Uluru-Kata Tjuta - how to make the most of your trip
December 6, 2018 • Renee Nathan Helms
9 min read
Uluru is probably one of Australia’s most recognisable sights. It’s such a beautiful, unique, and spiritual place that symbolises the heart of our great country. For those reasons and so many more it’s on most people’s bucket lists when they visit or travel around Australia. But in our experience, most visitors here don’t really make the most of their time, which is such a shame when they’ve come such a long way to see this amazing place.
To make sure you don’t make the same mistakes, we’ll outline some of the absolute best ways to make the most of your time in and around the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Allow yourself plenty of time
The parks pass costs $25 per adult, and gives you 3 days access. However you can extend that out to 5 days for no extra charge. If you think you’ll need longer, you can buy an annual pass for $32.50.
We’ve seen people try and fit everything in to one day, and sure you can get a look at both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) in that time. But that’s about it. To explore them properly you really need to make the most of the pass and allow yourself at least 3 days.
Do the Mala guided ranger walk
Seriously, if you only do one thing on your time here, do this! We’ve visited Uluru on multiple occasions, but (stupidly) had never done a tour before, and this one was absolutely fantastic. And best of all? It’s completely free. It leaves from the main car park at 8am in the hotter months, 10am in the cooler months, goes for 2 hours, and is easily accessible and achievable for people of all fitness levels and physical abilities. If you are thinking about climbing Uluru then I strongly recommend doing this walk BEFORE making the decision to climb, so you can make an informed choice.
Give yourself a day out at Kata Tjuta
It’s 50kms from Yulara out to Kata Tjuta, so there’s no point popping out for a quick look and driving back again. We recommend going out to the Dune Sunrise Viewing Platform that’s on the way out to Kata Tjuta, watching the sunrise (it’s a fantastic spot as you can see both Kata Tjuta & Uluru from here) and then carrying on to Kata Tjuta to explore before it gets too hot.
There are two walks out there, both of which are excellent. If you only do one, make it the Valley of the Winds walk (check it’s open before you make the trek out) and go to the Karingana Lookout (the second lookout) for the best views – it’s 5.4km return to this point and is a beautiful walk. There are drop toilets and drinking water taps out here, but not much else, so make sure you bring everything you need in with you.
One sunset is not enough!
Nor is one sunrise for that matter. Every single one is different, and as there are multiple viewing areas all around the park, every view is different, too. We made the most of each sunset by taking the Weber out to the viewing area, and cooking ourselves dinner as we watched the sun go down.
Check out all the free activities
I’ve heard so many people complain about the cost of things out here, including the cost of the parks pass (seriously, $25 for up to 5 days – that’s only $5 a day!) But honestly, there are so many great free activities in both the park and in town that are an absolute credit to the local management.
On top of the free Mala walk already mentioned, there are other ranger talks out at the cultural centre, not to mention the cultural centre itself which is also fantastic. Plus every day in Yulara there are a bunch of free talks and displays on everything from bush tucker and culture, to didgeridoo workshops, to astronomy talks. You’ve taken the time, and spent the money to get here. Now make the most of it!
Consider a scenic flight
Sure, a chopper flight doesn’t come cheap, but if you’ve got the $$’s we reckon it’s well worth it. Plus the local operators know not everyone has megabucks and have a couple of budget options available. For example you can do an 8 min flight with views of Uluru for $95 and it gives you a fantastic alternative view of this iconic place that many people don’t get to see.
Shed some light on the desert
The Field of Light display has been running at Uluru for a few years now, and is immensely popular – for good reason! It’s a beautiful and surreal experience to see these lights running across the desert towards Uluru, under the magnificent Milky Way.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself with some dollars to spend then consider doing the world renowned Sounds of Silence dinner. It runs for 4 hours, has multiple courses, and features fine dining with a bush tucker influence, as well as a selection of Australian wines. It looks absolutely fantastic, and the reviews are very positive, but at $210 a head (plus the cost of a babysitter in our case) we regretfully decided to add this to our ‘next time’ list.
Visit in the off season
This place is extremely popular with domestic and overseas tourists alike. As such, you will be sharing it with many other people from all walks of life. We often hear people complain about how busy it is in the high season (particularly over school holidays) so if you can avoid these times, then definitely do. Plus, once it reaches the low season not only will there be less people about, things start to get cheaper – the caravan park currently has a ‘pay 2, stay 3’ deal making it a lot more affordable.
The downside of course is that the weather is likely to be an awful lot hotter, so that needs to be taken into consideration. But over our week-long stay in November, we had the full range of weather – rain, storms, wind, cool days, hot days, the works. So you never really know how it’s going to be until you get there!
Stay at Yulara
There are a couple of free camping options on your way in to Uluru – the most popular of which is at Curtin Springs Station, as well as a couple of semi-official/turn a blind eye spots off the roadside before you reach Yulara. Now these options are great for a night on the way in, or a night on the way out. But we don’t recommend planning to stay in them for your entire stay. Sure, it will save you some $$’s on accommodation, but by the time you drive in and out every day, and with the current cost of fuel at over $2.20 a litre, you’ll quickly lose that saving in both time and fuel costs.
The resort town of Yulara is perfectly positioned just outside the national park, so is great for sunrise and sunset, and when you consider all the free activities available in town (not to mention the remoteness of the place!) the prices start to seem a little more reasonable. Plus a quick tip: if you’re staying in town at any of the accommodation options, including the caravan park, you can access any of the swimming pools at the other accommodation free of charge. So get on the free resort shuttle and start pool hopping!
If it rains, get out to the rock!!
I cannot stress this enough!! Rain on Uluru is an unbelievably beautiful and rare event – it’s something that only 1% of visitors get to experience. And when you get enough rain, spectacular waterfalls appear all over the rock, and then disappear as quickly as they arrived. If you don’t get out there asap, you could easily miss this spectacular event. We were lucky enough to witness rain on the rock on our most recent visit, but we had to work for it a little bit.
We were in the pool when the clouds came over and it started raining. We debated whether there was enough rain, and if it was worth going out the rock. Meanwhile, some overseas tourists said “You’re going out in this, why?” We explained we wanted to see rain on the rock, but they didn’t get it – they just thought we were mad for going out in the rain! We did go out, and even then we had to wait for a few hours watching the rain, the storm, and the lightning before we were blessed with the sight of waterfalls running on the rock. We got very wet, but it was well worth it to see this once in a lifetime event!
Just get there
Seriously, even if you can only spare a few days on your ‘big lap’ for a quick glimpse, just get out there and see Uluru for yourself. It’s like nothing else on Earth, and something every Aussie should see at least once in their lifetime.
Where to stay on the way
Discovery Parks Darwin
Let's Go Motorhomes
Manbulloo Homestead Katherine
Riverview Tourist Village Katherine