Travelling the world we are regularly asked what Paragliding is like in NZ. This post is an attempt to independently answer some of those questions. Not everyone will agree with what I have written here and I encourage visiting pilots to do their own research and let me know what you think.
What to expect?
New Zealand has fantastic flying sites and something to offer every pilot. From black sand beach soaring to flat-land thermaling to snow clad mountain XC, New Zealand has it all. Whether you are coming to fly in New Zealand as a student, free-flyer or professional pilot, you will find the local community very welcoming
What is the weather like?
NZ has a variable maritime climate and you can sometimes expect summer and winter in the same day. It pays to come prepared for all seasons no matter what time of year you decide to visit. Flying sites can be regularly affected by wind and care must be taken to pay attention to changing conditions.
When is best to visit NZ?
Generally, January and particularly February are the most reliable times for sunny stable weather with good thermals. Like the European Alps, some of the biggest flights have been recorded during spring time (October-December) due to the strong thermals and longer sunshine hours. Autumn (March-June) and winter (July-September) tend to be less thermic and more suited to Hike and Fly or soaring flying.
New Zealand is beautiful no matter what time of the year or season you visit. Any time of the year is potentially flyable in NZ and the best time to visit New Zealand is the time that suits you best. There are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained on the non-flyable days.
Where are the best online weather sources for NZ?
The following are weather links that I (Louis) personally use for weather forecasting in NZ and particularly in the Southern Lakes area. I have structured the weather links in order of relevance at different stages during the weather forecasting process. ***Please use the weather links page at your own risk! Weather forecasts are not always accurate and you need to use your own judgment on the hill and in the air.***
Where are the good spots for flying?
The Paragliding NZ website will provide you with a starting point about paragliding in New Zealand. It shows you places to fly, giving you maps, area information and experience ratings. Beware that not all the information on this site is accurate and up to date. Visiting pilots are advised to talk to local club pilots when visiting local flying sites for the first time.
If you are wanting to explore off the beaten track, good places to research potential routes and launches are; XC planner (turn on thermals option), Leonardo and Paragliding Earth. Much of NZ is still unexplored from a paragliding perspective, so it is best to stick to the main spots if you are not experienced in back country travel and mountain flying. Be warned there are no roads, people or cell phone reception in many of the back country areas! If this doesn’t put you off, Nick Neynens has some good blog write ups for routes he has done in the South Island.
If you want to maximise your time in NZ, getting to the right place at the right time, Paravenures offer guided paragliding service. They are currently New Zealand’s only cross country specialists and are passionate about flying in NZ.
How much time should I spend in the North and South Island?
The South Island of NZ has some of the best scenery that can be found anywhere in the world and consistently records the longest flights in NZ. Having said that there are some good coastal soaring and inland sites on offer in the North Island. If you have 1 month or more to spend I recommend spending one-third of the time in the North Island and two-thirds in the South Island. If you have less than 7-10 Days then my recommendation is to focus the majority of time on the South Island, but keep the plan flexible based on the weather.
Where can I get more information about flying legally in NZ?
The New Zealand Hangliding and Paragliding Association has the official low down on the current requirements.
Where can I learn to fly?
The NZHGPA site has a list of schools in different regions. Auckland and Queenstown are the main hubs for learning to fly in NZ and produce the most students. There are however good schools in other regions.
How can I make direct contact with other NZ pilots online?
Local Club Contacts– Links to all the local NZ clubs and contacts
Fly Hike NZ – Fly and Hike Facebook group
Southern Club Facebook Group -Very active group and best group for the lower South Island
Nelson Hangliding and Paragliding Facebook group– Best group for the upper South Island
Canterbury Hangliding and Paragliding Forum – Best for Christchurch and mid-South Island launches
Auckland Hangliding and Paragliding Club forum– Best for the Auckland region
Wellington Hangliding and Paragliding Facebook group– Best for the Wellington region
NZHGPA Facebook group– Updates from the NZ Hangliding and Paragliding association site are posted here.
Do I need a visa to enter NZ?
That depends on what country you are from. Generally, most of the major countries are covered by a waiver scheme but it’s best to check with Imigration NZ for the details.
Be aware that NZ has strict biosecurity requirements to prevent exotic pests and diseases from establishing here. This means that you’ll need to ensure that your glider and harness are free of seeds and insects before you leave home, and they may be subject to inspection at the airport when you arrive in NZ. This shouldn’t be anything more than a minor inconvenience if it’s all been cleaned beforehand, but just be aware that it may take a little while to clear border security when you first arrive.