20 things to do at Uluru
Australia’s most famous rock is also a compelling destination.
Words by Ute Junker
Photos Tourism NT
Originally published in Traveller
It is difficult to stand in front of this monolith and not be moved by its majesty. It’s also difficult to run out of things to do, thanks to the rich range of activities on offer. Head here between April and October when cooler temperatures allow you to get out and about.
Ride around the Rock
In pictures, it appears monolithic, but get up close and you can see that Uluru is far from smooth. Its many surfaces are actually corrugated and scarred, studded with caves and cracks and ridges. The best way to take in its different faces is to circumnavigate it, and the best way to do that is on two wheels. You can hire a bike from Outback Cycling inside the national park. Alternatively, the less energetic can take the passenger perch on a Harley Davidson ride around the rock. Options start with a 30 minute express version, all the way up to a 90 minute tour. Bike hire starts at $30 for three hours, outbackcycles.com.au. Harley rides start at $99, ulurucycles.com.au
Dine in the desert
Dinner under a canopy of stars is an Uluru highlight and comes in two versions, depending on your budget. The Sounds of Silence al fresco experience starts with sunset canapes on a sand dune before moving to a bush tucker inspired buffet including crocodile, kangaroo and barramundi. For those who prefer something more exclusive, the Tali Wiru table d’hote dinner is limited to 20 guests at a time. French champagne by the campfire gets you in the mood for a fine dining experience that may include dishes such as smoked duck roulade with quandong poached baby pear and organic stilton mousse, or wattle seed rubbed kangaroo carpaccio with sour cherry jelly. Sounds of Silence $195, Tali Wiru $325, ayersrockresort.com.au
Pick up a painting
If you are into indigenous art, the Red Centre is a terrific place to buy an art work and maybe even meet the artist. Maruku Arts, inside the Cultural Centre in the national park, has a wide variety of indigenous arts and crafts available for purchase, from traditional punu (wooden) artefacts to paintings and even jewellery. There are often artists working on site. Maruku Arts also runs an art market in the Town Square at Ayers Rock Resort. The resort has a number of other galleries, including Mulgara Gallery at Sails in the Desert, which has a superb selection of paintings, glassware, textiles and pottery from right across Central Australia. Other galleries at the resort include Mingkiri Arts at the Desert Gardens Hotel (check out their range of cushion covers) and Desert Oak Studio, where you can also watch the artist in residence at work. maruku.com.au, ayersrockresort.com.au
Join the dots
If you prefer making art to looking at it, Ayers Rock Resort also hosts regular painting workshops, led by artists from Maruku Arts. After learning about the different symbols used to depict Dreamtime, or Tjurkupa, stories, participants have the opportunity to create their own artwork. The classes are suitable for both children and adults, and all materials are provided. $69 adults, $35 children, $195 family, ayersrockresort.com.au
Gaze at the stars
Visitors are frequently dazzled by the brightness of the outback skies; those who want to learn more about the heavens high above should sign up for one of the Ayers Rock Resort’s Sky Journeys. With an astronomer-in-residence program, there is always an expert to talk to, and high-powered telescopes to see help you see even more clearly. In the early evening, the Family Astro Tour teaches star lovers of all ages about the different constellations, stars and planets. A later adults-only session is for those who want to increase their knowledge about the universe, taking in anything from life cycles of a star to supernovas and string theory. $40.50 adults, children under 15 free. ayersrockresort.com.au
Meet the Anungu
The local Anungu people found ways to flourish in this harsh desert environment, living according to traditional law and handing down a rich trove of stories and beliefs. The Cultural Centre, a startling building shaped like two winding snakes, is located in the national park and has extensive displays and documentaries offering insights into the culture and the local flora and fauna.
Visit a waterhole
Yes, there are waterholes at Uluru – although during the long dries, few of them will retain much water. The gentle Kuniya walk to Mutitjulu waterhole takes you to one of the loveliest places around Uluru, a fold in the rock shaded by large river red gums where rainwater tends to linger long after it has disappeared elsewhere. There is also a teaching cave nearby, where generations of Anungu youngsters absorbed the lessons drawn in ochre on the cave walls.
Plunge into the pool
It’s hot in the desert, and nothing cools you down like a dip in the pool. Sails in the Desert, Desert Gardens Hotel, Outback Pioneer Hotel and the Ayer Rock Campground each have a pool of their own, so you can get wet no matter where you are staying.