Full of Hot Air: Great Ballooning Adventures
If you're heading into Australia's heartland to visit Ayers Rock, make the trip south to Alice Springs for a balloon flight over Australia's dramatic Red Centre. In the still dawn, your flight over the vast central desert of Alice Springs, populated with kangaroos, wild horses, and wallabees. You can also witness the first light strike the ancient red rocks of the McDonald Range. Champagne-breakfast flights cost about $140 (AU) for a half-hour flight, or $220 (AU) for an hour. The launch site for Outback Ballooning (01161.8.8952. www.balloons.in.australia.as) is 12.5 miles (20 km) south of Alice Springs. Australian itineraires that include a visit to Ayers Rock can be booked through Adventure Center (800.227.8747 or 510.654.187. www.adventurecenter.com).
In the Sydney area, Balloon Adventures of Australia (01161.2.9622.5267. fax: 01161.2.9622.6414) stages a one-hour flight followed by a deluxe restaurant meal ($180 AU). The company also customizes multiflight itineraries.
To float over the wine country of Melbourne and Vcitoria, try a dawn flight with ace Chris Dewhirst of Balloon Sunrise (41 Dover Street, Richmond. 01161.3.9427.7596. www.balloonsunrise.com.au/~hotair/).In 1991, Dewhirst set a world record flying his balloon over Mt. Everest. No such peaks beckon in Australia, but the feat attests to the pilot's expertise. Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world that allow dawn balloon flights in its airspace. In the Yarra Valleyone of Australia's premier wine growing regionsyou can waft over a patchwork of Victorian vineyards at dawn, and then visit wineries in the afternoon.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication