The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is one of Canberra’s premier events. Visitors who time their visit to Australia’s capital city to coincide with the annual Canberra hot air balloon festival are in for a real treat. The one thing that seems to be consistent with hot air ballooning around the globe is that dawn is largely considered the best time to lift off. I am not a morning person, but I did drag myself from under the doona at 5.30am on a cool autumn morning to catch a glimpse of these magnificent flying machines. In 2019 the Canberra balloon festival is on from 9 – 17 March so now is the perfect time to start planning your trip. Read on for all the details …
What Is The Canberra Balloon Spectacular
The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is one of the longest running balloon events in the world and rates in the world’s top 10 balloon events. Hot air balloons from across the globe are featured and the line up changes each year. Over our two visits we have been blessed to see a whale, Darth Vader, an owl, a heart, a frog and a balloon modeled on the movie Up among others. If you are not content to watch the annual Canberra balloon festival from the ground, book a flight with Balloon Aloft or Dawn Drifters. Special packages are available during the Canberra Balloon Spectacular which include champagne, a cooked breakfast and a flight certificate. The flights are between 45 – 60 minutes and cost $395 on weekends and public holidays and $345 during the week. Balloon flights in Canberra can be booked year round starting at just $330.
Getting To The Canberra Hot Air Balloon Festival
Canberra is an easy 2½ hour drive from Sydney along the M5 and there is barely any traffic lights along the way. If you are coming from further away the best option is to fly. Canberra Airport (CBR) has direct Qantas, Pelican and Virgin domestic flights from Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Dubbo and the Gold Coast. The only direct international flights are from Singapore and all other international visitors will need to transit. I’ve visited Canberra a number of times, but prior to my visit in 2016 it had been a long time between drinks. The nation’s capital is often billed as boring so I wasn’t exactly enthused about out visit. The Hubs had recently purchased a new motorbike and wanted to take it for a decent run. I really can’t stand being on the back for more that about three hours so we put a pin in the map and surveyed our options. We have done hundreds of weekend trips from Sydney over the years and Canberra was the least objectionable option. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Canberra is actually pretty cool and there was more than enough activities to fill our Canberra long weekend itinerary. Parking at the festival is free, but can get a little busy. On our second visit we chose the Hotel Kurrajong Canberra as it was in easy walking distance of the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.
When Is The Canberra Hot Air Balloon Festival Held?
The Canberra hot air balloon festival is held annually in March. In 2019 the nine day event runs from 9 – 17 March 2019. Balloon flights are completely dependent on the weather so a decision is made at 6am each morning whether flights will occur or not. Check here for the latest updates before you commit to getting out of bed.
Best Canberra Balloon Festival Vantage Points
There are a number of vantage points to view the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. The balloons launch from the lawns in front of Old Parliament House and this is by far the most popular place for spectators to gather, but there are a few other options, particularly if you want to avoid the crowds. Lake Burley Griffin is a popular alternative and you can sit on the shores or hire a boat, kayak or SUP to take out on the lake itself. The Balloons often dip down towards the lake as they pass over before ascending once again. The National Arboretum, Mount Ainslie Lookout and Dairy Farmers Hill Lookout are also great options. Many spectators also choose to ‘chase’ the balloons after they have taken flight. The final landing place depends on the wind and Canberra has many suitable landing sites. If you want to be a chaser, you will need a car. If you don’t have your own I have always found Airport Rentals have the best deals.
What To Expect From the Canberra Balloon Spectacular
The Hubs and I attended the Canberra hot air balloon festival for the first time in 2016 and we returned two years later in 2018. Our plans to attend in 2019 were derailed by welcoming a new four legged family member. Charli is the most adorable French Bulldog on the planet and we are smitten. We booked our accommodation months before Charli came onto the scene and I was very grateful for Agoda’s free cancellation when our plans changed rather suddenly. The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is pet friendly, but Charli would have only been been 18 weeks old and we were not sure how well she would have coped with the crowds. We are planning to take her in 2020 when she is a little older and hopefully a little calmer. Having never attended a hot air balloon festival before I wasn’t sure what to expect on our first visit. We planned to attend Enlighten Canberra during our stay, but had no idea the Canberra Balloon Festival was even on until the receptionist at the Novotel Canberra mentioned it when we checked in. To be honest I wasn’t expecting a lot. Maybe a handful of people and a couple of balloons launching. I was in for a surprise. There was at least 30 different balloons of all shapes and sizes and eager spectators crammed in to every available inch of space to watch them take flight. To get the complete experience you need to arrive before dawn to see all the balloons being laid out and inflated. The delightful yellow glow of the early morning light casts eerie shadows across the lawns as the burners begin firing up. As I watched the budding photographers scoping out the perfect place to set up their tripods, I felt woefully inadequate with my trusty iPhone! The special shape balloons certainly garnered the most attention. The Canberra hot air balloon festival is family friendly and it was lovely watching the awe on the faces of so many little people. Some still in their pajamas! As the sun rises, all eyes are on the skies while live music plays in the background and the Belconnen Lions Club serve up a never ending stream of hot breakfasts to hungry punters.
Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
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Disclosure Statement: This post is not sponsored. The information in this article is based on my own personal experiences and has not been influenced in any way by the brand(s) featured. This post may contain affiliate links which if clicked may earn me a small commission on purchases at no extra cost to you.