Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cairns - Hot Air Ballooning - A First Timer's Journey

When the Montgolfier brothers made the first manned, 20 minute hot air balloon flight in Paris in 1783, they were two months behind an earlier, unmanned French flight carrying a sheep, a rooster and a duck. The earlier flight crashed, killing all on board.  The Montgolfiers landed safely.

While Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier saw Paris from the air, they could not have imagined the sun rising out of the Coral Sea in Far North Queensland, nor watching kangaroos jumping in the Australian bush.

Hot Air Ballooning has thrived since that first manned flight, and modern materials and technology have made it possible for hot air to carry people as high as 68,986 feet (21,027 metres). The longest flight is 320 hours and 33 minutes.

While there is plenty of hot air in the world - particularly in the political arena - and using it for flight is a great way to experience the still of early morning.

The Atherton Tableland is an escarpment that runs parallel to the coast behind Cairns, and it provides excellent conditions for hot air ballooning. The Tableland is a northern part of the Great Dividing Range, the inland range that runs all the way up the East Coast of Australia. Near Cairns it varies in height from 1,600 to 4,200 feet (500 - 1,280 metres). The height tempers the tropical climate of the coast. 

Atherton Tableland

First explored in 1875, it was settled by John Atherton - the town of Atherton bears his name - when he discovered tin and gold in 1877. The Chinese who came to the area to work on the goldfields created what was the largest Chinatown in Australia by 1900, and they pioneered the agricultural industry.  Little remains of the Chinese influence, though it can be seen at the recently restored Hou Wang Temple near Atherton. Today, the crops grown are sugar cane, mangoes, peanuts, avocados and macadamia nuts. Beef and dairy cattle are also raised.

So, let's take a hot air balloon ride. You will be picked up at your hotel well before sunrise, and by the time the sun climbs out of the Coral Sea on the Eastern horizon, you will be high in the air. Kangaroos graze mainly at sunrise and sunset. As the sun rises, it shines almost parallel to the ground, throwing a giant shadow of a jumping 'roo over the landscape. It can only be seen from the air with the right conditions.  If you are lucky - and most are - this will be one of your great memories of Australia.



  1. Wow amazing blog and photography, it makes me want to visit Australia so badly, it's my dream. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Tom! We're glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Australia is my dream inspired me to go with this article...nice job!!!

    1. I'm so happy to read your comment, thanks! I hope you get to visit SOON! :-) If I can answer any questions you might have, please just let me know.

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