Our Hot Air Balloon Over Atherton Tablelands Experience

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The Atherton Tablelands in Tropical North Queensland was the setting for our early morning hot air balloon ride from Cairns.

Before arriving in Tropical North Queensland, I was of course, familiar with it being the location of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, but wasn’t as familiar with the Atherton region before visiting.

The scenic Atherton Tablelands are known for its biodiversity. Its where you will find highlands, rainforest, wetlands and savanna, all wrapped up in one 17 square kilometer area.

If you want to get panoramic views of the tranquil country landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands, then the best place to do this is from the air.

kangaroo waving on hot air balloon

Our hot air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands helped us to really get a sense of the diversity of this area, and it instantly became one of my favourite regions in all of Australia.

But if you’re not sure whether a hot air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands is for you, then keep reading to learn about our experience.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Tourism Queensland, but all thoughts, ideas and opinions in this guide are our own.

Our Hot Air Balloon Over the Atherton Tablelands Experience

a hot air balloon on the ground

Our day started early with a 4.15 am pick up from the Oaks Port Douglas Resort.

Yep, sunrise is the best time for your hot air balloon in Cairns!

Most of the hot air balloon tours include a hotel pick up from your Cairns accommodation. The time of your pickup depends on the time of sunrise, which changes throughout the year, so look this up before you confirm your date of travel.

Likewise the tour finish time depends on the time of sunrise, but you are usually back in time for breakfast.

Starting your day watching the sun rise over the rolling hills is an experience.

hot air balloons in the sky

We got to the launch site opposite Mareeba Heritage Centre, outside Cairns, where we met with our pilots and crew.

We got there as early as possible to get in the first balloon that takes off.

Otherwise, if you’re photographers like us, the light gets hazy real quick. Plus, you get to witness the spectacular balloon inflation display before your flight.

It’s pretty special to look out over the at all the colourful balloons flying. In fact, this is where you’ll find Australia’s largest fleet of hot air balloons.

a hot air balloon in the sky
hot air balloons in the sky

It looks like you are at a Balloon Festival. I especially loved the waving kangaroos and wallabies! This area is known for its native Aussie wildlife, so it’s a nice nod to the region’s uniqueness.

Gliding along with the gentle breeze, the thing you notice most about floating in a hot air balloon is the silence – except when the propane burners are firing.

There is a calmness on board as you rotate around the basket, and whilst we weren’t airborne for long we enjoyed the 360-degree picturesque views of the greenery below before floating gently back down to earth.

people in a hot air balloon

Soon we were up! Soaring over the plains and vast wonderland of the breathtaking Atherton Tablelands.

As the sun gently rises, you’ll barely notice you’re moving as you glide over fields, swamps and grasslands.

The panoramic views left me feeling awe-inspired.

The sensation of weightlessness combined with the gentle breeze against your face just makes you feel calm and relaxed.

a woman looking at valleys

After 30 minutes of gliding, we began our descent. Although 30 minutes isn’t long, it was long enough.

It can get cold up there, especially at that time in the morning.

But I don’t think I could ever tire of those views.

overview of fields
overview of a field with trees

A little thrill for us on the coach transfers back into Cairns – two lovely young English lads, who were in our balloon, asked us if we were that Australian couple who have a travel blog. Hey look, we’ve made it!

We then chatted for the rest of the balloon journey and shared with them our tips for travelling Oz.

We flew with Hot Air Ballooning Cairns who operates flights daily, (weather dependent) from the Atherton Tablelands, Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove.

They offer door to door transfers included in your Cairns hot air ballooning tour ticket. We received an outstanding service and would highly recommend them as a company to fly with. See rates and availability here

Tips For Your Hot Air Balloon Experience

Before you book your hot air balloon tour from Cairns, be aware of the following words of advice:

  • Have comprehensive travel insurance (be sure it covers hot air ballooning and has medical cover), just in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Make sure it has trip cancellation insurance, as often flights cannot depart due to weather conditions. Usually if that happens you will receive a refund of any part of your tour costs.
  • Ballooning is not suitable for any pregnant persons
  • The minimum age is 4 years and those under 18 must travel with a guardian or parent
  • It is a CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) requirement that you be able to climb in and out of the basket unaided using the footholds provided
  • You need to stand up for the duration of the flight, and the baskets aren’t exactly wide-open spaces. If you get claustrophobic or have mobility issues where you can’t stand for long, this might not be the experience for you.
  • Inform the tour company of any necessary medication, disability issues or medical problems. This is so they can aid you with any special requirements you may need.

FAQs About A Hot Air Balloon Tour of Atherton Tablelands

How many passengers are in the hot air balloon?

Most balloons can accommodate up to 20 passengers in a Atherton Tablelands hot air balloon tour.

How high do you fly on a Atherton Tablelands hot air balloon tour?

The fleet altitude is around 2,500 feet.

How old do you have to be for Atherton Tablelands hot air balloon tour?

The minimum age requirement is 3 years old. Anyone under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Would We Recommend A Hot Air Balloon Tour of Atherton Tablelands?

Being the nature lover that I am, this area just speaks to me.

Located just one hours drive west of Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands are a sub-tropical haven spread over an area larger than the state of Tasmania. Who knew?

Our first encounter in the area was our adventurous, or should I say tragic mountain biking experience. This time, we would be taking things a lot SLOWER and admiring the region from the air.

Turns out, North Queensland is one of the most popular places in Australia for a hot air balloon flights. The weather is favourable, and the picturesque landscape not too shabby.

We’d definitely recommend a hot air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands to anyone who wants a unique sensation, lots of laughs, fun holiday memories, and a once in a lifetime experience.

Once you’re done with your hot air balloon flight, consider indulging in some of the regions gourmet food and wine, hike to the waterfalls, or explore other adventure attractions in Tropical North Queensland like white water rafting, jungle surfingscenic flights, scuba diving, the Kuranda train, and stand up paddle boarding.

You can get tickets for the Atherton Tablelands Hot Air Balloon tour here. You can experience a 30 minutes or 60 minutes balloon flight over Far North Queensland Atherton Tablelands.

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