Growing up in England, I can’t say that I ever thought I’d visit Australia, let alone its ‘Red Centre’. A night in Uluru, or Ayers Rock, was a privilege and I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.
Uluru has its own dedicated airport, the Ayers Rock Connellan Airport. Pre-coronavirus, Jetstar and Virgin Australia both flew into (and out of) Ayers Rock airport from Sydney on a daily basis. Jetstar also operated a regular service to Ayers Rock from both Melbourne Tullamarine and Brisbane. The flight time to Ayers Rock is roughly three hours from all three of these major cities.
On arriving into Ayers Rock Airport, guests staying in the Ayers Rock Resort (discussed below) have a complimentary coach transfer by AAT Kings to their hotel. This does not need to be booked in advance. Alternatively, car hire options are available. There are no taxis.
Where to Stay
The Ayers Rock Resort is a complex of accommodation options and facilities located just 20 kilometres from the famous rock. The range of places to stay is very impressive and caters to all, from the Ayers Rock Campground through to the luxury, all-inclusive Longitude 131 hotel, where one can relax in one’s personal plunge pool with an unimpeded view of Uluru (costs for which start at approximately GBP £2,700 per room per night – gulps).
We were incredibly fortunate to be able to stay at the 5-star hotel option ‘Sails in the Desert’. Subscribe to my blog to make sure you receive my future blog post reviewing this hotel.
What to do around the Ayers Rock Resort
Surreal is the word to describe the Ayers Rock Resort: it is so bizarre to find this collection of hotels and amenities in the middle of nowhere. The resort is built around a ‘Town Square’ which offers dining options (including the very ‘punny’ Ayers Wok noodle bar), a supermarket and a gift shop, alongside a tourist and information centre, an ATM and a post office.
We ate at the Gecko’s Cafe for dinner, which offered a menu of gourmet pizzas, pastas, salads and steaks, in addition to the stereotypical culinary fare of crocodile ribs and kangaroo burgers.
We visited Uluru in December, the height of the Australian summer, and the temperature was over 40 degrees Celsius for our trip. It was pretty tough trying to explore the resort in the heat of the day and so, unsurprisingly, we opted for some cool down time by our hotel’s pool. Interestingly – as a side note – despite such high temperatures, this area is classed as a semi-arid environment rather than a desert. A desert is defined as an area receiving less than 250mm of rainfall a year, while Uluru receives slightly more than this with 308mm of rain a year on average.
Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park
I think it’s fair to say that nobody travels into the outback just to spend time at a resort. Thankfully, there are a whole host of different excursions and events that will keep you occupied at the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park. You can have breakfast by Uluru, take a segway tour around Uluru, watch a light show next to Uluru, have a BBQ by Uluru, go on a cycling trip around Uluru, ride a camel around Uluru – the list is truly endless. Of course, you can also just make your own unguided way around the park too.
Anyone entering the National Park must be in possession of a valid entrance pass, which must be kept on your person at all times while in the park. Most tour tickets do not include this national park entrance fee. The fee is AUD $25 for an entrance pass that is valid for three days (and can be extended for two further days at no additional cost).
If you’ve read some of my blog pieces before, you’ll know that I love a few quick fire facts and so here are a few about Uluru:
- Anangu (the name used for several Aboriginal Australian groups) own the National Park and lease the land to the Australian Government. Uluru is sacred to Anangu.
- Evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have inhabited the lands for over 30,000 years and Anangu still live traditionally across these plains.
- Anangu are guided by Tjukurpa, the religious philosophy and laws linking them to the environment and ancestors. Tjukurpa stories are passed verbally from generation to generation and contain survival lessons (such as where to find water and food) as well as rules for appropriate behaviour.
- Uluru rises 348 metres above the surrounding plain which is higher than Paris’ Eiffel Tower – its size really did astonish me.
- More than 250,000 visitors come to the national park annually.
- The north-east face of Uluru is of great cultural significance to Anangu and therefore visitors must not take photographs of this section.
And, of course, the national park does not just stop at Uluru. Approximately 30 kilometres from Ayers Rock you will find the 36 domes of Kata-Tjuta, another (and even bigger!) red rock formation spanning an area of over 20 kilometres. Also known as the Olgas, Kata-Tjuta reaches heights of approximately 546m above the surrounding plain, or 1,066 m above sea level.
Uluru Sunset Tour
We only had time in our itinerary to embark upon one of the many Uluru tours that are on offer – trust me, if you’ve read what we got up to in our three weeks in Australia over Christmas 2019 then you’d know why – and so I’m sure you’re all wondering: camel or segway tour?
Thankfully, neither. We opted for the Sacred Sites and Sunset half-day tour, with a cheeseboard and sparkling wine. This tour consisted of three parts – the first being a visit to the Cultural Centre. At the Centre, you can learn about Anangu history and culture, along with viewing traditional arts and crafts, such as dot paintings.
For the second segment of the trip, we were taken up close and personal to Uluru on the Kuniya Walk and we were shown the Mutitjulu Waterhole, along with some incredible Aboriginal inscriptions that had been painted onto Uluru. Anangu have taught the authorised guides some of their learnings (parts of which the guides must keep strictly confidential) and so it was great to have such an informative and interesting tour. The third part of the tour then comprised of watching the changing colour and atmosphere of Uluru while the sun was setting, with sparkling wine on tap and plenty of good food. It was also possible to purchase artwork from Anangu at the sunset viewing point.
This tour was truly amazing and you can book tickets here. If you like a tipple and a nibble, then this is definitely the trip for you. There is so much snack food to get through – cheeses, crisps, crackers and more. Plus, you can keep on returning for refills of your glass of sparkling wine! I certainly did. You can take the girl out of England…