Hot air ballooning is a peaceful way to sight-see. You have to rise early for a hot air balloon flight, but the experience beats a sleep-in every time.
As you float over a world that is only just waking up, your smile will be as wide as the horizon. With the exception of Queenstown, hot air ballooning operators in New Zealand are usually found in the flatter parts of the country - Canterbury, North Auckland, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa.
North Island flights will take you above lush rural areas, where you can observe an ornate natural tapestry of pasture, crops, vineyards, forests, roads, rivers, lakes and towns.
Flying from Hamilton, you’ll soar over farmlands and the mighty Waikato River. On a clear day, you can even see the mountains of Ruapehu, Pirongia, Te Aroha and Taranaki. Farms, orchards and vineyards laid perfectly against a backdrop of the majestic Te Mata Peak mark your ballooning adventure in the Hawke’s Bay. Seen from a balloon, the serenity of the Wairarapa countryside is mesmerising. North Island is also home to two top annual ballooning events – Balloons Over Waikato (held in March in Hamilton) and Wairarapa Balloon Festival (held in February in Masterton).
In the South Island, the imposing Southern Alps provide an impressive snow-capped backdrop for hot air balloon flights that float over the sprawling patchwork of the fertile Canterbury Plains. In Queenstown, a hot air balloon ride will see you soaring high above the mountains, over Lake Wakatipu and Shotover River.
From inflating the envelope at the beginning of your adventure to the champagne breakfast that marks the end of your flight, hot air ballooning is a long-lasting thrill. There really are few places as spectacular as New Zealand to tick off this bucket-list item.
Most hot air balloon companies offer daily flights, weather permitting, very early in the morning during the summer months. Safety is of paramount importance, so all pilots and equipment are maintained to the highest standards approved by the Civil Aviation Authority.