A Magnificent Hot Air Balloon Cairns (Atherton Tablelands)

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Atherton Tablelands Hot Air Balloon Ride, Queensland, Australia

“Uplifting by nature” is how it’s billed.

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

Before arriving in Tropical North Queensland I, was of course, familiar with it being the location of the Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation, and the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest.

But, throw in the Atherton Tablelands and the diversity of this area is why I now call it one of my favourite regions in all of Australia. Being the nature lover that I am, this area just speaks to me.a

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 flight. The weather is favourable, and the scenery not too shabby.

Our day started early with a 4.15 am pick up from the QT Hotel in Port Douglas.

Yep, sunrise is the best time for your hot air balloon in Cairns. Starting your day watching the sun rise over the rolling hills is an experience.

Get to the launch site as early as you can so you can get in the first balloon that takes off, otherwise if you’re photographers like us, the light gets hazy real quick.

It’s pretty special to look out over the at all the balloons flying – it looks like you are at a Balloon festival. I especially loved the waving kangaroo!

people in a hot air balloon

hot air balloons in the sky

a hot air balloon in the sky

hot air balloons in the sky

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.

a woman looking at valleys

overview of fields

overview of a field with treesa large empty field

a hot air balloon on the ground

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

P.S. A little thrill for us on the bus ride 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. We then chatted for the rest of the journey and shared with them our tips for travelling Oz.

The Facts

Hot Air Balloon Cairns operates flights daily, weather dependent, from the Atherton Tablelands, Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove with door to door transfers included in your Cairns hot air ballooning tour.

You can purchase your tickets for the tour here. You can experience a 30 minutes or 60 minutes balloon flight over Far North Queensland Atherton Tablelands.

A few hot air balloon safety tips:

Before you book your Cairns hot air balloon tour, be aware of the following

  • Have travel insurance (be sure it covers hot air ballooning.
  • Ballooning is not suitable for anyone who may be pregnant
  • 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

More tips for the Cairns region including day tours


We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:


  • Booking.com has 700,000+ hotels, apartments and hostels worldwide. Don’t forget checking Cairn’s northern beaches. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. Airbnb also has unique local homes to rent


  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

Disclaimer: We were guests of Tourism Queensland

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26 thoughts on “A Magnificent Hot Air Balloon Cairns (Atherton Tablelands)”

  1. My hubby and I were married in a hot air balloon back in 2002. Well, the basket of one anyway since it was too windy to fly or even inflate the balloon that day. We’ve still never been in a balloon yet together. Holding out for a very special place to have our first flight now!

  2. This is something I’ve always wanted to do! I’m glad ytou mentioend the tip about going early for the best lighting. The only time I’ve been able to see views quite like this was by going skydiving, but that sort of activity isn’t exactly conducive to photography. ;o)

  3. Hot Ballooning is amazing!!! We did a tour in the Finders Ranges, you get blinded by the rising sun a little but after a while your eyes adjust and it is INCREDIBLE to see Wipena pound from the air – would recommend it over a scenic flight.

  4. I find it funny you’re afraid of heights, but this doesn’t bother you! I’m afraid as well, although I might just have to make an exception and push myself to give it a try!

  5. I did the same hot air balloon ride in 2010 when I was in Cairns. First time in a hot air balloon. Beautiful scenery and experience until we crash landed in a field with the basket landing on it’s side. Luckily no one was hurt. Not sure if I’d do it again.

  6. I have never been on an Air Balloon but I would really love to. The view from up above seems to have been more than amazing! It is truly a great experience. Thanks for sharing it with us! 🙂

  7. Never taken a hot air balloon ride but from what I’ve been told its a very peaceful ride with some amazing views. Australia has to be one of the best places to do it as well I think.

  8. I’ve been hot air ballooning only once in Ouray, Colorado. I do remember the silence and was very surprised by that. The only negative to ballooning is the ungodly hour you have to get going.
    Looks very scenic where you went.

  9. Wow, Amazing pictures! But I am quiet afraid of heights though. I wish I could ride one, one day. Thanks for sharing such beautiful scenery.

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