7 Stunning Coastlines Around the World You Need to See From a Helicopter
Travel author Bill Bryson taught me that pretty much the entirety of human existence occurs within the span of a few vertical miles. It’s true — the deepest recorded dive is about 1,090 feet, and passenger planes can’t fly much higher than seven miles. And as someone who doesn’t do much diving or mountain scaling, my range is even narrower. In an effort to explore some more of that vertical range, I tried sightseeing by helicopter for the first time this year.
Taking a helicopter ride in a foreign country is an aspirational travel activity that, for me, often feels out of reach. It’s very “lifestyles of the rich and famous,” and I’d always assumed the price of a helicopter ride was about as much as I’d want to spend on my entire trip. But in France, I was proven wrong when I finally tried UberCOPTER, the helicopter option available on the Uber app in certain destinations. Helicopter rides in chic destinations can cost thousands of dollars, but for €160, an UberCOPTER took me from Nice to Cannes in eight minutes.
The experience of choppering over the Mediterranean Sea is equal parts intense and gratifying. You don’t realize how jagged the south of France’s coastline is until you fly over it. Or at least, I didn’t. Flying from Nice to Cannes by UberCOPTER, you see the beauty of the French Riviera in full force, including views of the small caps, like Antibes, and the celebrity yachts off St. Tropez in the distance.
So many trendy spots eventually fade from the travel spotlight, but visiting le sud in France has never gone out of vogue. Whether you’re on your honeymoon or planning a budget backpacking trip through Europe, the UberCOPTER ride will make you instantly feel like you're playing a part in that French Riviera glamour. The Mediterranean shines, the regal Cannes architecture is visible from miles off the coast, and the French accents of the uniformed chopper pilots certainly don't hinder the experience.
The French Riviera isn’t the only coastline best seen from a chopper. For the world traveler looking to take their sightseeing to new heights — see what I did there? — here are the seven coastlines you need to helicopter over.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
The Great Ocean Road in Victoria is truly a point of Australian pride. It draws tourists from all over the world and is about three hours from Melbourne. Touted as one of the best coastal drives on the planet, the Great Ocean Road is comprised of landmarks like the 12 Apostles, which are eight limestone masses towering over the water, and the Grotto, a famed Australian sinkhole. Overall, the 150 mile stretch of turquoise ocean swells and intricate rock formations is well worth the 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. You can see all of this by helicopter with the 12 Apostles Helicopter tour. (Even though only eight apostles remain, the structures’ name hasn’t changed, and neither has the helicopter company’s.) The 12 Apostles Helicopter tour takes you along the “Shipwreck Coast” to the Bay of Islands and Cape Otway, home of Australia’s oldest lighthouse.
What sets the UberCOPTER experience apart from the other heli excursions is that it’s a luxury travel experience you can have on an everyday traveler’s budget. For 160€ (one-way), an Uber Black car brought me to the Nice Cote d’Azur airport, I took an eight-minute helicopter ride from Nice to Cannes along the Mediterranean coastline, and then an Uber Black car dropped me at my destination in Cannes. The French Riviera coastline has a town-and-country feel— you’ll see unadulterated nature and jagged cliffs contrasted with the Belle Epoque-style architecture of Cannes. From a logistics perspective, instead of driving the hour and a half from Nice to Cannes for the film festival on the one, congested road, why not take an eight-minute Uber and see the coast from on high? UberCOPTER is available from May through October in Nice and Cannes — and you can also try UberCOPTER in Dubai.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town’s coast is all about welcoming villages, majestic mountains, and stunning beaches. There are miles of South Atlantic coast to choose from in Cape Town, but for an unforgettable helicopter experience, seeing the False Bay coast, which runs from Cape Point south to Helderberg, is a must. With Helicopters Cape Town, you can see False Bay and the entire peninsula as you travel from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope. It’s $417 per person for a 50-minute ride.
Because so much of Kauai isn’t accessible to visitors, taking a helicopter tour over the island allows you to see terrain you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Blue Hawaiian helicopter tours, which was the very first company to offer copter tours of Kauai, takes you along the Na Pali coast of the island for unprecedented views of the Pacific. The shoreline is exquisite, and as part of your helicopter ride, you’ll see 14 miles of coast with 3,000-foot cliffs. Along your coastal route, you’ll take in Waimea Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” then dip into Mt. Waialeale to see the 5,000-foot walls of the crater.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay has it all, from glistening water to vegetation-covered rock formations to rainforests. Seeing the limestone-littered coast from above is other-worldly. The bay has 1,600 islands and islets, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994. For travelers looking to splurge, chartering a helicopter from Hanoi to Halong Bay is a popular way to see the coast and get from the city to the wonders of Halong Bay's waters. Vietnam Helicopter Tours offers a one-day package for $1,096, which includes an hour helicopter flight from Hanoi to Halong Bay, a scenic copter ride over Halong Bay, and a luxury cruise on the bay. This way, you can see the coast from two vantage points: on the water and from all the way up.
South Coast, Iceland
The south coast of Iceland is just begging to be explored, and the expanse is best appreciated from an aerial perspective. The black sand beaches, lava formations, and Dyrholaey Cliffs on the south coast are about two hours from Reykjavík. Farther out on the south coast of Ireland, you’ll find the glacier lagoon and the adjacent Diamond Beach, dusted with crystal blue icebergs. Helicopter tours along the south coast are available through Asgard Beyond and leave directly from Reykjavik. They offer day heli tours that include views of the coast and heli-glacier hiking or heli-rafting.
Antofagasta, a wealthy port city in Northern Chile, is nestled on the Pacific coast. In the expansive ocean sits La Portada, a near-perfect archway formed by Mother Nature herself. Erosion has done its part to sculpt the entire coastline of Antofagasta, making it a dramatic view to copter over. One of the main reasons Antofagasta is an ideal helicopter destination is that you can see desert and ocean views in the same trip. You can get a bird’s eye view of the coast and see La Portada from overhead, and then cut inland to the Chilean dessert. The Antofagasta stretch of dessert is specifically known for the Mano de Desierto (or hand of the desert), which is a 36-foot hand sculpture pushing out of the desert floor. Helicopter with Air Charter Antofagasta to see the coast and desert in one fell swoop.