World Heritage-listed Uluru lies approximately 460 km by road south-west of Alice Springs. How awestruck must have been the explorer Ernest Giles in 1872, when he looked across at it from the other side of Lake Amadeus! He didn’t name it, though. A year later another explorer, William Gosse, arrived in the area just before Giles himself returned. Gosse named the massive formation Ayers Rock after the South Australian politician who had supported his exploration.
Composed of a kind of sandstone called arkose, Uluru was formed millions of years ago by complex geological processes. Once, over millions of years, it was pressed under a shallow sea, then thrust up by enormous crust activity. Now it stands as a lonely remnant of a long-gone massive mountain range. The red soil of central Australia is in fact the dust of those eroded mountains, rich in iron oxide.
Getting in and around Ayers Rock
Connellan (Uluru) Airport
There is no rail connection to Uluru. Tourists arrive at Uluru and the nearby purpose-built tourist township of Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort), either by road (Lasseter Highway) or by air (Connellan Airport).
Uluru/Connellan Airport is a small but quite busy airport only 6 km from Yulara and Ayers Rock Resort. Flights arrive from Darwin, Perth, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. Facilities at Connellan include Internet access, a post box and shops. Shuttle services to Yulara meet each flight and car hire services are available, too.
Ayers Rocks Transport
Once at the township of Yulara, it is easy to walk around the compact cluster of resort hotels and the shopping mall, which contains cafes, a supermarket and crafts galleries. Alternatively, a free shuttle bus service is available, doing regular circuits of the complex.
Ayers Rock Car Hire
Yulara is located just outside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park boundaries. To enter the park and get up close to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Kings Canyon and the other splendid surrounding scenery, car hire can be arranged through your hotel.
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Ayers Rock accommodation
Reported as being Australia’s busiest tourist destination, Yulara and Ayers Rock Resort is the base for visits to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon and Mount Connor. The organically designed cluster of buildings that comprise this oasis in the desert was specially designed by Phillip Cox to blend well with the surrounding landscape.
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- Sails in the Desert Hotel is Ayers Rock's premier hotel, with spacious five-star rooms and interiors focusing on Aboriginal heritage and culture.
- Longitude 131° Luxury Camp caters for just 30 guests at a time, offering luxury, eco-sensitive and romantic elevated ‘tent’ accommodation with a clear view of Uluru.
- Desert Gardens Hotel has comfortable rooms, some with delightful patios.
- Emu Walk Apartments provide four-star accommodation for those who prefer self-catering and independence. Apartments can accommodate up to six people.
- Lost Camel Hotel is bright and contemporary and right nest door to the resort shopping centre.
- Ayers Rock Campground is served by the resort shuttle bus and has a children's playground. Permanent tents available if you don't have your own.
- Voyages Outback Pioneer Lodge offers the only dorm accommodation in Yulara. Not spacious, but you get access to resort facilities including swimming pool, BBQ, bar and shuttle bus.
- Kings Canyon backpackers and independent travellers on a budget will appreciate the Kings Canyon Lodge, part of the Kings Canyon Resort off the main highway between Uluru and Alice Springs.
Things to do in Ayers Rock
Uluru and Yulara Activities
Quick Spin Harley Tour this is a fun way to get oriented soon after arrival, or maybe as a ‘lap of honour’ after enjoying a unique experience. Longer rides also available, allowing you to fly through the Australian outback at dawn to see the sun rise over Uluru.
The Sounds of Silence Dinner is something special. Travel by bus from your hotel to a desert destination not far from the resort. There, as the sun sets and a lone didgeridoo plays, you can savour canapés and bubbly while stars appear. Later, an astronomer points out what Banjo Paterson called the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
Short helicopter or light aircraft flights over Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide a different experience of these remarkable remnants of a former landscape.
Climb on a camel for a special experience of the landscape at either sunrise or sunset. Your guide will show you the unique flora and fauna of the Australian desert. Camel rides can last for either 1.5 or 2.5 hours.
The Night Show at Ayers Rock Observatory allows a guided tour of the magnificent southern sky without the light pollution of big cities. Allow yourself the rare experience of seeing the stars the way the ancient peoples did, and which so few of us now appreciate.
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Day trips in and around Ayers Rock
Kata Tjuta (or ‘The Olgas’) is one trip that can‘t be left out of your Uluru itinerary. This range of 36 rock domes in the same park as Uluru is believed by geologists to have once surpassed Uluru in size, but has eroded to now appear as several separate rocks. Tours also leave daily, or Uluru and Kata Tjuta maps can be obtained from the Yulara Visitors Centre to guide you through Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Lira Walking Tour and Breakfast is a great way to meet people and gain an understanding of Aboriginal life and culture. Join a small group walking close to the base of the Rock. Learn about the food resources in this arid world and listen to Dreaming tales, like that of Lungtaka, the Blue Tongue Lizard Man.
Mala Walk is a longer tour in which a bus takes you right around the base of Uluru. Aboriginal storytellers relate the Dreaming events that are their heritage.
The trip to Mount Connor is certainly worth the effort. With Uluru and Kata Tjuta, this table-topped formation about 100 km east of Yulara completes the trio of marvels for which Central Australia is so famous.
Kings Canyon (Watarrka) and Alice Springs Tours are available and can include a walk at the base of Uluru and a visit to Kata Tjuta, where Aboriginal storytellers share tales of the Dreaming. At Kings Canyon National Park, you can choose either to explore the floor of the canyon or take a guided walk along the rim, so famously depicted in the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
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