Uluru feels magical. Its red-hued spine arches across the Australian desert landscape like a giant whale posing for a photo. At sunset, Uluru glows -- the red becoming infused with hints of pink and purple reflecting the fading sunlight. Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. Explore this age-old monolith by foot, camel or air.
Dining in the Desert
This four-hour dining experience is so highly regarded that it has a spot in the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame. The contrast of dining tables topped with white linens and fine tableware gracing the desert sand is your first clue that this is an unusual dining experience. You’re greeted with sparkling wine and canapés to enjoy on a viewing platform facing Uluru. Watch the parade of colors across this iconic mountain as the sun gives way to a sky filled with stars. A didgeridoo player calls you to dinner after the sun sets. Dine on finely prepared local bush foods like kangaroo and crocodile while sipping quality Australian wines and beers. Learn about the stars parading across the southern sky from a resident star watcher.
Uluru Camel Tours
Head across the desert on a camel, perhaps named Coober, Murphy or Oprah -- Uluru Camel Tours has its own farm and a quirky sense of humor when it comes to naming their charges. Even if you haven't signed up for a tour, you're welcome to visit the farm, located at the Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, and meet the four-legged residents. Sunrise and sunset tours are available, both 2.5 hours long with one hour of camel saddle time. Another option is to take a camel ride to the Sounds of Silence venue. Tours are offered daily, except for Christmas and New Year's Day. Private group tours may be arranged. Seeing Uluru change color as you move rhythmically along at a slow, steady pace is mesmerizing.
Uluru by Helicopter
Helicopter tours take you “rock blasting.” This is a slow climb up the side of Uluru in the aircraft, giving you a close view of Australia’s biggest rock. Longer flight itineraries take in more of the surrounding desert and fly over Kata Tjuta, impressive rock formations that aren't as well known as Uluru. The two helicopter firms hosting flights to Uluru are Ayers Rock Helicopters and Professional Helicopter Services. Tours include ground transportation to and from Ayers Rock Resort.
Spend the night within sight of Uluru at Ayers Rock Resort. The Longitude 131 lodge here is luxury camping. Fifteen private tent cabins are set on the desert with floor-to-ceiling windows facing Uluru. Distinctive white canopies provide shade and intrigue. Each tent has a king bed or two twins with luxury bedding, full bathroom, in-suite bar and wireless Internet service. Dune House is the gathering place. Beneath its white canopy is a dining area, lounge and library. Just outside is a swimming pool, an interesting contrast to the desert surroundings. This is an all-inclusive resort, except for the optional tours.
More Accommodations at Ayers Rock Resort
Choose from posh to laid back accommodations at Ayers Rock Resort. Sails in the Desert Hotel, aptly named for the flock of white canopies throughout the property, is pure luxury. The Mulgara Gallery, featuring indigenous art, is on site, as is the Red Ochre Spa. Other options include the more moderate Desert Gardens Hotel and the Emu Walk Apartments, perfect for those wanting more space and a kitchen. Ayers Rock Campground welcomes tent campers, caravans and motor homes. Not everyone wants to brave the drive through Australia’s Red Centre, so the campground offers on-site cabins with shared restrooms. If you decide to drive, you’ll find campsites with and without power hookups.