Experience the Outback and famed Uluru with your family without leaving all of civilization behind.
One of the country’s most recognizable symbols, Ayers Rock - better known today by its Aboriginal name of Uluru - sits close to the geographical center of Australia, giving this area the nickname “Red Center.” The sandstone monolith juts up 1141-feet from the surrounding barren landscape, but interestingly, most of the rock is actually underground. This area is rich in Aboriginal history, as tribes have lived here for 10,000 years.
Your choices include Sails in the Desert (start at $345/night), Emu Apartments(start at $292/night), Desert Gardens (start at $279/night), Pioneer Hotel (start at $213/night), Pioneer Lodge (start at $133/night), and Ayers Rock Campground(cabins start at $116/night). In an attempt to save money, we opted for an austere Pioneer Lodge room with two bunkbeds and a communal bathroom. While I found it to be tolerable for two nights, my sons and husband hated it; you really need to have a backpacker mindset to stay here. The upside? No matter where you’re staying at the resort, you can use all the property’s facilities. We made a beeline to the gorgeous pool at Sails; there’s also three other pools at the resort. Complimentary activities include guided and self-guided garden walks, Aboriginal storytelling, and the Wintjiri Arts and Museum showcasing local Anangu work.
Where to eat?
While the boys didn’t appreciate the accommodations at the Pioneer Lodge, we all enjoyed grilling our own food on the “barbie” at the Pioneer BBQ and Bar. We sampled kangaroo, emu sausages, and crocodile which actually was quite delicious.
KidTripster Tip: Don't overcook the kangaroo! It’s best served medium rare.
For the breakfast buffet, children (12 and under) eat free with a paying adult; teens (13-15) pay half price.
What to do?
While there’s a complimentary shuttle that runs around the resort and to the airport, it doesn’t go to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You can opt for the Uluru Express, but I’d recommend renting a car, so that you can explore the area on your own schedule.
Uluru has great spiritual significance to the local Anangu people. Out of respect for their land, culture, and law, they ask visitors to not climb it. While it’s not strictly prohibited, we opted to honor that request. It seemed like a good teachable moment for our kids. Plan to catch both sunrise and sunset over Uluru. The change in color is magical and most vibrant from May to September. Park admission: Family $47; pass is valid for three consecutive days.
KidTripster Tip: Ask the resort staff to direct you to the best spots for viewing sunrise and sunset. It’s a great opportunity for some time-lapse photography.
The park service offers ranger-led hikes, but be warned: the popular Uluru Base Walk takes 3-1/2 hours and is probably not the best choice for kids. If you’re looking to hike, head to the other monoliths in the area called The Olgas for shorter, family-friendly walks.
KidTripster Tip: If you visit during the Aussie summer, you’ll likely be swarmed by flies. They were so bad that my husband and son bought nets for their wide-brimmed hats. Oh, and it’s hot! Sunscreen is a must.
You’ll likely find that two nights here is ample time to take in the sights.
When to go & getting there?
Temperatures in Ayers Rock are most comfortable in June and July with highs in the upper 60s, but the mercury will dip to the upper 30s and low 40s at night. Low season is December to February because of the extreme heat. Temperatures average around 95+ degrees, so you should limit your activities to the mornings. During the shoulder season in September and October, desert plants are in bloom, and animals are active.
You can fly to Ayers Rock from several Australian cities, including Cairns and Sydney.
KidTripster Tip: If you book your international flight with Qantas, you can then get discounts on in-country flights through the Qantas Explorer program.
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Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah travels with her husband and two sons. No matter what any Aussie tells you, she says that Vegemite is awful and should be avoided at all costs!