Uluru, Australia travel guide: 10 things to do


In the stillness of the Red Centre, as the sun rises and sets and rises again on Uluru, it can seem as if nothing has changed in millennia. Yet a seismic change is coming, with the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board voting to close the climb to the rock's summit. The ban is effective from October 26, 2019 – the 34th anniversary of Uluru being handed back to its traditional owners. The long lead also allows visitors who have their hearts set on climbing the 348-metre-high monolith – even if that goes against the wishes of the Anangu – to make plans to do so. See parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru


Part of the reason the climb continued for as long as it did (the chain handhold was erected in 1964 and extended in 1976) was that authorities wanted to ensure other activities were in place for visitors to Uluru. One of the easiest ways to enjoy the sandstone monolith's curves and creases is to stroll 10.6 kilometres around its base, passing through acacia woodlands and grassed claypans. This allows a quiet appreciation of its beauty from up close – and a reminder that the climb can be deadly. Not far from the chain, markers attached to the rock commemorate five of the 36 people that have died climbing Uluru since record-keeping began in the 1950s.


Prefer a shorter, ranger-guided walk? During the free 90-minute Mala Walk that's also wheelchair-accessible, departing at 8am from October to April and 10am the rest of the year, learn about traditional Anangu culture, the story of the mala (rufous hare-wallaby) people who are the ancestral beings of Anangu, how the park is managed and the meaning of rock art. The mala story is Tjukurpa – a word that refers to the creation period when ancestral beings created the world as the Anangu know it. The story is also outlined on signs for self-guided walkers. See parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/do/bush-walking.html


In March this year, Uluru Segway Tours started rolling around the rock, offering tours for groups of up to 12 riders who must weigh between 45 kilograms and 117 kilograms, and be at least 12 years old. Tours start from $119 for a 2½-hour experience for those who self-drive to Uluru. The four-hour $139 tour, with a transfer from Ayers Rock Resort, includes a stroll to the Mutitjulu Waterhole at the base of the rock. The top-of-the-range five-hour tour ($179) includes sunrise and a light breakfast. See ulurusegwaytours.com.au



Even if you're not a morning person, rise before dawn on at least one day of your visit to see Uluru shimmer into sight at sunrise. Pick an experience that suits your budget. Thrill-seekers can hop aboard a late-model Heritage Softail Harley-Davidson for a sunrise tour that includes coffee and croissants (from $229 a person). The resort's own Desert Awakenings tour (from $175 a person) includes a breakfast of bacon and egg rolls and damper drizzled with golden syrup while AAT Kings' family-friendly sunrise coach tour starts from $69 adult and from $35 a child. There's also a free viewing point: Imalung Lookout is a few minutes' walk from Sails in the Desert. For sunset, when Uluru blazes crimson, options include AAT Kings' sunset tour with bubbles followed by a barbecue dinner (from $213 an adult; from $107 a child). See ayersrockresort.com.au


If riding a bike around Uluru is more your speed, Outback Cycling has a mobile bike shop at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. Three-hour bike hire, with a helmet, costs $45 for those aged 11 and older. The family-friendly operation also hires toddler seats ($20) and tag-alongs ($25). It also offers bus'n'bike packages that include a transfer from Ayers Rock Resort. See outbackcycling.com


Make like adventurer Robyn Davidson who pointed a camel train towards Uluru in 1977. In Tracks, her gripping account of an epic desert journey, she recalled that when she saw the monolith, "I was thunderstruck. I could not believe that blue form was real. It floated and mesmerised and shimmered and looked too big. It was indescribable. The indecipherable power of that rock had my heart racing." Uluru Camel Tours offers a range of rides aboard their camels, drawn from the feral herd that roams outback Australia. An express trip with a view of Uluru costs $80; at sunrise and sunset the ride costs $129.  See ulurucameltours.com.au


Ayers Rock Resort offers dinners with a view of Uluru on the side. If money's no object, book a seat at Tali Wiru ($345 a person) – a dune-top dinner infused with native ingredients (April 1 to October 15). From now until March 24, Mayu Wiru ($295 a person) combines a gourmet experience with an excursion into Bruce Munro's large-scale landscape installation, Field of Light. As the sun sets, take in Uluru's changing colours while snacking on canapes such as wasabi pea-crusted kangaroo jerky and native lemongrass and tequila compressed watermelon. Dine on the likes of beetroot and Illawarra plum mousse, wagyu with salt-baked celeriac and paperbark-smoked onion soubise and rosella and lychee gateau before diving into Munro's 50,000 glowing spheres under a starry sky. See ayersrockresort.com.au


At Ayers Rock Resort, gain an insight into Indigenous culture through food. At the free daily Bush Food Experience at the resort's Town Square, learn how to identify native ingredients such as desert figs and native lemongrass before watching a cooking demonstration using wattleseed. Desert Gardens Hotel's garden walk highlights how plants are used for bush tucker and medicine while Indigenous storytellers talk about hunting and gathering methods that link them with the land at the free daily Bush Yarn experience.


The Cultural Centre within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park shines a light on Indigenous culture. Displays include samples of bush food such as native woollybutt and rat's tail grass seeds that are ground into flour and mixed with water to make nyuma (damper) that's baked in the ashes of a fire. Signs also explain the multiple uses of quandong (kids use the seeds to play marbles and the kernels are ground with water to make hair conditioner). One of the most intriguing signs at the centre concerns "sorry rocks" – souvenired pieces of Uluru that have been returned from all over the world, often accompanied by a handwritten apology. See parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/do/cultural-centre.html