They say you should start your morning on a high note and here in the Mudgee Region, we take things quite literally. Picture gracefully drifting more than 800 metres into the air while the sun beams through the mountaintops. It’s a remarkable sight: hot air ballooning over the Mudgee Region. But be prepared for a lot more than uninterrupted views.
Hot air ballooning in NSW
In 1962, Australia’s first manned hot air balloon graced the skies of New South Wales. This monumental aviation event – which occurred just a stone’s throw from the Mudgee Region – was led by Terry McCormack, a student from the University of Sydney. Little did Terry know that his morning flight would transform future aerial adventures across Australia into mornings of pure serenity.
Some 60 years later, hundreds of hot air balloons drift into the sunrise every dawn. They float peacefully over the state's diverse landscapes; tropical rainforests, beaches fringed by azure water and bucolic fields peppered with vineyards. It’s all about the latter in Mudgee – one of Australia’s oldest wine regions – where 18th-Century gold rush towns meet innovative wineries and farm-to-fork restaurants.
The Mudgee region
The name ‘Mudgee’ is derived from the Wiradjuri word Moothi, meaning 'nest in the hills'. Beneath these majestic mountains, a temperate climate nurtures fertile soil that has attracted farmers, chefs and foragers. Over time, the region’s food and drink scene has continued to flourish, placing Mudgee firmly on Australia’s food and drink map. Its impressive collection of award-winning vineyards and restaurants includes Pipeclay Pumphouse, The Barn at Blue Wren Farm, Logan Wines and Moothi Estate – to name just a few.
Fill your lungs with fresh mountain air and slow your mind to ‘countryside time’ with Balloon Aloft, who operate Mudgee’s morning hot air balloon flights. Your balloon experience begins in the cobbled courtyard of the 1850s-built Cade Kitchen & Bar in the heart of town, where you’ll return later to toast your breakfast with champagne.
From Cade Kitchen & Bar, you’ll be whisked away to your hot air balloon terminal. Unlike conventional flight terminals, where busy passengers rush to their gates, you can expect a laid–back departure at any one of Mudgee’s 12-plus launch sites. As for your captain, you’ll experience less shirt and tie and more of the humble welcome that Mudgee’s known for. The balloon takes 20 to 25 minutes to inflate, leaving plenty of time for questions or a good old yarn.
As you ascend into the blue sky above, Mudgee’s moody morning mist will no doubt capture the attention of your camera lens. Illuminating the fields with a blanket of white, this is the first of many ‘wow’ moments as the region’s beauty begins to unfurl around you. After take-off, Mudgee’s sky reveals the sunrise peeking through gold-tinted mountains, over charming 18th-Century towns and villages – Rylstone, Kandos, Gulgong and Hill End – and the topographies of Mudgee’s surrounding wilderness. As you lay your eyes on the landscape, you’ll notice a deep sense of awe; the green belt of mountains releasing your worries like a blown bubble floating into the air above you.
On land, the region’s seasonal produce is all yours back where the day began, at Cade Kitchen & Bar. Sit down for a scrumptious (and well-earned) gourmet breakfast with your fellow passengers and pilot. Head chef of Cade Kitchen & Bar, Renee Cade, goes by the motto, “Food is a reflection of your soul”. As you later taste your way around Mudgee’s wining and dining scene – which consists of more than 60 vineyards – you’ll notice a similar affection infused into every local business. Passion is profound here, and it’s palpable with every mouthful.
Brace yourself for a peaceful change of perspective and a new insight into this extraordinary pocket of New South Wales.
Looking for things to do in Mudgee? Discover, Michelle’s, Marketing Manager at Balloon Aloft, top five favourite things about the region:
1. “Mudgee's beautiful countryside! With its rolling hills, surrounding mountains and beautiful valley, conditions are perfectly suited for hot air ballooning”.
3. “Cade Kitchen and Bar. Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Cade Kitchen and Bar is my favourite place to dine in Mudgee”.
4. “The vibe of Mudgee. It's a beautiful Australian country town. I love the big wide streets, the fantastic shopping and the amazing selection of cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars. You are definitely spoilt for choice!”.
5. “Finally, I love the weather in the Mudgee region. You don't get the coastal weather effects in Mudgee so you are more likely to enjoy big beautiful blue skies”.
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