Uluru, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory © Tourism NT, Luke Tscharke
4-day family holiday in and around Uluru
Recalibrate your understanding of the term natural wonder and enjoy some quality family time at Australia's spiritual heart on this epic four-day Uluru adventure.
By Paige Richardson
Too far, too expensive and the kids might not ‘get’ its cultural significance are the reasons why so many families are yet to make the pilgrimage to Australia’s most iconic rock. While it may be far, its location is part of what makes it so special; while it can sometimes be expensive to get there, you’ll be floored by the range of free and cheap activities for families once you do; and while it’s profoundly spiritual, children are perhaps the most accepting (and by far the most riveted) audience to any creation story.
Convinced yet? Let this four-day itinerary be your guide.
Day 1: Getting to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
While driving to Uluru is entirely possible, to pull off this itinerary you’ll need some wings. You can fly direct to Yulara – the township just outside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – from most capital cities in Australia with a flight time between two and four hours. Not your typical domestic jaunt, no, but worth it; alighting here – and seeing Uluru from the air – is an experience in itself. After landing on the red-dirt airstrip, hire a car or take the complimentary airport transfer for guests of Ayers Rock Resort.
Save your second sighting of the red rock monolith for sunset from one of the park’s five viewing areas. Pack a picnic (and your camera), find your place on the dunes and watch as a kaleidoscope of sunset colours are thrown over Uluru and the hue of the desert landscape intensifies. Or, make your first night effortless and book the sunset tour with SEIT Outback Australia.
Day 2: Exploring Uluru
Sizzle an emu sausage for dinner or make your own croc-dog at Pioneer BBQ and Bar at Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, a do-it-yourself BBQ restaurant that lets you choose your cut of meat and fry it yourself.
Start your day in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park at the Cultural Centre to learn more about the significance of Uluru to its traditional owners, Anangu. Displays, exhibits and talks focus on Tjukurpa (Aboriginal law, moral systems and culture), and on the natural and human history of the park. Entry to the centre is free with your national park pass – all visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park require a pass, which should be booked in advance.
From here it’s only five minutes by car to Mala carpark, the meeting point for the free ranger-guided Mala Walk. This 2km (1.5mi) walk is one of two shorter trails suitable for families (the other is the Kuniya Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole). It travels along parts of Uluru’s base, through the caves where Anangu’s ancestors – the Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) people – first camped, and past traditional rock art before arriving at Kantju Gorge. For a breezier alternative, slap on a helmet and jump on a Segway or hire a bike and cycle the full 11km (7km) loop.
Day 3: Uluru camel tours and crafts
Now acquainted with the local Anangu, get to know the other Red Centre locals; namely Bruce the blue tongue lizard, Wolverine the bearded dragon and Max the mulga snake at Ayers Rock Resort’s Red Desert Reptile Show. Learn about the desert’s 73 different reptile species before your own up-close encounter with the critters.
Next, take part in one of Maruku Arts’ dot-painting workshops. Learn the different symbols that make up the Tjukurpa and, with the help of a Maruku guide and local artist, create your own work of art to take home. Kids aged five and up are welcome.
Day 4: Field of Light and Kata Tjuta
If you have time, make the three-hour trip from Uluru to Watarrka National Park to see Kings Canyon, complete with a contoured rock amphitheatre and swimming hole in the mythically titled Garden of Eden.
Artist Bruce Munro’s solar-powered installation of 50,000 spindles of light twinkle and sway in the shadow of Uluru like a field of flowers in bloom at its base. See Field of Light at dawn on the sunrise tour as the first light glows on the horizon, then contemplate its creation over a cup of freshly-brewed billy tea. Before you leave, take a look behind you for a view of your next destination: Kata Tjuta.
It’s not as famous as Uluru, but nearby Kata Tjuta’s ‘many heads’ are just as impressive. The 36 domes rise up to 546 metres above the desert plain and were formed by the same geological events – beginning around 550 million years ago – that first exposed Uluru. Walk among the giant sandstone boulders on the shorter 2.6km (1.6mi) return, Walpa Gorge walk with SEIT Outback Australia.