Flying the Hunter Valley

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It’s still dark as we slowly ascend a couple of hundred metres above the field below and ahead of us the first hint of sun peeks over the mountain range. Before long, the blackness turns a deep purple and then red and nobody says a word. It’s peaceful up here and the only noise that breaks the silence is the occasional burst of flame that sends the balloon a little higher.

The 360 degree show then kicks into full swing with a bright orange landscape blazing for five minutes before shifting into yellow and then finally normal daylight takes over.

This is a sunrise flight on board Balloon Aloft in the Hunter Valley and it’s the reward for a  very early start at 4am for our one hour journey over one of Australia’s most famous wine regions.

We cruise at a couple of a hundred metres over the seemingly endless landscape of vineyards, pretty homesteads and small country towns that make this part of the world so unique. For the first half an hour, everyone is in their own world just taking it all in and our pilot, Daren Pallett, gathers us together for our group happy snap from a camera extended out and away from the balloon. It’s that classic shot that everyone loves and from there the chatter begins with basically universal agreement that this is one of those special experiences which can’t be matched.

Daren guides us over some tall eucalypts and brings us down closer so we can see the up close and he assures us that with more than 1,000 balloon flights under his belt, he knows what he’s doing. “It’s nice and calm today so I’m totally confident with where I’m going,” Daren explains. “But if there was any hint of wind, I probably wouldn’t attempt this.”

He tells us he’s an expat Englishman who’s married an Australian girl and now has a small child, and this is his new patch. “I’ve got to know the Hunter Valley so well now and when you get days like this, I don’t get too homesick.”

We cruise over a few more large vineyards and drop down into a vineyard next to a man-made lake which casts a mirror image of the boat shed on its eastern end. Apparently the owners don’t mind Balloon Aloft making landings, and we spend five minutes taking in the tranquil scene before taking off again and returning on our one hour flight. 

Fortunately it doesn’t seem as the one hour went too fast, but as always, this is the type of journey you could do all day long and never get bored with it.

For your chance to win a one hour Balloon Aloft flight for two people in the Hunter Valley make sure you enter our latest holiday competition worth more than $2,250. 

We're here to offer you holiday competitions and other free stuff to win as the only competition magazine in Australia. Our free competitions will also feature as Facebook competitions and we'll also provide you with travel guides and travel advice as a hotel advisor and we'll be reviewing spa day packages, food and gourmet reviews, reviews of cruises and check out spa day hotels. Keep checking back for our regular travel reviews for first-hand accounts and photography from some great destinations, hotels, cruises and airlines, along with our reviews on must-have travel accessories.

For more info on Balloon Aloft visit or phone +61 (2) 4991 1955

Ben Hall