These Greater Brisbane hot air balloon flights take off from Ipswich, and fly over the stunning Scenic Rim and Somerset region. You’ll also enjoy fabulous views of the Brisbane city skyline, Mount Cooth-tha and beyond. A hot breakfast and a glass of bubbles are included. Duration: 3 hours (1 hour of flying time)
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
Even as a non-morning person I’ll be the first to admit that dawn is highly underrated.
It’s such an awesome time to be awake. The air is cool and refreshing, the light fragmented and wistful. Mist rises gently from surrounding paddocks where sleepy cows eye our group somewhat suspiciously. A halo of light is just perceptible on the eastern horizon. It’s truly serene — and on any normal day I would miss it entirely.
Not today. This particular paddock outside Ipswich, 30 minutes’ drive west of the Brisbane CBD, is the launch site for Floating Images, which offers a one-hour Greater Brisbane hot air balloon flight.
Our soon-to-be winged chariot is currently lying flat on the damp grass and we’ve just completed the mandatory safety briefing with affable owner and operator Graeme Day. With his ballooning career spanning 25 years and 2,000+ hours of flying experience, I feel we’re in safe hands — and I get the feeling Graeme is just as excited about today’s flights as he was 25 years ago. He’s also a passionate advocate for Ipswich and the Greater Brisbane and Scenic Rim region over which we’ll soon be soaring.
Ipswich is home to 200,000 residents but the setting, just outside the city centre, is quintessentially rural. Floating Images is Brisbane’s closest hot air ballooning experience and if you are staying in and around the Brissy CBD you have the option of hiring a car and heading out under your own steam or Floating Images can arrange a reasonably priced transfer.
While the traffic is pretty well non-existent at this time of the day you will still be booking an early wake-up call. Our appointed meeting time is 4.45am at the Metro Hotel Ipswich International and everyone is bang on time. From there we all clamber into the Floating Images troopie for the short drive to the launch site.
It’s quite a majestic sight as the balloon slowly begins to rise, taking shape above the basket which can comfortably accommodate ten guests. There’s just eight of us today so plenty of extra space. Some are celebrating a significant birthday; others are taking the opportunity to tick off a bucket list top ten. Paperwork and pre-flight checks completed, we’re invited to climb aboard.
Take-off is almost imperceptible and the ground drops noiselessly away. Actually, one of the first things that strikes you is just how quiet this whole experience is. Apart from the periodic roar of the gas-fired jets forcing warm air up into the envelope (as the balloon itself is technically known), it’s an almost silent affair. For the first ten minutes or so we’re all pretty quiet too, wowed by the incredible 360-degree views.
Our flight has many highlights. First, the countryside itself around Ipswich: a patchwork quilt of paddocks and fields that glisten as the sun begins to rise. Mount Cooth-tha and the Brisbane city skyline are visible to the east, as is the deep blue expanse of Wivenhoe Dam to the west. The Scenic Rim, a semi-circle of volcanic peaks and part of the Great Dividing Range, forms a majestic backdrop.
As the flight progresses, Graeme shares his expert knowledge of the region and various points of interest. There’s even a bit of high-flying aerial photography, via a camera strategically attached to what looks a little like a trapeze artist’s rope ladder. The camera performs a thrilling mid-air manoeuvre, gliding into place up under the balloon and capturing a group shot. As you would expect there are plenty of selfies despatched back to earth too.
At the highest point of our flight we reach 3,000 feet and far below us Ipswich slowly comes to life. Old country Queenslanders dot the countryside and residential streets begin to stir. Our bird’s eye view of the RAAF Amberley Base is amazing.
After an hour we begin our descent, drifting at 100 metres or so above backyards as Graeme looks for a suitable landing site. Surprised locals step outside in their PJs for a better look and a friendly wave as we glide by, before touching down in a grassy paddock — under the watchful gaze of yet another bunch of cattle.
Pack-up is a group effort. We then head back to the Metro Hotel for an included (and much anticipated!) hot breaky and a glass of sparkling wine. Everyone receives a flight certificate and there’s the opportunity to purchase the inflight photos.
Farewells completed, we all take our leave — and the day stretches out before me. Time for a little ‘non-morning person’ catch up snooze.
Adam travelled as a guest of Floating Images.
Additional images: Bigstock
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the Tour the World travel TV series on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hoi An.