Floating through the air in a hot air balloon is magical experience like no other, and in Western Australia, unless you own your own, there’s only one place you can do it.
Just an hour north of Perth, Northam is the home of ballooning in WA, and was even the departure point for a record-breaking solo balloon trip around the world, made by Russian pilot Fedor Konyukhov in 2016. Perth, due to its tumultuous winds is not suited for ballooning. Northam, however, is sheltered, providing perfect ballooning conditions and incredible views across the rolling green hills and fields of the Avon Valley.
During the spring months, you’ll also be able to witness golden fields of canola emerging out from the morning mist.
Chief Pilot and Director of Windward Balloon Adventures, Damien Hayes grew up in Northam and has been flying hot air balloons for years, taking over the company 22 years ago. Windward was established back in the early 80s by early ballooners in the region who wanted to offer it as an experience to people looking for something a bit different.
There are three pilots running tours from the beginning of April to the end of November. Flights last for about an hour. In winter, passengers are required to meet at the airfield in Northam at 6am and as the weather heats the meeting time moves to 4am, so you have to be up bright and early! Generally, only two balloons will fly each morning, taking groups of either 20 or smaller groups of up to 10.
In terms of the flight path, Damien says it’s all up to Mother Earth.
“We go where the wind takes us. We choose the launch side, which dictates roughly where we head and on different mornings we’ll travel through various areas, through the hills of the Avon Valley.”
Having spent many misty mornings in the air, Damien says that it’s the sedateness and serenity of a balloon flight that makes it so unlike any other flying experience.
“Apart from the occasional puff of the burner, it’s utter silence, it’s very tranquil, there are no bumps or air pockets, and strangely no air sickness of fear or heights.”
“You don’t get the same height feeling in a balloon that you would looking over the side of a bridge or a tall building. You kind of lose that gravity feeling, as you’re floating through the sky at a gentle speed. It’s not at all like an aeroplane!”
When you touch down you’ll be able to see how the balloon is disassembled before being swept off to Rivers Edge Café, where you can reflect on your journey as you enjoy a champagne breakfast.
A flight will set you back $350 on weekends, and $300 during the week. If you are looking for a private tour for a special occasion, Damien is happy to arrange it.
Visit their website for bookings and more details.