Our family trip to Uluru-Kata Tjuta

I didn’t even let myself think about planning for this trip until the day that we left for the airport hotel. I was CERTAIN that one of the family would get covid and that all the plans would go into a spin and if I didn’t think it would go ahead, that it actually might. Which may have been the reason that we probably didn’t get the most that we could have out of this trip.

We decided in the Christmas omicron breakout that we would make up a trip for our cancelled New Zealand trip we had planned with Rob’s step mum for the Easter school holidays. And where better than to somewhere that we had always wanted to go to, a real bucket list place that is (kind of not really) on our doorstep. Sue booked our flights and accommodation at Ayers Rock Resort (we stayed at Sails in the Desert) and while we tried to work out a rough itinerary I think we all thought it would be cancelled so we didn’t make use of pre-planning enough. But we will get to that.

We flew from Sydney to Uluru (strangely still called Ayers Rock by Qantas) early on the first day of the holidays – it was the first trip we had made on a plane since October 2019 when we went to NZ and the world was a different place. It was so strange to be travelling again and of course thrilling to feel that take off excitement. The girls were SO excited! After a few delays we landed at Uluru into the basking hot sun and endless blue sky and red dirt – it was SUCH a joy to see sunshine and sky after what seemed like endless months of rain and drizzle and clouds and flooding. Our coach transfer took us straight to the resort where we tried to figure out the lie of the land.

The resort is a big complex made us several different hotel accommodations & budgets from apartments, to a camp site to where we were staying at Sails in the Desert. They are all combined by shuttle and you can use the facilities of each place without any questions. Our hotel had a big pool that was PACKED with families and kids and from what I could gather people from the other parts where you can eat and drink there as well. The rooms were really lovely and spacious (we had 3 for the 6 of us: Sue had her own, the big two were bext door to Maggie, Rob and I who shared two double beds). The bathrooms and interiors all looked like they had been recently renovated and really good quality and the air conditioning was icy cold which we needed! In fact, I think the only thing that Maggie found spiritual about the experience was the air con! There was a bar & pool bar (the pool looks much better online than in real life) but it has shade and trees to sit under on a hot day which is nice. A café and large restaurant (like a buffet style place) where we had breakfast every morning but was fully booked every night by guests of other parts of the resort so we actually weren’t able to stay there on the 4 nights we were there (which was a little frustrating). We were able to eat at one other restaurant at another hotel that didn’t take bookings but had lengthy waiting times as we were a group of 6. After a long , hot day exploring we wanted to eat close by. We were able to eat at the café and then there is a town village square in the middle of the resort with some cafes, take away places and a IGA so there’s always somewhere to grab food even if it’s just the standard burgers/pizza takeaways. The IGA was a godsend to us as we piled up on snacks for the kids for our day trips. My advice? Book ahead anywhere you want to eat well before you get there – this can be hard when you have no idea how tyou will be feeling at any given day but take the risk and book in! You can see all the dining options here but it’s hard to know where they are and what you can book into or not and because things weren’t at capacity hard to know what was operating for us.

The resort was also coming back from a long break with covid so there were teething issues. Frustrated travellers and customers who are paying a lot and getting cranky when things weren’t right and then the poor staff trying to do the best they could when they were understaffed and exhausted from no days off. I’m sure this will all be back to normal soon enough but first holidays back from covid it was showing. It’s hard to work out who to book tours through…the staff or the tour companies direct – they don’t seem to speak to each other very well so maybe a travel agent would be helpful. In any case if you have tours that you want to do…BOOK NOW or forever hold your peace. We did not, and we missed out because of it. I had visions of a dinner under the stars, a camel trip, maybe even a helicopter trip…we couldn’t do anything because we hadn’t booked. So book allllll the things and book them as early as you can. You won’t regret being organised. Another thing that would have been helpful would be some kind of instruction or explanation of how it all works in your room. You know like a document or booklet that says right, you are staying here, you can eat here and here and here and there’s these places too. It was hard to kind of figure it all out. But! That’s because we weren’t organised enough…I blame us! I did catch up with a blog reader who was staying there too and she was confused too so maybe it wasn’t just us?! Maybe this post will help you…I hope so!

We did have two tours booked in and we managed to get one other when we were there:

The Field of Light
Sunrise at Uluru and then onto Kata Tjuta
Hop on hop off bus that took us out to Uluru

Other things we would have liked to do that we couldn’t because they were booked out:

Bike hire to ride around Uluru
Camel Tour
Dinner under the stars
Helicopter tour

We went to Field of Lights on the first night which was truly amazing. Maggie was off her chops tired (our tour left at 8.50pm and we started the day at around 5am). She fell asleep in the hotel lobby floor as we grabbed  a drink before we left but pushed through and made it around. It’s truly amazing to see, thank GOD for artists and their visions. It was really special for all of us to see together and walk around under a full moon and sparkly star lit sky. I would really recommend you do this…maybe even sunrise or sunset would be extra special. Truly magical!

The next day we went for a walk around various parts of the resort – to the look outs to the fabulous Gallery of Central Australia (GOCA) to the town square for a coffee, to the free cultural things they have on at the resort (we went to a bush tucker one that was great) and then some time at the pool before going to a spot tghat Rob found for our sunset. It was quite a hike from the hotel but worth it when we got there…convincing Maggie to walk there was quite something. The view between Uluru & Kata Tjuta was really something though and I won’t forget that, not ever, it was very special and I have no doubts that Alan was shining down watching us all together feeling happy. We ate dinner at another resort (Arnguli Grill) but when we sat down they let us know it would be 2-2.5 hours before we ate. Lucky the wine was cold!

The next day we took the Hop on hop off bus tour out to Uluru which was fantastic. Rob tried to work out where the best place was to get on to make it to the next spot by the bus pick up. It was so exciting to see Uluru come into focus it’s unbelievably beautiful and magical. You can’t help but be in awe of the power and sacredness of the place. To me, it felt like we were in the very heart of our country – I get goosebumps thinking about – I wanted to touch it, thank it, say sorry to it, all at once. It’s really a very special place. We were dropped off on the end and began our walk around the base. It was extremely hot on the day we were there 35 plus and about 10.30am with the heat increasing so Maggie really struggled with the walking (who can blame a 6 year old?). There were lots of shoulders and piggy backs as well as bribes and distractions but Maggie and I succumbed almost at the end and waited at a stop for the bus to get us a hour later. We stayed in the shade with some other people who couldn’t make it around. I was glad we had LOTS of water and her drawing notepad to distract us while we waited. Rob said the last but of the walk that they did was in the shade and very green (near the waterhole) whereas we had been walking on the scared side of the rock where the track is quite a way away from the rock so if it’s walk perhaps avoid that side on foot. Better still, book the bikes! That looked like great fun for the kids and I am certain she would have enjoyed that more.

That night was a quiet pizza take away from the village square and an early night before the sunrise tour of Uluru and then Kata Tjuta. This really was such a highlight for us all and one that we won’t forget ever! It was so so beautiful and majestic to see the first sun rays hit that rock. I was also blown away by Kata Tjuta – it’s HUGE and unlike anything I have ever seen in Australia. It’s how I imagine the Grand canyon would be. We did a short walk into it with our guides learning about geology as we went. We also stopped off on the way back at the Kata Tjuta viewing spot which was really so stunning. I wish we could have stayed there for longer. We were back to the other restaurant for our last night as our hotel restaurant was booked and while the wait was long again the food was good. Maggie was exhausted!

I absolutely loved this trip and the stunning country that we had a taste of for the first time. I’d love to head back to the red centre – up to Kakadu and over to WA to see some more of this stunning country. It was a very special time for us as a family- travelling andf enjoying it with Sue knowing that Nala would have been happy to know we were all together enjoying it. Life was for travel and living in his eyes and after such a long break from covid I know he would have been glad. We should have been more organised in hindsight so my only advice would be to book and book early. I’m sure the teething issues of being back after such a long break would also have been ironed out and capacity back to normal going forward, it was just an awkward time for them and staff as they all came back. But the magic you guys! The magic. It’s a really special family trip that I would recommend to anyone.

Book it. Book early!
Go.
Visit GOCA and enjoy the free cultural activities.
Enjoy!
How lucky are we this is in our country?

I’d love to know if you have been?
What did you think?
Any suggestions for people going?
Anything you wish you had done?
Or could pass on?

You can also check our my highlight on Insta here.

Comments

  1. We went in January on some fabulous deal, long weekend for us. We were truly stunned by the magic of the space. It felt sacred, we were humbled at every turn. We went with our 2 & 3 year olds so were very thankful for the icy cold air con at sails in the desert. Being that time of year (42 degrees plus!) it seemed almost empty. No one in the pool, cafe or restaurant.
    We hired a car which we were grateful for having toddlers. It meant we could run out to experience Uluru at all times of the day, something we took full advantage of.
    We loved the cultural experiences, the gallery was stunning. I took myself off for a couple of hours while the babes slept with Dad to wander the gallery and then a very civilised glass of wine and light lunch at the nearby restaurant. Heaven.
    We have vowed to go back – I’d love to go in Spring to see the wildflowers. We returned very grateful travellers.

  2. Beverley says

    We used to go every year when we were running outback tours. I never, ever tire of such an amazing, spiritual place. We have travelled Australia extensively and it is up there with my top 10 places to visit! So pleased you enjoyed it. Thank you for your insights.

  3. We are heading there soon and I totally agree booking things on the website is so confusing, I think even more so if you are staying in the caravan park. We have booked the sunset Field of Lights, the Astro-tour (hopefully the 8/11 year old enjoy this) and a couple of free activities but I’m hoping that as we’ll have our car, caravan and bikes we can be fairly self sufficient? We plan to take ourselves around Uluṟu on bikes, visit Kata Tjuta, and take the car, drinks nibbles etc for sunset/sunrise viewing. We’re travelling the NT and WA for 4 months so trying not to splash out too much at the very start of our trip. Might need to book a dinner out now though!

  4. Many many moons ago, about 30 years ago in late August, hubby then boyfriend and I ( probably then 23 years old) , flew at a huge expense to Alice Springs and picked up a camper van which became home to us for the next 4 weeks as we drove to Uluṟu, Kata Juta, Glen Helen Gorge, McDonnell ranges ( all spectacular) before we started the drive up the Stuart Highway all the way to Kakadu and then Darwin. Stunning, stunning and stunning is how I would describe it. It’s all so amazingly beautiful. Tenant Creek, Mataranka, Litchfield National Park, Kakadu, Darwin itself where the lights and colours at sunset left us gazing in awe. I said to hubby, one day I’ll visit extensively my parents place of birth but I want to visit all of Australia too. We have never regretted it. 2 years ago, Our then 15 year when given a choice by school for either a 2 week trip to the Northern Territory with a bus load of other teenagers doing a quicker version of our trip or a 2 week trip to Europe chose the Northern Territory. He loved it.

    • How wonderful! Once you have been you never forget that magic! So glad my girls have had a chance to see it. Daisy is going to the red centre again in September for school – she is going to love it.

  5. Hi! Thank you so so much for this blog! It seems that there isn’t too much info about going around the parks using the hop-on-hop-off buses. Just wanted to ask, after everything, which hop-on-hop-off stop was best to get a photo of the Uluru? I’ve been trying to figure this out too!

    • If you want a good long shot of the rock, try to get the sunrise hop on hop off. The actual stops at the rock are right up at the base (which is amazing) but you won’t get that “picture of the rock”. Otherwise, if you were doin gate bike riding, you can get a shot from the cultural centre where the bikes start from. You could always get off at the cultural centre which also has a view of a side of Uluru that’s not on the postcards but just make sure you want to spend the time there as the buses only come every 2-3 hours I think .
      You can also find lookouts around the resort that have pretty good views of Uluru. Apparently the lookout past the camel farm is meant to be great (Ewing lookout) or there is the one we went to which is called the “Uluru Lookout” on the resort map,

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