Etablished in 1968 … legends!

Wilkin River Jets and Backcountry Helicopters offer wilderness adventure and discovery within the beautiful Makarora region of New Zealand.

Known as the ‘timeless land’, Makarora is a truly special place with stunning snow capped mountains, ancient river valleys, pristine native rainforest and fast flowing wilderness rivers. A place where time has truly stood still, but discovery and adventure continue to beckon.

Situated within the famed World Heritage listed Mount Aspiring National Park, the wilderness region of Makarora lies between Lake Wanaka and the Haast Pass. The region has a rich history, and was known to Maori as Kaika Paekai (the place of abundant food). Today’s visitors can easily appreciate why the Makarora valley provided such a special resting place for Maori, whilst travelling to the west coast in their quest for highly valued pounamu or greenstone.

Operating since 1968, Wilkin River Jets are pioneers of shallow water jet boating and wilderness discovery in New Zealand.

Wilkin River Jets and Backcountry Helicopters owners, Harvey and Patsy Hutton, have a long family history starting with the region’s early settlers, and their connection to this ‘timeless land’ is reflected in their commitment to deliver a world-class eco-tourism product within this truly awe-inspiring landscape. Their expert local knowledge and passion for the New Zealand backcountry ensure visitors enjoy a wilderness experience like no other.

Our helicopter and jetboat base is situated at Makarora on the Haast Pass Highway (SH 6), between Lake Wanaka and Fox Glacier. This is where our trips depart from.

We pride ourselves on our extensive local knowledge and can do attitude and specialize in tailor making Scenic Helicopter Flight/Mt Aspiring National Park Bush Walk/Jetboat – combos.

“gotta do it”…….. See you soon!

Senior Jet Boat Driver/Helicopter Pilot


Hayden came to Makarora from Tauramanui – a small rural town in the North Island of New Zealand. Hayden, along with his partner Charlene and their two daughters Briar and Lilly, have lived and worked in Makarora for many years. His love of hunting and sense of adventure found him in his “dream job”. Hayden drives one of the jet boats and has furthered his career and ventured into aviation, where he has gained his commercial pilot’s license. Hayden’s great sense of humour and passion for the outdoors is evident in his work ethic and capabilities as an entertaining and skilled guide.

Jetboat Driver/Farm Manager

Alec Watson

A farmer in a previous life, Alec has come on board as a jetboat driver and is now several seasons into a busy tourism life. While farming is still his passion, over the summer months you will find him on the water. He is also our mechanic, digger driver, hunting/diving guide and part-owner of Wilkin River Jets. Alec lives in Makarora with his wife Danyel and two boys, Max and Ollie.

Jetboat Driver and Ops Manager

Danyel Watson

Harvey’s daughter Danyel has a strong affinity with Makarora and the West Coast. Her love of the mountains and wilderness have lead her into her current role as one of the senior Jet Boat Drivers on the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers. Her passion for the region is matched with her infectious sense of humour and her commitment to ensuring visitors leave with a true sense of Makarora. She lives in Makarora with her husband Alec and their two boys, Max and Ollie.

Backcountry Helicopters Pilot

Blair Cook

Blair comes to us from Nelson, originally with an experienced background flying all over the world. He has an impressive list of technical skills and specialist knowledge. Blair loves hunting, fishing and being in the outdoors. Blair joined the Backcountry Helicopters team in 2018 and lives in Hawea with his wife Gemma and their two girls, Quinn and Sage.

Backcountry Helicopters and Wilkin River Jets Fearless leader (Chief pilot)

Harvey Hutton

Harvey was a successful hunter and became a very skilled mountain and bush pilot. With the end of the venison era, Harvey continued his love affair with the West Coast and now shares this stunningly beautiful region with intrepid travellers with a thirst for wilderness adventure, discovery and truly unique experiences, in some of New Zealand’s most remote and stunning locations. Harvey has thousands of hours in helicopters and is highly regarded in search and rescue, commercial work, lifting and hunting. Harvey loves the outdoors, farming and spending time with his family, especially his grandkids Max and Ollie.

Backcountry Helicopters and Wilkin River Jets Fearless leader (CEO)

Patsy Nolan

Patsy is the CEO and is highly regarded in implementing our health and safety and CAA safety procedures. She keeps us all in line and makes sure ourselves and our clients are well looked after! Not an easy job! Patsy enjoys biking, exploring the West Coast, spending time with family (once again the grandkids!) and being on the farm.


Helicopter flight and jet boat. Beautiful scenery. Thrilling heli flight and jet boat trip.- both exhilarating experiences. Undoubted safety and great service by pilot, jet boat driver and reception staff. Highly recommend.

A wicked family trip that im sure the kids will chat about for a very long time

Had to send an email to express what a terrific time we had on our trip, we are all still buzzing, the helicopter flight, the walk and the jet boat ride was such a brilliant combination to experience your part of the world which is positively stunning! Thanks for your help organising etc, you made it very easy to put together a wicked family trip that im sure the kids will chat about for a very long time, actually everyone is keen to go again and stay an extra night! - RR

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