It's early in the morning – so early it could almost still be considered night. There's dew underfoot and barely a sound to be heard, except for the first birdsong of the morning and the roar of a fire a few feet away. Being awake is a challenge in itself, but suddenly you're lifted off the ground and you've never felt more awake or more alive.
"I've always wanted to do that" is a common refrain when the topic of hot air ballooning comes up at dinner parties or lazy weekend brunches. It's just one of those 'things' that seem to be reserved for special occasions, like popping the question or celebrating some sort of milestone. But wait too long and suddenly those romantic notions of ballooning are put on a pedestal and morph from 'doable' to 'unattainable'.
No more waiting and wishing; no more fear of missing out. You only need one reason to go hot air ballooning in Tropical North Queensland, and that's because you want to! If you're another year older, another decade married or about to put a ring on it, that's just a bonus.
Companies such as Hot Air Balloon Cairns and Raging Thunder Adventures run daily flights of fancy, floating high above the patchwork landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands. Cairns' highland region is prime territory for ballooning, with lush rainforest meeting red, fertile farmland, and long country roads snaking their way across the plains.
From your vantage point in a basket high above the ground, you'll have a bird's eye view of sleepy country towns waking up: tiny cars taking kids to school, toy-like tractors tending to the fields. It truly is an experience that leaves you without words, but gives you plenty of tales to tell afterwards.
During 'peak hour', the skies above Mareeba and surrounds can be filled with a family of bobbing balloons, with groups of high-fliers watching dawn break and soaking in the scenery on a half-hour journey. After touchdown, a coach is waiting to take visitors back to their accommodation, their next Cairns to-do or a local cafe to swap stories over breakfast.
For those who've opted for the VIP treatment with Hot Air Balloon Cairns, a magical 30-minute ride into the heavens becomes a private hour-long glide over the Tablelands, followed by a gourmet breakfast and a bottle of bubbles to take home. You're setting the bar pretty high for future romantic gestures, if you choose the latter.
A hot air balloon ride is just one of the incredible ways you can take in the beauty of Tropical North Queensland, along with a leisurely self-drive journey from beach to hinterland, an underwater adventure out on the Great Barrier Reef, and a two-way sojourn to Kuranda via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Scenic Railway.
If hot air ballooning has been on your wish-list for too long and you find yourself where the rainforest meets the reef in Tropical North Queensland, embrace the opportunity and see this beautiful part of the world from a new perspective.