travel

"This bucket-list activity made me feel like I was on a Bachelor date. Only better."

Global Ballooning
Thanks to our brand partner, Global Ballooning

Going ballooning at least once in your lifetime is probably on your bucket list. I know it’s been on mine.

Of course, we see the world from up high when we’re travelling on a plane, or when we’ve scaled a mountain. But there is surely no view quite like looking down upon a beautiful landscape as you glide, ever so gently, through the sky – followed by a celebratory glass of champagne to commemorate the sights.

And I can now confirm: yep, there’s no view like it.

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An amazing view of the Yarra Valley at sunrise. Image: Sophie Aubrey.

To mark the September long weekend, my fiancé and I took a hot air balloon flight with Global Ballooning Australia. The company operates daily sunrise flights in two locations: Melbourne and the Yarra Valley.

While Yarra Valley flights can be done after a 45-minute drive from Melbourne, we thought we'd make a weekend of it by spending a couple of nights away in the wine region, punctuating our stay with a balloon ride.

First up, we were impressed by the entire process leading up to the big day. After booking in, I jumped on my smartphone and downloaded the company's app. It had literally everything I needed to know about my upcoming flight, as well as basics about ballooning and safety information. Nifty.

It meant I didn't need to stress about making last-minute calls to find out if my scheduled trip is going ahead. Ballooning, after all, is very weather dependent. There is a small chance a ride will need to be rescheduled if conditions are forecast to be unsafe or just too miserable - and thank goodness for that, because you want to be up there with the best possible view.

So, what this app does is notify you the evening before. On Saturday night as we were heading out for an early 6pm dinner, a notification popped up: the flight was going ahead. Our listed itinerary was as follows: arrive at Balgownie Estate at 4.30am. From here, after a quick cuppa, we are driven off to the launch site and we help set up our balloon. Once ready to go, we take off and fly for about an hour. After that, we land, pack up and head back to the winery for a champagne buffet breakfast. Perfect.

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John and I were placed in a balloon with about 11 other passengers, plus our pilot Steve. And I've got to say, setting it up was far more fun that I imagined, thanks in large part to the crew who do a great job of getting people involved and excited. Watching the balloons gradually swell with air and start to lift upwards was fascinating. These things are far bigger than you think.

John helped by carrying the opening of the balloon while the burners blasted into it. I helped by... taking photos.

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John holding the balloon with the burner blasting, nearly fully inflated. Image: Sophie Aubrey.

There are 20 take-off spots and 40 landing spots speckled across the Yarra Valley, with the support of local business-owners. You don't know until the day where exactly you'll be travelling to and from, and that's all part of the experience; you might take off beside a vineyard and later land in a paddock with nearby cows.

A peer inside the balloon while it's inflating. Image: Global Ballooning.
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Setting up for the flights at dawn. Image: Global Ballooning.

While pilots can accurately control the altitude of a balloon using blasts of burners, the balloon is entirely carried by the wind. What most people don't know is that the wind will have varying speeds and directions at different altitudes - and that's what pilots use to get you from point A to point B.

When we all jumped into the basket and began to lift off, the sun was only just rising.

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The view shortly after take-off. Image: Sophie Aubrey,
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During our flight we travelled from south to north, and we reached heights of about 4500 feet.

Steve did an amazing job zipping us across a variety of heights to capture all sorts of views of the region, including the Yarra Valley's rolling hills and the nearby Sugarloaf Reservoir Park, and all under a spectacular soft sunlight. But I must say, my favourite sight was when we were peacefully floating above a thick sheet of white, fluffy clouds. Like being in a dream. I joked to John that it's a shame we're already engaged.

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My favourite view. Image: Sophie Aubrey.

I can get a bit afraid of heights, but because the speed of ballooning is so gentle, I had no issues. The hour flew by as we drank in the landscape, and at the end of it, I was in awe at how precise Steve managed to get our landing.

Packing up was a smooth process and the buffet breakfast at Balgownie Estate was a total treat (I had about four plates, don't judge).

I'd definitely recommend this to people, particularly to mark special occasions like a wedding anniversary or a birthday. Or heck - a marriage proposal. The company even has a balloon specifically for this purpose, with the words "will you marry me?" written on it. Families can also take the trip, as long as children are age six or older.

And if you can, make a weekend of it like we did. The Yarra Valley has so much to offer for visitors. Ballooning is a wonderful way to see the country - and if you're from Victoria, a gorgeous way to see your own backyard.

For more info, including rates and accommodation packages, visit globalballooning.com.au or just gaze dreamily at their stunning Instagram.

This content is brought to you with thanks by our brand partner, Global Ballooning Australia.

Global Ballooning

At Global Ballooning Australia, we’ve shared a sunrise with over 100,000 people in 30 balloons over 26 years. Our interactive flights provide passengers with a new perspective of Melbourne and the Yarra Valley. We’re proud of our perfect safety record, and we care about comfort, but for us, it’s all about the people we meet along the way. It’s a wonderful thing, to be able to give someone the experience of a lifetime.

Receive a 20% discount for a balloon flight with Global Ballooning, quote: MM20

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