Helicopters are the most versatile of all flying machines. Their ability to hover makes them ideal for search and rescue, fighting wildfires and aerial photography. However, the same abilities that make them ideal for those kinds of serious work also make them perfect for the simpler pleasure of sightseeing. There’s no better way to see sights like the spectacular Sunshine Skyway bridge or the respective skylines of Tampa and St. Petersburg than by helicopter. There are plenty of companies in and around central Florida offering breathtaking tours of our beautiful beaches, lovely cities and rugged interiors. We’ve put together a list of some of those companies.
540 1st St. SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Safari Choppers carries unique paint jobs with one in a white-and-black-stripe zebra scheme and another in a red-and-yellow-striped style. Walk-ups are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis with fees starting at $39.95. Taking off from St. Petersburg’s waterfront Albert Whitted Airport, the Sunshine Skyway is just a short hop away along with the sparkling beach communities and the chance to see sea life in the shallow waters along the beaches. Safari also has a full menu of special themed tours for weddings, anniversaries or Valentine’s day.
Florida Suncoast Helicopters
81391 N. Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34243
Sarasota isn’t Tampa Bay’s biggest city by any means, but the city and the county have plenty of scenic spots that show up well from the air. Based at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, Florida Suncoast Helicopters offers a variety of tours. Among the most notable sites are the John and Mable Ringling Museum and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. The spectacular beaches of Siesta Key are a can’t-miss, and for a taste of old Florida, the Sarasota Kennel Club makes for an interesting flyover. The abundant marine life near the coastline can produce breathtaking views of sharks, porpoises or perhaps even a whale or sea manatee.
12651 International Drive S.
Orlando, FL 32821
The Orlando area doesn’t have the spectacular beaches of Florida’s coastal cities, but the overhead view has plenty of points of interest whether you’re flying out of Orlando Helitours’ Orlando or Kissimmee locations. Disneyworld, EPCOT and Sea World/Universal all take on a new perspective when viewed from the air. One of Helitours’ special offerings is a nighttime tour that gives customers from its Orlando location an aerial view of EPCOT’s famous “Illuminations” fireworks show.
Related: Best Flying Adventures in Tampa Bay
Old City Helicopters, LLC
825 Severn Ave.
Tampa, FL 33606
Flying out of the Peter O. Knight Airport on Tampa’s Davis Island, Old City Helicopters has four choppers ready to go. The low-flying ability of helicopters allows bird’s eye views of landmarks such as the Sunshine Skyway, the Florida Aquarium and the University of Tampa’s famed minarets. Old City offers a lot of flexibility that can accommodate a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a helicopter flight. Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. As with all helicopter flight services, weather and weight restrictions may apply.
West Florida Helicopters
107 8th Ave. SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
West Florida Helicopters bills itself as more of a training center for would-be chopper pilots, but it does offer two-person tours lasting up to an hour. Got something in particular you want to see? For an extra charge, you can arrange a custom itinerary. Not only does this company offer sightseeing tours, it has also partnered up with Seaduced Watercraft Adventures to offer packages that include helicopter tours and either a private boat rental or two-hour sailing adventure out of Tampa, Sarasota or Bradenton. Whether your preference is to see everything from a bird’s eye view or to get up close and personal with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico or Tampa Bay, West Florida Helicopters has a cure for either craving.
Related: Best Travel Agencies In Tampa Bay
Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at Examiner.com.