Earlier this year in May, I was lucky enough to take part in my first ever hot air balloon ride, over the desert & Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It was one of the first ever trips Em & I had been on together so when I knew I was coming to Australia it was only fitting that I planned for us to re-live this experience, this time over one of Australia’s premier vineyard regions- The Hunter Valley.
Located just one hour north of the Central Coast (where Em lives) and about 45 minutes south from Newcastle, the Hunter Valley offers the perfect backdrop for the flight of a lifetime. Our flight was scheduled to depart at sunrise (about 5:40am), meaning we had to be at the meeting point at 4:15am, this is to allow enough time to find the best take off point and so the pilot & team can test the winds. The team use a mini helium balloon, they send it up into the winds and the pilot follows with a compass- this is to ensure optimum safety whilst taking off.
Once the perfect take off location has been found, it’s time to set the ballon up. This is a fairly fast process and then the fun begins! We launched from the local school near Lovedale. Once up in the air there are picturesque views stretching as far as the eye can see, of all the wine regions including Pokolbin, Lovedale, Rothbury or Broke. We reached about 2000 feet (600 metres) which is higher than my previous flight. It was such a magical morning!
After about an hour in the air we slowly started lowering to the ground. Our pilot was explaining to us that there is no way to steer the balloon, it’s all 100% reliant on the winds so the landing process is quite interesting. Considering the balloon and basket with no people weighs around 1,200kg and when inflated the balloon contains around 425,000 cubic feet of hot air, thats a pretty large mass to control just based on the wind!
When we were back on the ground we helped the pilot and team pack up the balloon, it’s incredible how such a huge piece of nylon can deflate into such a small box. I thought it was super interesting to learn that the bottom third of the balloon is made out of nomex, which is the same material racing car drivers suits are made out of. This means it is completely fireproof- which makes sense.
We drove back to Peterson’s House for a gourmet breakfast & wine tasting at the vineyard. It was such beautiful vineyard & cellar door with some delicious wines - we tasted the sparkling Rose and moscato, it was the perfect end to our perfect morning. They had plenty of food options, variety for every taste, and AMAZING coffee too! Came in very handy before the 2h drive back home (after departing at 3 in the morning haha!)
If you are ever visiting Australia and want to explore the Hunter Valley region- I highly recommend checking it out from a birds-eye view. The whole experience was flawless and the entire team at Balloon Aloft are super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Not to mention, the wine region is such a gorgeous place. Even though this was my second balloon ride, I would definitely do it again. I love the feeling of floating through the air, it’s just so peaceful and calm, you can’t really compare it to anything else.
Things to Note:
The company was called Balloon Aloft. We booked it as an experience through Tinggly. Sometimes, due to weather and high wind conditions the flight may be cancelled. Call the day before the flight to double check. All flights are sunrise flights meaning it’s a very early morning