The Hunter Valley region is beautiful regardless how you see it, whether it be from the car window driving by, in a horse carriage while on a wine tasting tour or on horseback through the vineyards, but nothing can beat the bird's eye view on flight a hot air balloon!
This sunrise hot air balloon experience with Hunter Valley Ballooning Co booked via Experience Co is definitely high on the list of some of the must do's in the Hunter Valley region! I'm no early bird, I much prefer a lazy sleep in, however to see the sunrise from this perspective is enough to make even the most stubborn early risers keen to lose those extra hours of sleep!
From Newcastle its about a 50 minute drive or if you stay at the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley the night before you get a little bit of a sleep in as this is the meeting point of the morning. As this experience is weather dependant, the pilot, Daren, rang me the night before to confirm pick up location and time.
Arriving at the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley at 5:15am, the crew and passengers all gathered around for a safety briefing and what to expect on the morning. Hunter Valley Ballooning Co have different launch sites all over the Hunter Valley area which are decided on weather conditions. Our launch site was about a 20 minute drive from the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley so we all hopped onto the shuttle bus which would take us to our destination, to my relief it was well heated which was greatly appreciated on this chilly morning. This time of the morning is when the kangaroos are most active, so be sure to look out and see if you can spot any!
Arriving at our launch site we saw a couple of other balloons preparing for their flight, it was really cool to watch how it's all done! Watching our balloon preparing for inflation was truly magical, it didn't take as long as I expected and you don't realise how big these balloons really are until they are right in front of you!
There's no graceful way entering the basket, you step into a couple of slots in the basket and throw you leg over to get inside, there was about 15 passengers on this morning's flight so it was very cosy once inside the basket, but still enough room to turn your body around. As the pilot pumped fuel into the balloon we slowly lifted off the ground and on our way upwards!
I was very surprised by how steady the basket was, there was not the slightest bit of sway or movement which certainly helped in calming my nerves and I was super excited to greet the sunrise a very good morning!
As we gained height the views left me absolutely breathless! The warm morning sunrise provided a golden glow on the valleys below which were also covered in a blanket of fog, it really felt like I was in a fairytale land! The photo opportunities were simply amazing and just the feeling of being up in the sky with nothing but the sound of the occasional fuel was so serene!
After about an hour in the sky we were ready to make our descent. Getting into our landing position, where you have your back against the inside of the basket and knees bent, there were a few small bumps until the basket came to a complete stop. Hopping out we were greeted by a herd of cows curiously approaching to check out all the fuss, the look on their faces were priceless!
As the balloon slowly deflated, we were given the opportunity to check out the inside of the balloon and it is absolutely huge, definitely gives you a great perspective!
Packing up is a team effort, this balloon is heavier than it looks and after the amazing flight we just had it's the least we could do to help, plus the quicker we pack away the quicker we can have breakfast!
Hopping on the shuttle bus we made our way back to Mercure Resort Hunter Valley to feast on a buffet breakfast accompanied with a glass of champagne. You are given the opportunity to purchase a USB for $25 which has photos taken on your flight by the crew's GoPro which is attached to the balloon, totally worth it for the memories and the stunning views and perspective! Add this hot air balloon experience to your bucket list, you will not regret it!
Hunter Valley Ballooning Co