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What to buy for family this Christmas: Experiences in Australia

With Christmas approaching at an increasingly alarming rate, finding the perfect gift for your loved ones often feels like an impossible task – and an expensive one.

But now Aussies are being offered the chance to ‘give more memories and less stuff’ by buying a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

From hot air ballooning over NSW’s stunning Hunter Valley region, to sunset catamaran cruising, cheese making and even diving with sharks, Red Balloon’s festive gift selection is sure to satisfy even the pickiest family member.

Here’s a guide to some of the wackiest and most wonderful experiences available.

Hot air ballooning over the NSW Hunter Valley wine region may be just the ticket for a special loved one, with the package including a champagne breakfast at a vineyard

Hot air ballooning over the Hunter Valley with a champagne breakfast: Two people, $678

Sprinkled with endless valleys of vineyards and farmlands, the Hunter Valley offers the perfect backdrop for a hot air balloon flight. 

An early start ensures you’ll be floating into the skies just as the sun begins to rise over the remarkably stunning wine region – creating a stunning moment no one will forget.

Even watching as the massive balloon is inflated is a spectacle in itself, as the professional and flawless staff expertly use a mixture of fire and gas to ensure the balloon safely carries you across the rolling meadows.

After hopping into the traditional basket, the peace and tranquility is intoxicating as you slowly drift over the picture-perfect vineyards in a golden sunrise hue. 

When you land back on the ground, you’ll be transferred back to a top vineyard – Peterson’s – to sample their delicious sparkling wine over an a la carte breakfast – and you’ll even get pictures to take home and make all your friends jealous.

Diving with sharks is on lots of brave people's bucket lists (pictured, the experience at Sydney's Sea Life aquarium)

Diving with sharks is on lots of brave people’s bucket lists (pictured, the experience at Sydney’s Sea Life aquarium)

Shark diving at Sea Life Sydney aquarium: $329

Dive in at the deep end for the ultimate test of your nerves with this thrilling underwater guided tour that allows you to explore Sea Life Sydney’s four million litre Oceanarium in full scuba equipment. 

You’ll come face-to-face with grey nurse sharks, seven-gill sharks, giant stingrays and an abundance of exotic fish during this dive, with fully qualified instructors there to ensure you get the absolute most from this exhilarating, never-to-be-forgotten experience. 

Suitable for both certified and non-certified divers, your experience will begin with an ‘Introduction to Scuba Diving’ briefing and pool skills session prior to you taking the plunge and will conclude with an afternoon theory class.

Haloumi cheese is many people's BBQ highlight - and on this course you can learn to make it with a loved one, all while enjoying bottomless bubbles

Haloumi cheese is many people’s BBQ highlight – and on this course you can learn to make it with a loved one, all while enjoying bottomless bubbles

Haloumi cheese making with bubbles: Two people, $80

Uncover the secrets behind creating salty, firm and delicious haloumi that you love during this hands-on cheese making class. 

Accompany expert instruction with bottomless bubbles and you’re sure to create the tastiest haloumi you’ve ever eaten. 

Take home a haloumi recipe and 250g of your own cheese. 

Jet boat Sydney jet blast: Two people, $110

Jump on board a specially-designed jet boat for an exhilarating 35 minute tour of Sydney Harbour. 

Not holding anything back, your expert guide will race across the water reaching speeds of up to 75km/h and perform mind-blowing manoeuvres including 270-degree spins, wild fish tails and awesome power break stops. 

The boat has a 20-degree dead-rise which gives the vessel a smoother ride through the occasional rough conditions of Sydney Harbour.

Quad bike adventure tour: $119

Live a little on the wild side as you explore the magnificent sand dunes of Port Stephens by quad bike. 

Begin your tour along the tracks in the coastal grassland and scrub, before arriving at the vast expanse of the sand dunes. 

Your guide will take you over more and more challenging dunes as the hour goes by, testing your skills as you zip up and down the sandy hills. 

From the peaks, which can be up to 100 feet high, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape including the gorgeous coastline.

A picnic in Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens could be perfect for the more relaxed person in your life

A picnic in Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens could be perfect for the more relaxed person in your life

Picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens by Luke Nguyen: Two people, $140

While away a gorgeous afternoon amongst the flora and fauna of the Royal Botanic Gardens enjoying an indulgent picnic curated by Luke Nguyen. 

All you need to do is collect your picnic box from Botanic House at your selected time and find a tranquil spot in the expanse of the gardens. 

The box features an array of savoury and sweet treats, expertly blending South East Asian flavours, Australian produce and native ingredients with a fresh, modern twist. Savour the likes of spring rolls, honey pork charcoal bao and cream caramel pudding with coconut sponge cake paired with a bottle of wine.


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