Slow down. It’s time to take a break and you’ve been meaning to see Uluru FOREVER. More than just a rock in the desert, it’s a slice of Australia just as rewarding to visit as a trip to Bali and beyond that’s easier – and cheaper – than ever to access.
Direct flights now operate in and out of Uluru, with frequent sales from most Australian capital cities. Look out for a bargain flight, or hop on a bus tour from Alice Springs.
Ayers Rock (Connellan) Airport lies just outside Yulara, the resort town providing services and accommodation to those visiting Uluru. To get there catch the complimentary shuttle, or use a hire car. If you look at the map and think, hey I can walk that! Don’t. You’re in the desert, remember? It’s hot and stuff.
You have two transport options: hire a car from the airport or use The Uluru Express bus. Considering the cost of bus tickets from Yulara to Uluru and Kata Tjuka, it may be cheaper for you to hire a car – do your research.
Tip: If hiring a car book it before arrival to ensure you are 100% clear on all inclusions and the car within your budget is available. Hire cars often have a daily kilometre allowance, which you are likely to go over if visiting both Uluru and Kata Tjuka or driving to Alice Springs, so factor this into overall costs.
A complimentary resort shuttle circulates Yulara every 20 minutes for those without a hire car. Or if you love a bit of sweaty, constant-flies-in-the-face action – walk!
As far as small towns 500 km from anywhere go, Yulara it quite lovely – and greener than you’d think, with swaying white gums and desert plants ringing the resort roads. It has a supermarket and some restaurants, a few cafes and ATMs, and a range of places to stay, from high-end resorts to the trusty campground, all operated by the Indigenous-owned Ayers Rock Resort. In spring or summer your choice may be based on your personal air-conditioning requirements.
Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Australia’s most famous rock lies within Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, the entrance of which is a 10 minute drive south from Yulara. Once you have paid for your two day ticket at the entrance you can access both Uluru (another 10 minute drive) or Kata Tjuka (a 35 minute drive.)
A fun way to experience the quiet beauty of Uluru, without taking the three hours to walk the 10 km base circuit, is to cycle it with a hired bike from the visitor centre.
Once there you will be struck, not only by the intense redness of the landscape, but by the immense dignity of the rain-worn rock walls and Aboriginal sacred sites. With the desert sun dappling through gum trees by restful waterholes, and off painted cave walls depicting hunting scenes and hand prints, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back a millennia. This is the special charm of Uluru; the quiet and timelessness.
Uluru is still open to climb, but as an overheard tour guide put it, you’ve travelled so far to see the rock, not what the rock sees.
Tip: If walking in Central Australia bring sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water, even in the cooler months.
Dinner under the stars
At the end of a deeply touching day of spiritual reawakening, there’s nothing like an open bar. The Sounds of Silence Dinner, while a bit exey, will pick you up from your accommodation and whisk you away to see the sun set over Uluru with a glass of champagne, and enjoy dinner at tables set up in the red sand. A fascinating astronomy talk, Aboriginal dance display and glass of port round off the evening, before the considerably more merry bus ride back to your accommodation.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Wake early, strap on the hiking boots and it’s off to Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park again to see the sun rise over the orange domes of Kata Tjuka. A range of walks weave through the mounds, from 20 minute strolls to five hour treks, so plan your perambulations according to the time available.
That’s it, you did it! Uluru in 48 hours complete. From here you could drive onto Kings Canyon then explore Alice Springs and its stunning surrounding MacDonnall Ranges. Or maybe you need to get back to the real world and its demanding spreadsheets. Either way, Central Australia high five.