One of New Zealand’s premium luxury tourism operations, Over The Top – The Helicopter Company is in the business of making dreams come true.
Fancy sending a golf ball out into the thin blue ether, lifting your champagne glass to the sky on a mountain top or settling down for a romantic picnic in an alpine valley with nothing but the sound of a rushing waterfall and no other human body in sight – Over The Top can organise that and practically any other remote wilderness adventure to satisfy your desires.
From the alpine resort town of Queenstown – on the South Island of New Zealand – Over The Top operates over a natural playground that includes the vast Southern Alps region of snow-capped peaks, clear blue alpine lakes and majestic west coast fiords – all of them grand settings for grand adventures.
Over three decades of operation, the multi-award-winning helicopter company has carved out a niche in the New Zealand luxury tourism market, leading the way with iconic experiences utilising helicopters. The Over The Top Golf, a par 3 golf hole set on a craggy mountain top overlooking Queenstown is one example.
Owner and chief pilot Louisa 'Choppy' Patterson says that Over The Top has always aimed to be "more than a helicopter company".
"It's about providing interpretive excursions not only to beautiful places but to meet genuine people and showcase authentic experiences, showing our backyard in a way that we'd want to experience it. The helicopter is purely a means to access those experiences."
Making dreams come true
Louisa Patterson sees her tourism business as a means to making the dreams of her clients come true.
Dreams have always been important to Louisa. For one of New Zealand’s most charismatic yet down-to-earth luxury tourism operators, it was dreams that brought her to this point: dreams of flying, dreams of succeeding in a predominately male-dominated world, dreams of giving people experiences of a lifetime in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Born in Wellington - New Zealand’s capital city - Louisa was the daughter of a World War II spitfire pilot who was tragically killed in an air-accident when she was just nine-years old. Louisa's mother was adamant that her daughter would not succumb to the same fate, but it seems that flying was in the blood.
Louisa had begun marine biology studies at university when the gift of a flying lesson put her on a new track. A determined Louisa dropped her degree in favour of flying and, since earning her commercial pilot’s licence in the late 1970s, she has never looked back.
In that time Louisa has been an agricultural top dresser, search and rescue helicopter pilot and a seismic surveyor before starting Over The Top in Auckland in 1986 which she relocated south to Queenstown a few years later.
Although it is flying that makes Louisa happy, the look on clients’ faces as they truly get away from it all also brightens her day. "It is a religious experience ... people sit back and say 'all this must have been created by something bigger than the force of the heat in the Earth's core'," Louisa once told local newspaper Otago Daily Times.
This religious experience is such that a trip with Over The Top was named one of the Top 50 Things To Do Before You Die by an influential UK newspaper.
Outstanding helicopter experiences
With a helicopter in their control and a sublime landscape at their disposal, ‘Choppy’ and her experienced crew have turned the idea of luxury on its head with an innovative menu of helicopter experiences into New Zealand’s pristine southern wilderness.
The latest helicopters fly clients high above Lake Wakatipu and beyond the adrenalin-fuelled adventure playground of Queenstown where they can enjoy a picnic on a peak or hike in the fresh alpine air.
They can marvel at ancient glaciers in Fiordland and gaze at the reflection of Mitre Peak in the majestic Milford Sound - once hailed by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’..
Day trips to Doubtful Sound offer the chance to experience prehistoric rainforests and see some of the bountiful native wildlife that flourishes in this untouched part of the world. Heli-skiing, heli-weddings, heli-fishing, high country farming experiences and a trip to the rugged West Coast are all part of Over The Top’s offerings - as is the chance to join the team on a scientific expedition.
Going to new golfing heights
One of the most talked about experiences on offer from Over the Top is a round of golf with a difference. Over the Top Golf - opened by golf-enthusiast and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key - was born from the ‘extreme golf tee’ experience the company had been offering for a while. Now, instead of just hitting a ball off the mountain, clients can aim for a hole in one.
Sitting at 4500ft, surrounded by pure alpine air, towering mountains and high country tussock with Queenstown and the aqua-blue Lake Wakatipu below, the par 3 golf hole is one of the most picturesque in the world.
The 'Over The Top Par 3' altitude golf hole has four tees to choose from with the 'Over The Top - Black Tee' and 'The Keyhole - White Tee' playing their art.
"We had been driving using eco balls off 5000-foot bluffs and our guests often suggested a green to aim for would be ideal so we turned fantasy into reality with an amazing green in the mountains," Louisa said.
Along with the ‘Over The Top Golf Par 3’, golfers can choose to add an exclusive package incorporating three of Queenstown’s spectacular golf courses - The Hills, Jacks Point and Millbrook.