Love takes flight: 8 Australian balloon adventures

Hot air balloon

Australia’s hot-air balloons are flying again. So, if you’ve been dreaming of a sunrise drift with your sweetheart, it’s time to put this romantic adventure back on the itinerary.

Sure, it’s an early start. But hot coffee and the building anticipation as your balloon takes shape are sure to take the edge off the pre-dawn chill. Then there’s the flight – 3,000 feet above the earth with unobstructed views and a peaceful calm punctuated only by the thrilling roar of the burner. It’s a high like no other (and best enjoyed in pairs).

And to top it off? Most operators offer breakfast and sparkling wine at the end of your journey, honouring an 18th-century tradition where pioneering French balloonists would pack Champagne as a peace offering to farmers wary of the strange flying machines landing in their fields. Cheers!

Share a basket with a small group of like-minded adventurers (the most economical option) or splash out on a private, once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Here’s eight of Australia’s top destinations for a breathtaking balloon flight.

Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Imagine floating gently over the vast expanse of the Central Australian outback, taking in the rugged MacDonnell Ranges, historic cattle stations, native wildlife, and remote desert landscapes swept with spinifex. Outback Ballooning offers flights from $305 (shared basket), light refreshments on arrival, and transfers from all Alice Spring accommodation. Book your balloon here

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Another glorious dawn breaking over the outback. Photo: Outback Ballooning

Byron Bay, NSW
Byron Bay is blessed with Australia’s first glimpse of sunrise. So, what better place to enjoy a balloon adventure than this gorgeous east-coast enclave? Balloon Aloft offers a Sunrise Flight with Breakfast which includes a first-light flight with magnificent ocean and hinterland views, take-off and touch-down from The Farm Byron Bay, and a gourmet breakfast at the beloved Three Blue Ducks Restaurant. From $269 per person (shared basket). Book your balloon here

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Balloon Aloft was the first operator to offer hot-air balloon passenger flights in Australia, back in 1980. Photo: Byron Bay vistas with Balloon Aloft.

Mareeba, North Queensland
Aren’t we the lucky ones? One of the world’s ballooning capitals is right here in Queensland, thanks to consistent flying conditions almost year-round. The lush highland region of the Atherton Tablelands and Mareeba (south of Cairns) is a magnet for balloon enthusiasts. If you want the best odds of your basket taking to the skies (after all, flights are reliant on safe and stable weather) head to Port Douglas or Cairns for a Luxury Tour with Hot Air Balloon. From $670 per person you’ll enjoy private transfers and chauffeur, a romantic flight, and breakfast at award-winning Nu Nu Restaurant. Or try Raging Thunder Adventures who pioneered balloon flights in Mareeba Valley in 1993. Prices start at $259 per person for a half-hour flight (self-drive) with transfers from Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas also available.

What a way to start the day. Photo: @elizasum 

Canberra, ACT
While Canberra may not spring to mind as a ballooning hot spot, the landmarks of Australia’s capital make for a memorable trip. And if you’re not keen on sharing your basket, see the Romantic Flight for 2 from Balloon Aloft Canberra which includes champagne and chocolates and a full buffet breakfast at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra from $2,080 per couple (note: Hyatt breakfast temporarily unavailable due to COVID restrictions, check their site for updates). Book your balloon here

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Canberra is also home to the annual Balloon Spectacular (next one is March 2021) where over 30 balloons take flight from the lawns of Old Parliament House. 

Launceston, Tasmania
Planning a special trip to Tassie? Add a private balloon flight over the postcard-perfect Meander and Tamar Valleys in the island’s north with Hot Air Balloon Tasmania. Their Diamonds in the Sky special occasion flight includes your own hot-air balloon basket plus Tasmanian sparkling wine, inflight & ground photos, a three-course lunch, and free hotel transfers (L‘ton hotels) for $1,599 per couple. The company is also offering a Local Lift Off package for Tasmanian residents including a flight, breakfast, and photos for just $299 per person (shared basket). Book your balloon here

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Beautiful balloon on your bucket list? Photo: Hot Air Balloon Tasmania

Melbourne, Victoria
While drifting peacefully over a patchwork of green is heavenly, we also love the idea of soaring over a cityscape. Melbourne offers several opportunities to do just that with Global Ballooning restarting their Private Balloon Flight for Two with Champagne Breakfast. Enjoy a private sunrise hot air balloon flight over Melbourne plus breakfast at Pullman on the Park from $1,995 per couple. Book your balloon here and check local operators for current availability.

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First light over Melbourne. Photo: Global Ballooning

Barossa Valley, SA
Ballooning over the Barossa. Yes please! This super scenic and globally renowned wine region (about an hour north of Adelaide) is a top spot for a sunrise ascent. Barossa Valley Ballooning offers a one-hour flight followed by a superb breakfast and bubbly at The Cellar Kitchen Restaurant at Novotel Barossa Valley Resort. From $300 including breakfast (shared basket). Book your balloon here

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Cheers to that! Photo: Barossa Valley Ballooning

Avon Valley, Western Australia
A rural idyll of rolling hills, lush fields and meandering streams, Avon Valley in Northam is about an hour from Perth and perfect for ballooning. Windward Balloon Adventures offers a leisurely flight and a Champagne breakfast at River’s Edge Café overlooking the Avon River from $300 per person (shared basket). Book your balloon here

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Watching your balloon take shape in the pre-dawn light is all part of the experience. Photo: Windward Balloon Adventures

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