Do you have hot air ballooning on your bucket list? Do you dream of floating soundlessly at dawn over vineyards and rolling hills? Then Barossa hot air ballooning is definitely for you!
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I was recently gifted a Barossa Valley hot air balloon ride and jumped at the chance to go. I had been hot air ballooning before, and knew this would be another incredible experience. My husband rates our first ballooning experience as the best thing he has ever done while travelling – and we have done some pretty cool stuff.
The Barossa Hot Air Ballooning Experience
Since I was gifted this experience from someone who had planned to go but couldn’t, the date was already set for me. As you probably can imagine, hot air ballooning is very weather-dependent. The balloons can’t go up in rain, or wind, or even if it’s too foggy. My first booking was cancelled due to bad weather. My second booking was cancelled due to high winds. I finally got to go up on the third try. Chatting to the others with me, this seemed to be fairly usual, so be prepared to be a little flexible, especially if you book well in advance.
The good news is Michael from Barossa Valley Ballooning was great to work with to rebook each time the fickle weather put a halt to my plans. Eventually I got the call that the flight was to go ahead. The bad news, even for an early bird like myself, was that I had to be at the pickup location, the Novotel Barossa Valley, at 4:30am! I don’t necessarily recommend driving up from Adelaide on the morning of the flight like I did, but it is definitely possible.
The flights are timed for sunrise, and since this was late November, it was getting close to the longest day of the year and the earliest sunrises. If you wanted to aim for a later morning, I would consider late September, just before daylight savings starts in early October. This is when sunrise in the Barossa Valley is the latest, and generally the weather has started to improve.
As our whole group gathered together to hear the rules and how things were going to go for the morning, we were told that again the weather in the Barossa Valley itself looked a little bit uncertain. The decision was made to drive further afield to the town of Blanchetown on the banks of the Murray River, a little over an hour away.
We arrived in Blanchetown just as the sun was coming over the horizon. There is a second Barossa hot air balloon company, and they had chosen the same place for their morning flight too, and we saw then just lifting off as we arrived. The job then was to get the balloon in the air. It takes around half an hour to set everything up, inflate the balloon, go through all the rules and get ready to go.
it happens quite slowly at first, getting the basket off the trailer and unravelling the balloon, but then all of a sudden the balloon is filled and vertical, we’re all rushing to get in the basket as quickly as we can, the ropes are let go and we are away!
Taking off is a smooth and serene experience – there’s no rushing along the runway or the. noise of propellor blades and engines. There is the occasional “whoosh” of the gas flame as hot air is added to the balloon and the warmth of the flame was easily enough to take the slight chill out of the air. The basket doesn’t rock or bump, it just lifts gently off the ground, and it’s only when looking over the side that it’s even noticeable that we are now flying.
For about an hour we floated with the wind, over, up and around the Murray River. Sometimes we were up quite high – we got up to around 800 feet (about 250m) – and other times we were just metres above the ground. Sometimes we skimmed the treetops, and Michael did some fancy flying and had a few people worried we were going to fly right into the cliff along the river. We had a good laugh at the kangaroos. They would not even notice we were above them until a blast of hot air was put into the balloon. At the sound they would scatter, darting off in all directions.
About half way through the flight we had a practice of the brace position we would all need to get into for the landing. This was as simple as bending our knees while putting our backs up against the compartment walls in the basket, so we were sort of sitting while leaning backwards. We had to also secure any loose objects. The camera around my neck, for example, had to go inside my jacket so that is couldn’t flip up at hit myself – or someone else – in the face.
When it came time to land it was uneventful. We simply plopped onto the ground in the middle of a paddock. The guys in the vehicles had followed us, and were there to grab the ropes and start pulling the balloon over to one side as the pilot opened the vents, showing us all how it works. It’s quite fascinating really!
Everyone pitched in to help tame the balloon and stuff it back into it’s huge bag. The basket was loaded back into its trailer and we all piled into the cars for the trip back to the Novotel Barossa Valley.
We were all starving by this stage, and were glad to see the champagne breakfast awaiting our arrival. We had the usual buffet-style breakfast offered to the hotel guests. At the time of my ride, thanks to covid, the buffet was modified so that visitors were not handling the food, but it was still a great meal. My requirements for plant-based food were able to be catered for. I hadn’t thought to let them know in advance because I hadn’t done a booking in the usual way, whoops! I asked for margarine instead of butter and almond milk and they were able to get them both for my muesli and toast. Everyone else dug into plates of bacon and eggs, croissants, fruit salad, yoghurt and some great smelling coffee!
An added extra was offered during breakfast – we could purchase the photos taken by Barossa Valley Ballooning during our flight. I took advantage of that offer, and the photos of the balloon in flight above are all taken by them. There is a camera that hangs from the balloon near the basket so there are also other photos included that are close ups of the basket with everyone in it, but due to privacy of the other participants, I have not included those photos here. There was also a video of the balloon as it took off.
Overall Thoughts on Hot Air Ballooning in the Barossa Valley
If you are still wondering where to go hot air ballooning, the Barossa Valley is one of the best places to go hot air ballooning thanks to its proximity to the city centre of Adelaide. It’s also the only hot air ballooning SA has to offer. At most it takes about one hour to get to the meeting location. It’s also a bonus that they can fly in at least two different areas so that if weather is bad in the valley then they can move to Blanchetown, as happened with me.
I was pleased that once the decision was made to fly, everything went very smoothly. Strangely, the cancellations made me feel even more confident that the balloon would only go up in perfect weather. I was not at all worried about the safety aspect.
I realise this is almost impossible to get right every time, especially since a last minute decision was made to go to Blanchetown, but I would have liked to have been in the air half an hour earlier than we were, just to have those beautiful golden sunrise colours while we were in the air.
Overall I would happily recommend Barossa Valley Ballooning, and think this experience is one everyone should try once. It is different to what you think, and so calm and relaxing.
What to Wear Hot Air Ballooning
I have to include this here, because one of the girls on my hot air balloon Barossa flight got it a bit wrong. Actually, she got it very wrong.
To get into the balloon you literally have to climb up and over the side of it. There are foot holes in the side of the balloon to help with this. This means short dresses and skirts are not only a hinderance to climb in, they can be a little…revealing…too!
So I suggest some sort of pants that gives enough movement to climb into the basket. I also recommend a light jacket in summer, even if it’s warm as it may be a little cooler up in the air. In winter you will want to rug up. A thick jacket, beanie and gloves would be ideal.
For footwear, I suggest something sturdy with closed toes. Again, you are climbing into the balloon, so heels will be hard to deal with. Also, there is no way to know exactly where you are going to land, but it will likely be out in the middle of a paddock somewhere with rough ground. We landed in a big prickly patch, and even my Sketchers were not great in this situation.
Random Fact – ever wondered how hot is the air in a hot air balloon? Our pilot told us that the top of the hot air balloon has air at around 100 Celcius.
Barossa Valley Hotels
If you are planning to stay the night before your hot air balloon Barossa Valley adventure – and I recommend you do, both to make life easier for the crazy early morning and to have some extra time to enjoy all the Barossa Valley has to offer – here are my recommendations for where to stay.
Novotel Barossa Valley Resort
This one is an obvious choice if you are coming to the Barossa Valley just to go hot air ballooning, since that is where the group meets and returns to after the flight. While I did not stay there this time, I have stayed two or three times in the past. The Novotel Barossa Valley Resort is a comfortable 4-star hotel. It is located amongst the rolling hills and grapevines at Rowland Flat, just south of Tanunda. This is a great choice if you are looking for a easy option with everything on site.
Discovery Parks Barossa Valley
The second time my flight was cancelled I had already come up to the Barossa for the day, so even though the flight was not going to go ahead the next morning, I ended up keeping my accommodation booking with Discovery Parks Barossa Valley. I had already changed it once from the original date, and I found them to be fantastic with doing this at the last minute. They understood the circumstances with the hot air ballooning and were happy to change my booking only hours before I checked in. I did have to upgrade to a larger cabin though as the style I had originally selected was booked out, but I though it was better to pay a few dollars more than forgo the whole booking, which was entirely within their rights.
This park is one of the biggest and best served parks I have been to. There are a wide variety of accommodation options from unpowered sited to family cabins and luxury glamping tents (which I’ve booked for a short break in a few months!). They have a great swimming pool, water play area for the kids, and a huge camp kitchen. It’s also dotted with BBQ facilities around the park so no need to go to the main one if you don’t want to.
A Second Option – Balloon Adventures
While I did my flight with Barossa Valley Ballooning, if you need a second option for your Barossa hot air balloon adventures, there is one called just that – Balloon Adventures. As I said above, we saw these guys take off and fly in the same place we did. I actually got some fabulous photos of their balloon – since it’s hard to take photos of our own while we are in it! The details of the flights are almost exactly the same as the one I took, and they are actually a tiny bit cheaper if that is a consideration, especially if looking to book hot air ballooning for 2 or more people.
Getting to the Barossa Valley
Located just one hour north of the Adelaide City centre, there are many ways to get here are you could almost consider this an Adelaide hot air balloon experience since it’s so close.
I recommend driving to the Barossa Valley from Adelaide as that will give you the most flexibility and freedom to explore. It will also be the best choice if you are driving up just for the hot air balloon ride.
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.