Margaret River, Western Australia © Swan River Seaplanes
Exclusive experiences in Australia’s skies
Take flight and see Australia from a whole new perspective with these luxury air tours.
By Ralph Bestic
From scenic day trips via seaplane, to grand tours of the outback by private jet and even bar-hopping by helicopter, there are plenty of luxury Australian air tours to choose from. Here’s how you can head to lunch at a destination that’s just a bit too far to drive to in a day, or take in the country’s distinctive beauty from the skies.
From Sydney Harbour to river pearling
In the 1930s, Sydney’s Rose Bay was home to Australia’s first international airport, from which flying boats would set off on the long haul to London. Now this high-end waterside suburb is where you will find the Sydney Seaplanes terminal, your gateway to scenic flights and day trips up and down the unmissable east coast.
On the Shellar Door experience, your seaplane pilot takes you on a 20-minute flight north and touches down on the languid Hawkesbury River. Here you will cruise the waterways and discover the local oyster farming and pearl industry, as well as enjoy a bespoke picnic hamper lunch with fresh Sydney rock oysters and pearl meat. At the day’s end, relax in the Empire Lounge at the Sydney Seaplanes terminal and marvel at a Sydney Harbour sunset.
Get a bird's eye view of Canberra
Take strolling amongst the sprawling vineyards, misty farms and city landscape to the sky, and embrace the region in a romantic hot air balloon. As the sun rises along the horizon, magnificent hot air balloons fill the sky. Canberra is the only place in the world where you can float above a nation’s capital, so it’s truly something unique.
Experience the thrill of ascending over a changing landscape at sunrise with Balloon Aloft Canberra. The cold air hits your cheeks as you take flight, ascending into the morning sky. Meeting just before sunrise, you will get cozy in the basket and float up to secure prime position for the golden sunrise as the sun fills the valley and lakes with soft morning light. Complete your morning with a sparkling breakfast at a nearby cafe to slowly ease into your day.
From coast to outback in South Australia
Explore the coastal beauty and rugged outback wilderness of South Australia on Airtours’ Ultimate South Australia signature tour. The seven-day journey by private aircraft takes off from Adelaide, and within half an hour you’ll be touching down to spend two days exploring the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Kangaroo Island. After a decadent stay, you’re whisked off on a 50-minute flight north to the dramatic Gawler Ranges to explore South Australia’s outback and bed down at the luxury Kangaluna Safari Camp. From there, a 45-minute flight takes you to the ancient Flinders Ranges, where you’ll stay in the homestead at Arkaba, a former sheep station turned nature conservancy. The journey concludes with a 50-minute flight back to Adelaide.
Experience Tasmania from above
Hobart’s bustling waterfront is the perfect launching pad for an Above & Beyond seaplane flight into the wilds of Tasmania. From the outskirts of Hobart, farmland rapidly becomes rugged bush as you fly to Lake St Clair, in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. After less than an hour in the air you’ll land at Pumphouse Point, a former hydro-electric pumphouse transformed into luxurious lodgings. Base yourself here to explore the surrounding wilderness, and add on a one-hour flight south-east for a luxury overnight stay on tiny Satellite Island, in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, which will be all yours.
Drop into the pub in Queensland
The “pub crawl” – gathering your mates and having one drink in a pub or bar, before heading to the next pub, and the next – is an Australian tradition. Take it up a notch with Brisbane-based Bekaa Air’s Helicopter Pub Crawl, a full-day private tour visiting five great pubs in south-east Queensland. Drop in on island pubs, such as The Gutter Bar on laid-back Moreton Island, just off the coast of Brisbane, and hinterland pubs, such as The Veresdale Hotel in dairy country south of the city. The longest flight between pubs is half an hour, and between stops, you’ll get bird’s-eye views of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and that fabulous, unforgettable Queensland coastline.
See the outback in style
Tour the outback in luxury with Skydance’s four-day Lake Eyre and Uluru Outback Air Safari. Starting in Brisbane, you’ll board your private turbo-prop plane for the flight to stay at Kilcowera Station, an organically run cattle station in south-west Queensland. The total flight time is 3.5 hours, broken up with a couple of stops in remote outback towns along the way.
The following day you'll fly around the spectacular Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre on your way to the iconic opal-mining centre of Coober Pedy in South Australia, where you'll stay in a lavishly furnished underground hotel after four hours in the air.
Fly into the wilds of the Northern Territory
Looking for a more tailored air experience? Bespoke travel planner Alquemie offers a number of exclusive Australian air tours, including a 16-day hosted small group air safari by private jet across the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Start the trip in Darwin before you set off on a two-day 4WD safari through UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.
After a 70-minute flight by light plane, you spend two nights at the fabled 200,000-hectare (500,000-acre) Bullo River Station, a working cattle farm southwest of Kakadu. From there, it’s just a 35-minute light plane flight to the luxe El Questro Homestead in Western Australia’s Kimberley, with a stop for a hike and helicopter flight over the beehive-striped domes of the Bungle Bungle Range en route. A combination of light planes and scenic helicopter flights take you to your last three stays: Kimberley Coastal Camp, Cable Beach Club and Sal Salis.
Then it’s a two-hour scheduled flight down the West Australian coast to your final destination: Perth. Easily one of the most exclusive and thrilling ways for a true adventurer to experience Australia.
Explore Margaret River in a day
If time is not on your side while you’re visiting Perth, a Swan River Seaplanes trip to the Margaret River wine region south of Western Australia’s capital is just the thing. It allows you to get a taste of this extraordinarily beautiful part of the world, where wine, cheese, chocolate, seafood, artisan crafts and uncrowded beaches are yours for the day.
Just an hour after taking off from Perth’s Swan River and enjoying a scenic flight down the stunning coastline, you’ll be disembarking to explore Margaret River’s pretty township, indulge in some cheeky samples of local produce, and enjoy a winery lunch. Be sure not to leave without at least one bottle of this region’s world-renowned wines.
Fly to lunch in Victoria’s King Valley
Soak up the views of the Yarra Ranges, just outside Melbourne, on your winery day trip with Australian Air Safaris. You’ll head up to the King Valley wine region in northern Victoria, and, after a 40-minute flight, land on the airstrip at the Brown Brothers winery estate. After a private tour of the iconic winery, founded in 1889, and a wine tasting of course, you’ll sit down to a memorable five-course slow food lunch and enjoy a relaxed afternoon of fine dining and finer company before heading back to Melbourne. For a souvenir, buy a bottle or two of something special – perhaps the superb Patricia Late Harvest Noble Riesling.