‘Had a great birthday. The best view you could get of Greater Melbourne … Everyone should try this once in their life.’ This was a rave comment left on TripAdvisor by Paul L, a hot air balloon reviewer, and my sisters and I couldn’t agree more.
One of my sisters’ birthday was coming up, and we weren’t quite sure what to give her as an ideal treat. After weeks of research and lots of back and forth, we all agreed we’d found the perfect adventure, something none of the three of us had experienced yet—a hot air balloon ride.
Hot air balloon days start at the break of dawn and make for very early mornings. It’s also usually biting cold at the meet-up site—where you take off from—which is often a park or garden. It’s therefore recommended to show up for the balloon ride in layered clothing (sweaters; jackets; socks; and sturdy, closed, comfortable footwear) as you’ll be on your feet throughout the ride—no high heels allowed.
(It’s also at the meet-up site where you get acquainted with your fellow passengers; the average hot air balloon can carry around ten people, including the pilot.)
Also recommended to carry on your person are a camera, sunglasses, and a hat or cap. But no need to worry too much about your camera; most hot air balloons have cameras installed to take professional photos and videos of you during the ride.
When flying in an aeroplane, there’s the sometimes mindless confidence of being in a closed off vessel to travel in, but with hot air balloons, there’s nothing but a wicker basket and a balloon to safely transport you through the wide-open air. This, of course, is the fascination of it all.
The set-up (and pack down) of the balloon can be just as exhilarating as the ride for some, and often, you can just ask the crew if they need a hand, and they’ll happily let you chip in. If this isn’t your jam, like most explorers, you can simply watch by the side while the professionals get everything into gear. However, just watching the gigantic balloon fill up with hot air from the burner can be so exciting in itself.
The balloon then slowly lifts off and has you floating at a height of about 3500 feet in no time. It’s a smooth, calm, and peaceful ascent, one that’s barely noticeable as the balloon travels in the direction of the wind.
Watching the sunrise while atop the sky in a hot air balloon is not only sensational but also breathtaking. Equally unforgettable is the bird’s-eye view of some of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks. Depending on the weather and route of the day, you’d be able to float over and have a magical view of the Yarra River, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Eureka Tower, and sometimes, the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes.
It’s worth noting that Melbourne is one of the only cities in the world to have hot air balloons flying over it. Very few cities have this luxury, making this tranquil open flight even more special.
Whether it’s for a birthday, anniversary, holiday or your ordinary weekday morning, a hot air balloon ride makes for a perfect treat—even for those scared of heights. The all-standing flight (no sitting allowed) is a luxurious adventure that bonds you and your loved ones together as you float over suburbs, parks, and lakes, while slowly watching the city wake up. The flight also offers an opportunity to make new friends and connect with them in what would be one of life’s most unique experiences.
After about an hour of soaring over a changing landscape at sun-up in the hot air balloon, the licensed and experienced pilot navigates the balloon to the landing site. The arrival back to the ground is a bitter-sweet moment. On the one hand, we’re all thrilled we got to check something off our bucket lists, but on the other hand, we’re all disembarking, yearning for more and wanting another ride.
But all is not lost. A few minutes later, the hot air balloon crew drives us to a five-star hotel for the traditional after-hot-air-balloon-flight gourmet champagne breakfast. This consoles us—the experience is not over, at least not yet.
For about $425 per head, the hot air balloon flight is more than just a ride; it’s an experience with memories to last a lifetime.
*Current hot air balloon rides may be subject to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check with your balloon flight company for any changes.
L P (5 May 2021) ‘Melbourne sunrise balloon flight & champagne breakfast’, TripAdvisor, accessed 7 May 2021.