s just stronger than boiling battery acid! “Please White Island, don’t choose to erupt now!”
THE RUINS TOUR
After a quick view of the crater, we made our way to the other side of the island. We learned that there used to be sulfur mine here from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The second part of the tour was seeing all the ruins from the mine.
The orange, rusted ruins combined with the vibrant blue water was quite a sight! Such a gorgeous color contrast.
We may have had a bit of fun in the ruins and cheers to Dave that was more than willing to take our photo!
Overall we really loved this helicopter adventure in New Zealand. If you are a science nerd like Amanda, it would be even more thrilling for you since there are so many interesting science facts to learn beyond just the stunning scenery!
Would we recommend Volcanic Air tour to White Island? Hell yea! It was a true highlight during our visit not only in Rotorua but our entire 2 weeks in New Zealand! We would go again during our next trip because there is no doubt some of the landscape is likely to have changed versus what we saw.
For more information on planning your trip to the incredible Rotorua, NZ check out Visit Rotorua for lots of travel inspiration! Pin the below image for future reference as you plan your next New Zealand vacation!