I have always grown up with a quintessential background in mind when I think of Australia. It was that big red rock… some of you might have heard of it before, ULURU! The thing is, growing up in Sydney I knew more about the beaches than I ever did about the outback and that never really changed because as many Australian’s know it can sometimes cost less to go overseas than it costs travelling around our beautiful country. It’s always truly upset me that this is the case, I think Australia is one of the most beautiful countries to travel around because of the endless amounts of changing sublime landscapes. Now is the perfect time to explore and support our Aussie tourism industry.
Day 1! Settling into Yulara and getting our first look at the big rock
So for those who don’t know, the town in Uluru and Kata Tjuta national park is Yulara, the town is run by the resort which owns all the accomodation options and restaurants around. So once we flew into town we grabbed our hire car (a Toyota Rav 4, I would highly, highly recommend this one for the roads around the area) and we went into town to check in. We stayed at the Ayers Rock campground, This is a great budget friendly option, they have cabins with a kitchen and supplies that you can stay at with shared bathroom facilities, I found it all fairly clean and spacious. After we checked in we stocked up on some food and snacks for the walks ahead. We also bought a couple 10L water boxes which I would highly recommend, there isn’t a lot of water available on the walks and when there is it has a very metallic tasting water. Most of the walks recommend you take a litre per hour you walk, it’s worth having some water easily accessible in your car.
Uluru is best at sunset or sunrise and there are many companies that specialise in helping you get the most from it. From 5 star buffet meals to camel rides there are plenty of ways to see Uluru in all it’s greatness. We decided to get the most out of our time, we had to see it from above so we planned a 30 minute sunset helicopter ride! we ordered it through the resort and I cannot recommend anything better! It was out of this world beautiful and completely worth our time.
That night we chose to eat at Ilkari restaurant, because that day was also our anniversary we chose to go somewhere very nice. I would say it’s probably a little overpriced but if you love a buffet I would go and make the most of it. we got to bed fairly early to make the most of the next day, and thats when your itinerary starts!
Day 2 – Uluru sunrise, walks and sunset
This morning get up bright and early and head to the sunrise deck to watch the sun rise over the big rock. It is absolutely beautiful! Good tip make sure you set enough time aside to get to the decks before the sun rises or sets, the sunrise deck is 20-30 minutes drive from the town.
After taking in the beautiful changing colours jump back in the car and drive to the start of the Uluru base walk around 7:20am. The signs say it takes around 3.5 hours to complete the walk, we did it in just under 2.5hrs at quite a leisurely pace taking loots of photos (please be respectful of the areas of the walk where they ask for no photography). On very hot days you have to start the walk before 11:00am and even though it’s quite flat and has undercover areas there is a lot of direct sun so I would recommend sticking to that. Out of all the walks you can do at Uluru I would recommend this one, you get to see an interesting close up view of the rock and read into the traditions and culture of the land. Climbing the rock is unadvised for safety reasons. It is also unadvised out of respect to the indigenous community and we chose not to do it as well.
After the walk, head back into town for some much needed nourishment and escape from the heat. We went and got a coffee and muffin from the local cafe, this cafe trains up the local indigenous population with experience in hospitality to help kickstart their career and bring them opportunities. So not only can you get some great food here, there is a sense of giving back to such a beneficial program.
After a coffee, grab some lunch supplies and head back to the hotel. during the hottest part of the day it’s best to spend it in aircon or by the pool. But there are also a heap of free activities to do around the town. In the afternoon we went and did a guided garden walk that takes you around some of the hotels showing native plants that have been used by indigenous ancestors for food, tool making, and shelter etc.
At the end of the day, the best way you can spend it is by grabbing a bottle of wine or champagne from the Outback Pioneer Hotel and some snacks before heading to the sunset carpark of Uluru to watch the sun go down. Nothing can quite explain it’s beauty! Top tip make sure you head to the end of the carpark, everyone tries to park at the entry and it’s quite crowded but if you keep going you might find a spot all for yourself.
For dinner try the Outback Pioneer Hotel, it is a DIY BBQ and salad bar where you could maybe slinging a kangaroo steak on the barbie or maybe if you are super adventurous some crocodile!
Day 3 – Kata Tjuta
The worst thing you could do on a trip to Uluru is forget it’s sister monolith Kata Tjuta (previously known as the Olgas). These dome rock formations are just as impressive if not more than the big red rock. Wake up early once more and head to the sunrise deck at Kata Tjuta it take 40-45 mins to get there from town. You can see the sun hit the domed rocks and well as see the sun rice up above Uluru. It’s truly breathtaking. after you have seen the changing colours you’ll want to head to the Valley of the Winds walk.
This walk is a lot harder than the Uluru base walk because is not flat, but should be quiet accessible to anyone with moderate fitness. Once again on super hot days you aren’t allowed to start after 11:00am and they say it will take 3.5-4hrs to do. We did it in 2.5. The walk goes up and in-between the rock formations before walking into a large open area that gives you are good view of them all. At every turn the scenery changes and it ended up being my favourite walk around the area, so definitely don’t skip it, just make sure you take some snacks and a lot of water.
After the walk head back into town once again to get out of the heat, other free activities that could take up you afternoon can include the bush food experience, bush yarn and ecology and museum tour. I highly recommend them all. These experience truly added another layer to our trip, we went away not only in awe of the beauty but with a lot more knowledge of the community and history of the area. In the afternoon you can head back to Kata Tjuta to watch the sunset or go to one of the local hotels to have a yarn and a drink in the shade.
Day 4 – Travel day to Kings Canyon
Seeing you have been waking up for sunrise and hikes every morning, ill give you a little bit of a sleep in, because today you are travelling to Kings Canyon and really you shouldn’t hit the road until 9:00am because you want to make sure all the animals have gone to sleep, meaning it’s less likely they will also be sharing the roads with you. once you have had breakfast and filled the car with snacks it’s time to hit the road!
In between Kings Canyon (in Watarrka national park) and Uluru you will pass Mt Conner look out (otherwise known as Fool-luru), some spots to stop along the way to see salt lakes over the dunes as well as Kings Creek Station. Here they serve a very famous well known and quite frankly delicious camel burger. Definitely worth trying.
The main walk at Kings Canyon is the rim walk, but because of it’s challenging start getting up to the top of the canyon and the very little cover from the sun on very hot days the walks closes from 9:00am, meaning by the time you get there at midday you won’t be able do the walk. Instead you can do the Kings Creek walk (1hr return) or Kathleen Springs (1.5hr return). After your activities head to Kings Canyon Resort where you will stay for the night, they have accomodation options from luxury to budget. It’s now time to sit by the pool and relax.
That evening head to the sunset view deck in the resort to watch the sunset over the beautiful canyon range. You might even spot a dingo! While quite friendly just don’t feed them. In the resort bar they do pizza’s making a good spot to get dinner, you want to go to sleep early to start your day early.
Day 5 – Kings rim walk and the Meernie loop to Glen Helen
Guess what! it’s another sunrise day for you! Wake up early, check out and head to the canyon entry, it’s time for the beautiful rim walk. Kings Canyon rim walk was my favourite hike of the trip, although the ascend is challenging, once you are atop it’s pretty easy and flat. The rock formations are so unique that you will be mesmerised by the changing landscape, make sure you walk down into the garden of Eden while on the walk. Once again the walk took us around 2.5-3 hours.
After the walk we had some breakfast and got some petrol from the resort (very important that you have a full petrol tank before you drive anywhere as there is limited fuel options in this area), at the petrol station you will want to get a permit to drive on the Meernie loop road. This road will get you to Glen Helen, normally people will choose to stick to sealed roads but as long as you have a good car such as an all-wheeled drive you should do the unsealed road, you will have the chance to see some wild brumbies and camels and experience some true Aussie off roading, the drive should take around three hours (just be weary of wet weather effecting the roads).
Once you have arrived at Glen Helen check in for the night and then head down to the water hole for a swim. There is nothing quite as beautiful as swimming in gorges in the middle of an arid desert. That night eat dinner in the hotel, the food is delicious as is the drinks (try the Quandong infused beer – the red centre devil).
Day 6 – The West Macdonald ranges and Alice Springs
Today is for exploring the West Macdonald ranges. There are so many spots to stop at on the way, they include: Ormiston gorge - swim spot, Ochre pits, Ellery creek big hole - swim spot, Standley chasm – get there for midday to see the sun come through the chasm and Simpson’s gap.
Once you get to Alice Springs, check in to your hotel and have a look around town. That night for dinner I highly recommend Red Ochre Grill for a native Australian ingredient inspired meal.
Day 7! Its the end of the road!
In the morning I suggest getting breakfast at the amazing cafe Page 26! After that it’s home time, either fly out of Alice Springs or head back to Uluru (five hour drive) for one more look at the rock before flying back home.