9 Ways to Experience the Magic of Uluru

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How to expereince Uluru in the Northern Territory of Australia

Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock in The Red Centre of Australia had escaped us for 40 years.

It’s not that we’ve never wanted to visit, it’s always been at the top of our Aussie bucket list, but with all our overseas adventures and the age old attitude of Australia will always be there, we put it on the back burner.

You’ve probably seen hundreds of photos, postcards and TV commercials of Uluru, but it’s a place you have to see, and feel, for yourself.

Uluru has been a very spiritual place to the the Anangu people, the traditional owners, for thousands of years. Ask most people who visit and spiritual experience is the word they often use to describe it.

Made of arkosic sandstone, Uluru stands 348 metres high and is taller than The Eiffel Tower and 2.5 times the height of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

After spending a week here and getting to know the lands, I now know why this area is known as the heart of Australia.

1. Lasseter Highway Sand Dune

The anticipation was building as we turned off the main Stuart Highway and headed along Lasseter Highway in the direction of Uluru.

There’s this unofficial lookout at the top of a small sand dune. You’ll come across a free roadside campground approximately 20 kilometres before you enter the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park boundary, you can’t miss it.

Even though you are still quite a distance from THE ROCK, that first sighting is something special and you can feel its presence and of what’s yet to come.

First glimpse of Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia

2. Sunset at Uluru

The are several lookout spots for sunset at Uluru around the town of Yulara and within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Every lookout and sunset offers a different perspective of the vibrant and ever changing colours.

The most popular sunset spot is the official SUluru Sunset Lookout about 10 kilometres down the road through the entrance gates of the park (entry fee $25 for three days).

This is where we had our first up close and personal experience with Uluru, I’m sure you’ll recognize this profile shot, and like us, you’ll be overwhelmed by its incredible size, presence and spirituality.

Sunset at Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia

We visited in late February (out of peak season) and sunset was around 7.10pm, and it was still quite busy.

If you come in peak season get here early. Set up your camp chair and tripod, bring some nibbles and cold drinks and enjoy the magical transformation as the sun sinks below the desert horizon.

Sunset at Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia

Sunset at Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia

The other option within the National Park is the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku sunset and sunrise lookout.

There’s a tiered viewing platform here which offers uninterrupted views of Uluru and you’ll see the sun setting in the distance, with views of Kata Tjuta 50 kilometres away.

Sunrise at Uluru in Central Australia

Not as popular here at sunset as the first spot, but a totally different story at sunrise as you’ll read down below.

3. Uluru Sunrise

We dragged the kids out of bed at 5.am each day and jumped in the car for the 20-minute drive from Yulara into the park (sunrise was around 6.20am).

It’s the best time of day at Uluru, especially if you come in summer like us and need to beat the heat. Regardless of what time of year you come, seeing the desert and the rock come alive is an unmissable moment.

For our first Uluru sunrise, we headed back to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku lookout. Be warned, this is where hordes of people and tour buses converge and was very busy even in the off-season. Again, get here early unless you like people in the foreground of your photos.

To escape the bulk of the crowd and for a closer sunrise view of Uluru, walk down to the track a little in front of the viewing platform, set up your tripod and self-timer, and snap a priceless family portrait.

Sunrise at Uluru in the Central Australia

Sunrise at Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia

HOT TIP:

For a great Uluru sunrise silhouette, on another morning head back to the sunset lookout spot and you’ll get the rock blocking the sun as she rises.

Whilst almost everyone headed to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku lookout for sunrise, we had this sunset spot all to ourselves, and this magnificent silhouette!

Sunrise at Uluru in the Central Australia

Sunrise at Uluru in the Central Australia

Caz even took a moment for a morning yoga session.

Yoga during sunrise at Uluru in Central Australia

Outside of the park and in the town of Yulara, another good Uluru sunrise option is the Ewing Lookout near the camel farm.

You’re much further away from Uluru, but if you don’t feel like getting up as early to drive into the park it makes for a nice option, also with distant views of Kata Tjuta.

Sunrise at Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia

Sunrise at Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia

I used my 300mm canon lens to zoom in and get this amazing view of Kata Tjuta from the Ewing Lookout:

Sunrise over Kata Tjuta, Central Australia

4. Kata Tjuta dune viewing area

Here’s an extra hot tip. For another brilliant sunrise silhouette of Uluru head to the Kata Tjuta dune viewing area.

We’ll be writing about Kata Tjuta in an upcoming post, but we were pleasantly surprised when we drove the 50 kilometres out from Yulara to watch the sunrise over Kata Tjutua, and then looked back and saw this.

Sunrise at Uluru in the Northern Territory of Australia

Again I used my 300mm lens and tripod, but even to the naked eye this perspective turned out being one of my favourite spots in the whole park!

Sunrise at Uluru in the Northern Territory of Australia

5. Uluru base walk

One of the best things we did as a family was walking around the base of Uluru. We’ve done some great walks on this trip around Australia but nothing quite like the one at Uluru.

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

The loop walk is 10.6 kilometres around the whole base of the rock and it took us 3.45 hours, and that’s with a three and seven-year-old and taking lots of photos.

The walk is completely flat with one short sandy section but otherwise solid footing underneath.

Remember though you’re in the Outback so it’s best to start this walk early at first light to beat the heat. The park opens daily at 5am and as soon as we watched sunrise we were off.

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

We suggest starting at the Kuniya walking point and heading anti-clockwise. The back face of Uluru doesn’t get any shade so it’s best to walk this section early. In fact, if the temperature forecast is for 40 degrees celsius they close this walk from 11am.

Take lots of water, snacks and short breaks. There are a few drinking stations around the loop and don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat, comfortable walking shoes or sandals, and sunscreen.

There were quite a lot of flies at the time of our visit, but a head net soon took care of that.

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

Our kids, aged seven and three, did great. We had to carry little Savannah part of the way sharing the load but it’s all part of the family adventure.

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

We did it. A priceless family pic at the end of the walk is compulsory

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

If you’re wondering about climbing Uluru, yes it’s still legal to do it and about 20% of all visitors do, but we chose not to out of respect for the traditional owners who request people don’t as it’s such an important sacred site.

Regardless, the 800-metre steep climb is actually quite dangerous, people have died, and it was closed due to the high temperatures. This is what the Anangu people have to say:

Uluru Base Walk - Central Australia

6. Cycle the base

If you’re not up to walking the 10.6 kilometres around the base, a great alternative is to hire bikes from Outback Cycling ($30 for three hours) or bring your own and bike it.

We had a tag-along for Kalyra who enjoyed the relaxation of letting daddy do most of the peddling, and little Savannah took in the sights in a baby seat on the back of Caz’s bike.

Uluru cycle ride - Central Australia

Uluru cycle ride - Central Australia

Uluru bike ride - Central Australia

The 15-kilometre track took us about two hours, again stopping for more photos and drink breaks, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable family experience, not to mention another much-needed workout.

Uluru bike ride - Central Australia

7. Free Ranger Guided Mala Walk.

Your third option if you don’t want to walk or bike the whole 10.6 kilometres of Uluru is to participate in the two-kilometre return walk (1.5 hours) free ranger guided Mala walk.

A ranger will take you along the base of the rock, stopping to tell the story of the mala (rufous hare-wallaby) people. Learn about traditional Anangu culture, rock art and how the park is managed. 8.00 am – October to April. 10.00 am – May to September.

You can even participate in this walk and then head off and complete the entire base walk by yourself.

8. Uluru sunset camel ride

Looking for someone else to carry your load whilst you sit back and marvel at the landscape, then one of the unique ways to take in Uluru is on the back of a trusty camel.

Our kids, and us big kids, absolutely loved this experience. We’ve ridden camels at sunset before on Cable Beach in Broome, but I think this was better!

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

Little Savannah rode up front like a boss and I shared a camel with Kalyra. Our camel was a bit of a cranky bum to start with but soon fell into line, as they do.

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

As you can see everyone’s happy to be at Uluru. They’re a funny animal the old camel, always up for a pose and why wouldn’t they be with this as their backyard.

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

Uluru sunset camel ride - Northern Territory, Australia

At the end of our one hour ride again we had amazing views all the way over to Kata Tjuta, and a nice touch was the beer, wine and nibbles back at the camel farm.

Check out Uluru Camel Tours for all the info.

9. Sunset drinks with AAT Kings

A fitting farewell to our time at Uluru was sipping on a few glasses of champagne with the folks from AAT Kings.

By now we’d spent seven days by ourselves in and around Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and it was nice to mingle with others from around the world and share stories and feelings of what it’s like to take in the wonder of Uluru.

It’s a sight you never get tired of seeing, an experience you never get tired of feeling, and funnily enough looks and feels even better ofter a few glasses of the old bubbly!

Sunset drinks at Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia

Sunset drinks at Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia

Sunset drinks at Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia

Cheers.

Sunset drinks at Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia

We had the most amazing time exploring Uluru. It was everything we imagined and then some.

No, we didn’t do every experience on offer at Uluru, and it still amazes me how much there really is to do around the National Park and Yulara.

You can be sure it won’t be another 40 years until we return.

On our bucket list is the Sounds of Silence dining experience under the stars (when the kids are a bit older) and a helicopter flight sounds amazing too!

Don’t just come for a day, stay a while and really get to know what I now know to be truly the “heart of Australia”.

Read More Red Centre posts:

  • You can walk the Kings Canyon Rim with kids
  • 34 experiences to have in the Northern Territory
  • Surprised by the West Macdonell Ranges

Plan Your Trip to Uluru

We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time. Below are our preferred partners:

Accommodation

  • Booking.com has 5 properties at Uluru from budget to luxury. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Flights

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

We visited Uluru in partnership with Tourism NT as part of our Red Centre Way drive .

Have you visited Uluru?

Share your experience or any tips in the comments below!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Like you said, I think that you have to have the passion to make a
    travel blog work…it's so much work to keep it good and going when
    your not traveling that it's important to have that underlying passion
    for sure! Glad that you decided to launch yours, it's fun reading 🙂

  2. Hi Earl,

    It has come time for me to get a new travelling bag (RIP my old eurohike one!) but am thinking of going lighter as mine was 65 liters. I see you recommend 50 liters for a year’s travelling, I’m going for 5 months so am thinking to go with this. But I have a question about when travelling with your laptop, if you want to take it out with you to a cafe or something similar do you just take the Kelty out with you and leave your clothes etc at the hostel/guesthouse. Or do you have your day pack fit into your Kelty and then take that out with you when required.

    thanks

    Mayur

  3. The Outrun was one of my favourite books of last year, such a beautiful written book. I’ve been addicted to the Shetland series lately – more good books set on islands! I finally finished the 7th in the series and I’m now eagerly awaiting the 8th.

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