The 4 Best Hot Air Balloon Rides in New Zealand

Flying over the Canterbury Plains with Ballooning Canterbury
Flying over the Canterbury Plains with Ballooning Canterbury | © thinboyfatter / Flickr
Thalita Alves

Hot air ballooning is a great way to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for that ideal romantic outing or you’d just like a bit of peace and tranquility, a sky-high tour of the country’s exquisite landscapes will always be an incredible treat. Here’s your first glimpse at the very best options you’ll have at your disposal.

1. Ballooning Canterbury

Natural Feature

© thinboyfatter / Flickr

Ballooning Canterbury offers Christchurch visitors an unique perspective of the Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains. Sunrise is the preferred departure time for these guided tours, though start times may vary according to the time of year and the current weather conditions. If you don’t have a car, the company can arrange courtesy transfers from selected Christchurch accommodation providers. Tours are offered year-round, typically run for 4–5 hours and are hands-on — passengers are actively encouraged to help the pilot and crew to set the balloon in motion.

Hot air ballooning over the Wairarapa

The North Island’s Wairarapa region is renowned for its Balloon Festival, which is usually held around Easter and has been going on for nearly 20 years. The festival alone would be a treat for those who like to admire these airborne beauties from solid ground; but if you prefer to spend some time exploring the region from up above, you’ll be pleased to know there are guided tours you can explore. Red Balloons, for instance, has weekend flights departing from the towns of Masterton and Levin at dawn. This experience is primarily available from late spring to autumn (i.e. November–June) and will provide visitors with plenty of panoramas of the picturesque vineyards that tend to attract visitors to this part of the country.

2. Kiwi Balloon Company

Natural Feature

© XPinger (Chris Sutton) / Flickr

Along with being home to the iconic Balloons Over Waikato festival, Hamilton is a fantastic go-to spot for hot air balloon tours. Kiwi Balloon Company is the main operator in the region, flying above the city to cross over the rolling farmlands and stunning Waikato River. On a clear day, your hot air balloon ride will provide you with great views of Mount Pirongia, Te Aroha and even Mount Ruapehu and Taranaki from a faraway distance. Once the balloon touches back on the ground and everything’s packed for the day, passengers are invited to celebrate their endeavours with some complimentary snacks and a glass of bubbly.

Sunrise Balloons Queenstown

Queenstown is much loved for its postcard-worthy lake and alpine vistas. Sunrise Balloons embraces the popular resort town’s stunning natural features by offering hot air balloon rides that depart daily. As with all other tours of its kind, this one’s weather-dependent; you can typically expect flights to depart at dawn in summer and early morning in winter. Passengers are encouraged to help the crew inflate the balloons before setting off and to bask at the various scenic highlights on show, including Lake Wakatipu, Lake Hayes, the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers as well as iconic Lord of Rings film sites like Mount Earnslaw (the home of Isengard).

Hot air ballooning in Queenstown, New Zealand

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