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Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of Uluru. You have likely seen hundreds of photos of Australia’s iconic rock, but seeing it in person is an entirely different thing. Formerly known as Ayers Rock, a visit should be on any Australian itinerary.
After spending nearly two years in Australia we almost didn’t make it to Uluru. I knew it was a special place, but I didn’t have a burning desire to visit. How wrong I was!
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- 1 Why Go to Uluru?
- 2 Things to do in Uluru with Kids
- 3 When to Visit Uluru?
- 4 Getting to Uluru
- 5 Getting Around Uluru
- 6 How Long to Visit Uluru?
- 7 Costs of Visiting Uluru
- 8 Is Uluru a Kid-Friendly Holiday?
- 9 Uluru Accommodation
- 10 Eating at Uluru
Why Go to Uluru?
Uluru is simply magical and I cannot easily put into words what makes it so incredible. It is an extremely sacred and special place for the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land.
While people used to visit to climb it, there are so many better ways to experience this special place. The climb will be closing in October 2019 to respect the wishes of the Anangu people.
I got my first sight of Uluru as sunset was approaching and the colours of the rock flickered as the light danced off it. This magnificent rock that rises out of the desert brought me a sense of calm and peacefulness. As the sun set, the colours of the rock changed and transfixed us all.
Visit for its beauty and visit to learn more about Aboriginal culture and the people that call the Red Centre home.
Things to do in Uluru with Kids
The one thing you will not see on our list of what to do at Uluru with kids is climb it. While it is still possible to climb it until it closes permanently in October 2019, we feel strongly about respecting the wishes of the Anangu people.
Also note that Uluru is very remote, located 500 km from the nearest town (Alice Springs). All accommodation and restaurants are run by the Ayers Rock Resort in the purpose-built town of Yulara. Uluru is 20 minutes outside of Yulara so make sure you give yourself plenty of time when planning activities.
1. Mala Guided Ranger Walk
This FREE walk happens every morning at 8 am (October-April) and 10 am (May-September) and departs from the Mala Car park at the base of Uluru. It will take about 1.5 hours as you walk 2 km (of the 10.6 km) around the base. The ranger will explain the significance of various places as you learn more about Anangu culture, rock art and how the park is managed.
At first I was turned off by the large size of the group, but I am so glad we stuck with it. Our guide, a Torres-Straits Islander added so much to the experience as he explained the rock art, sacred places and cultural traditions. He also added in some stories of his own childhood and cultural practices of the Torres-Straits Islanders.
This is a great section to walk with younger kids as it can be easily done with a stroller/pram.
Alternatively, Klook has some great guided walks and tours. Click here to see the latest prices.
2. Cultural Centre
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre is a great place to visit on your first day as an introduction to Anangu culture and traditions. Here you can learn more about the natural environment of the Red Centre, how Uluru was formed and creation stories and laws. Our kids also enjoyed learning about the hand back of the land to the traditional owners and how the park is jointly managed today.
The Cultural Centre is free with your Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park pass. Allocate 30-60 minutes to visit. There is also a cafe, souvenir shop and Aboriginal art galleries. At the art galleries you can see artists at work, speak with them about their art and purchase beautiful pieces. We can definitely recommend the milkshakes from the cafe!
3. Sunset Viewing
Chances are the photos you have seen of Uluru were taken at sunset, when the colours of the rock light up vibrantly. There is a Sunset viewing area within the Park that gives you those epic photos. Check the sunset time, arrive early and settle in to watch nature’s show. Remember that it takes 20 minutes to reach Uluru from Yulara (where the hotels are). We brought some snacks and drinks and enjoyed a picnic while the sun set.
4. Walk or Cycle Around the Base
As you walk around the base of Uluru, you have the opportunity to see the many different features of the rock. The sheer size of the rock is impressive, but as you walk around it you will see the water holes and the geological detail of the rock.
The base walk is 10.6 km, but a great alternative way to go around the rock is by bicycle. Outback Cycling rents out bicycles from the Cultural Centre car park. They have a number of different bikes for families – ride-along bikes, baby and toddler seats and kid bikes. Book in advance to not be disappointed and start early in the warmer months so that you can relax by the pool in the heat of the day.
There is some soft sand in sections, but overall it is a very flat and easy ride on cruiser bikes. Riding around the rock is much quicker than walking, but still allows you to stop whenever you choose making it one of the best things to do in Uluru with kids. Allocate 2-3 hours for this activity. $50/adult, $35/kid.
5. Maruku Dot Painting Workshop
After our son cut his leg badly on our first day at Uluru (requiring lots of stitches) I was looking for a less active activity to do. I am so glad I found the Maruku Dot Painting Workshop. This workshop is a wonderful activity for kids and adults alike. Maruku Arts is not-for-profit arts and craft organization, run by the Anangu. Maruku is one of the largest and most successful indigenous owned and operated organization and its focus is to keep indigenous culture strong and alive and provide income for indigenous people living in remote communities.
The Dot Painting Workshop is held outside under cover at Yulara Town Sqaure. In our session we met artist Millie and got to watch her work on a painting. Then through a translator Millie explained to us by drawing in the dirt important symbols and how stories are told through art. She also explained some of the common tools used by the Anangu and ancient ways of the desert.
The second half of the session is where you get to try your hand at dot painting on a small canvas. This was a wonderful experience for all of us and the kids put a lot of thought into telling their story through their painting. The session closes by each person sharing their piece and what it represents. Millie’s painting is also offered up for sale at a very reasonable price.
I can’t say enough good things about this activity. It really does make the culture accessible in a very authentic way. The workshop is 1.5 hours long, one session in the AM and one in the PM. You do need to book in advance and an adult needs to participate with the children. $69/adults, $35/children.
6. Kata Tjuta
While it is Uluru that has international recognition and is an Australian icon, nearby Kata Tjuta is just as spectacular. Also know as “The Olgas” these breath-taking domed rocks are beautiful. At the very least drive out to the Kata Tjuta dune viewing area.
The Valley of the Winds walk is one of the best walks in the Red Centre, winding through the gorges. It is 7.4 km, but you can do a shorter portion to the lookout. You definitely want to start early as you cannot go past the first lookout after 11 am (due to heat safety). Alternatively, the shorter Walpa Gorge hike (2.6 km) is a great option for families.
7. Enjoy Ayers Rock Resort
Almost every one who visits Uluru stays in Ayers Rock Resort accommodation, even when camping. While we loved all the active activities at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, it was wonderful to relax back at the pool in the heat of the afternoon. If visiting Uluru with kids make sure to build some down time into your schedule.
8. Camel Tour
Uluru Camel Tours is a unique way to experience Uluru. You can choose from an express, sunrise or sunset tour where you will view the rock, appreciate the desert landscape and bond with your camel. Tours cost $80-132/person.
9. Field of Light
Field of Light is an art installation whereby the desert landscape in the foreground of Uluru is lit by a fantasy garden of 50,000 lights. This after dark activity has been extended until December 2020. From $42/person.
10. Sunrise Viewing
The Talinguru Nyakunytjaku sunrise viewing area offers another way to see Uluru. It can get crowded so get there early if you want photos without any others in it. In addition to seeing the colours of Uluru come alive, you can also see Kata Tjuta in the background. Another way to beat the crowds is to head to Kata Tjuta for sunrise.
When to Visit Uluru?
While tourists visit Uluru throughout the year, try to avoid the extremely hot weather of the summer months (December-March). Conversely, the winter months can be very chilly in the desert. The shoulder seasons are the best times to visit (March-May and October-November).
You might have already heard about the Central desert’s flies. They really are a nuisance, but worse in the warmer months. You can pick up a bug net anywhere in the NT and while you might feel silly wearing it, it really does help you keep your sanity.
Getting to Uluru
Uluru truly is the centre of Australia, located in the south-west corner of the Northern Territory. When visiting you will stay in the town of Yulara, 20 minutes from Uluru.
You can fly into the small airport of Ayer’s Rock from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and Alice Springs with Jetstar, Qantas Link or Virgin. Complimentary airport transfers are provided for guests staying at Ayers Rock Resort accommodation. No need to book this in advance as buses operate regularly.
Many people make the drive from Alice Springs or further afield in Australia to see Uluru. It is a 5-hour drive from Alice Springs along good, sealed roads.
Getting Around Uluru
While there is complimentary buses around the hotels and Yulara town, you will need to organize tours or rent a car to get to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru is about 20 minutes from Yulara town (and all the hotels), while Kata Tjuta is 30 minutes away. I definitely would recommend renting a car so that you have the freedom to get around on your own. This will also decrease costs as you don’t have to rely on tours.
How Long to Visit Uluru?
If you are just visiting Uluru, plan to spend at least 3 nights/2 full days. There are so many wonderful ways to experience Uluru and interesting cultural experiences. If you want to visit Kings Canyon as well, add an extra night or two. The drive to Kings Canyon is about 3 hours each way, so staying there for a night is preferable to visiting on a day trip from Uluru.
There are so many other fantastic places to see in Australia’s Red Centre. Planning a full one-week plus Red Centre trip will allow you to see more of Central Australia. We spent 8 days in the Red Centre and it was the perfect amount of time.
Costs of Visiting Uluru
Uluru’s remoteness drive prices higher than Australia’s major cities. Everything has to be transported in and wages reflect its isolation, creating higher prices.
All hotels are run by the Ayers Rock Resort and prices aren’t cheap. Ayers Rock Campground is reasonable for those camping and they do have budget cabins that are a great option for families. Restaurant prices at Ayers Rock Resort are slightly higher than in the major cities.
Alcohol is substantially more expensive, so bring your own if you are driving. We paid $36 AUD for the cheapest 6-pack of beer. Alcohol is tightly controlled in Yulara and you need to show your room key to purchase take-away alcohol, which is only available from the bar at the Outback Pioneer Hotel.
You will need to purchase an 3-day Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park pass. Passes currently cost $25/adult, $12.50/child 5-15, free for children under 5. Family passes (2 adults, 2 children) are $65.
Is Uluru a Kid-Friendly Holiday?
YES! Our primary school aged kids thoroughly enjoyed visiting Uluru and were impressed with the scale and significance of the rock. They enjoyed learning about Anangu culture and all of the active activities in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Tips to Ensure a Good Visit to Uluru with Kids:
- try to avoid coming in summer
- get an early start to your days before it gets too hot
- plan your days to have a mixture of sight-seeing, active activities and relaxation time (by the pool)
- good walking shoes or sandals. We love Keens.
- a hydration pack to stay hydrated in the desert heat.
- a wide-brim hat, good sunscreen and insect repellent.
- travel activities for the kids or family card games.
Ayers Rock Resort offers a number of Uluru hotel options at various price points.
Sails in the Desert – This 5 star luxury hotel receives the highest ranking on Tripadvisor, but it comes at a price. Beautiful grounds, modern rooms and a great pool. Family-friendly rooms: twin queen configuration, ability to add roll away bed and some interconnecting rooms. Children stay and eat breakfast for free. Click here to check the latest prices.
Emu Walk Apartments – Offers the best configurations for families. These multi-story apartments offer lots of space, a kitchen for self-catering and access to the pool at Desert Gardens Hotel. 1-bedroom units are suitable for families of 3-4 and the larger 2-bedroom units are great for larger families. Click here to check the latest prices.
Desert Gardens Hotel – Offers rooms with views of Uluru, modern 4.5 star large hotel. Opt not to have your room made up each day and receive a $10 hotel credit/day. Families of 3 and 4 can opt for the twin queen rooms, while larger families will need to request a roll away bed or interconnecting rooms. Click here to check the latest prices.
Outback Pioneer Hotel – good mid-range option. Rooms are comfortable, but affordable. Twin queen rooms available. The Outback do-it-yourself BBQ is a fun feature. Click here to check the latest prices.
Ayers Rock Campground – for those on a budget the campground also offers 2-bedroom cabins at a very affordable price ($179-184). These are basic cabins with shared bathrooms, but you still have full access to the facilities at the Campground, including pool. A great option for families on a budget. You need to contact the campground directly to book.
Eating at Uluru
There are a number of restaurant options available throughout the Ayers Rock Resort hotels and Town Square. We found the food to be good, but nothing special. Expect to pay higher prices especially for alcohol.
Gecko’s in the Town Square is a good place to eat in Uluru with kids. They have good pizzas and a good children’s menu.
There is a well-stocked IGA in the Town Square if you are self-catering. While the food prices are higher, this is a great way to reduce costs.
Have you been to Uluru with kids? What was your favourite activity? Leave us a message in the comments below.
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