Australia’s awe-inspiring natural landmarks, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, are closer than you think
After hopping off the 3.5-hour flight to the rock, check-in to Sails in the Desert. Ayers Rock Resort’s premier digs have undergone a multi-million dollar renovation, including the makeover of rooms, restaurants and bars. Yulara Dr, Yulara 0872. 1300 134 044.
If you are on the budget-conscious side, also consider the Desert Gardens Hotel or the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge – you can still enjoy all of the activities, meals and bars the resort has to offer, albeit in a simpler setting. There’s also the Ayers Rock Campground for those wanting to pitch a tent and get back to nature.
Following the resort’s purchase by the Indigenous Land Corporation last year, a strong emphasis has been placed on Indigenous guest activities and employment. Daily activities are free for guests – art classes, garden walks, performances by the Wakagetti dance troupe, and spear and boomerang throwing lessons.
A new activity is the Outback Sky Journeys Astro Tour, where you will spend an hour or so gazing up at the night sky and seeking out planets such as Saturn, while spotting shooting stars and tracing out star signs. It’s priced at $38 per adult and kids under 15 are free.
You’ll be able to spot stars, minus the telescopes, at Ayers Rock Resort’s new intimate dining experience Tali Wiru, which means ‘beautiful dune’ in the local Anangu language. From the top of a dune, watch the sun set over Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) then enjoy a five-course degustation with matching wines under the stars. You’ll also hear stories about the region and a didgeridoo performance over a glass of sparkling.
Back at the resort, great Australian fare and wine is on offer at Arnguli Grill at Desert Gardens Hotel, while you’ll get a reasonably-priced lunch at Gekos Café in the town square. Poolside dining is available at the Desert Rock Pool Bar and you can cook your own steak at the Outback Pioneer.
Uluru is at its most stunning at sunrise and two ways best to see that are on camels or Harley Davidsons. On the camels, you’ll be treated to not just the sunrise over Uluru and Kata Tjuta – you’ll learn about the local flora and fauna from a knowledgeable cameleer. Sunrise by ‘hog’ is a more thrilling proposition – you’ll drive out to a viewing location near Uluru and watch the sun come up with a cuppa in hand.
Several day tours are available to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. On the latter, you’ll be able to walk through the Walpa Gorge and hear how the 36 domes that make up Kata Tjuta have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. A ‘Desert Awakenings’ experience starts with a cup of billy tea and damper, followed by a tour around Uluru and a walk to the Mutitjulu waterhole, where you’ll see ancient rock paintings and hear Indigenous stories about the spiritual significance of Uluru – including why you shouldn’t climb the rock. Helicopter tours are also available.
Qantas flies daily to Ayers Rock. Meals and some beverages are included in the ticket price.