The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is held each March on the lawns of Old Parliament House and it is, well, pretty damned spectacular indeed. The sight of 30 or more hot air balloons breathing fire on crisp Canberra Autumn mornings is something everyone should experience at least once.
When I arrived at the BalloonSpectacular, there were hot air balloons writhing and heaving all over the place trying to lift their rotund bodies up from the dewy grass. Little by little, they sprang to life with blasts of warm orange flames burning against a drizzly morning sky. The sounds were what I imagine a dragon would sound like if it was sighing and there was plenty to look at while the balloons took between half an hour and an hour to inflate. The nearby Old Parliament House looked lovely at ‘blue hour’, the John Gorton Building looked more cosy lit up at dawn than its usual sulky self and the nearby National Library and War Memorial across Lake Burley Griffin were looking very photogenic too.
Its funny how the city looked so different at the ungodly hour of 530am as I drove along Parkes Way to make sure I’d catch the balloons before they drifted away. It was fresh and pretty and so many of the buildings looked lovely draped in lights. This hidden beauty is probably the only nice part about getting up so early but I really would say if you are wondering whether to se the alarm, go for it. The balloons start inflating around 6:10am but realistically, if you got there around 6:30 or even 6:45 you would most likely still see the stragglers.
Balloons started gradually lifting off around 6:30am and one tip I would give you (depending on the wind) is to head over toward Acton and set up with a view of the water to get some nice pictures of the balloons hovering just over the lake. Unfortunately I left the run a bit late and they were up quite high so I then headed to the Arboretum which gave a seriously lovely picture of the city of Canberra dressed in a misty cloak studded with bright balloon jewels. It was sort of a shame that there was no sunrise to speak of because of the rainy weather but I kind of enjoyed the moodiness of the sky broken by the joyfulness of the balloons.
I really would recommend coming along to the Canberra Balloon Spectacular if you are in the city in March – just keep in mind it is sooooo dependent on the weather conditions it isn’t funny – it has to be just right for them to lift off so you might have a couple of false starts before you actually get to see a balloon.
The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is held on the lawns of Old Parliament House over nine days each March and plays host to balloons from around the globe.
Try to arrive between 6:10 and 6:20am to make sure you don’t miss the action.
There is parking on nearby streets and breakfast and coffee is available on site.