In addition to its unique indigenous culture, any visit to Uluru means views, views and more views. And the best vantage points for appreciating the Rock are in the cooler desert dawns and dusks at an appropriate distance, never over or atop it. Yet, curiously, glimpses of the monolith are rather rare within Ayers Rock Resort itself, with the exception of the newly renovated 218-room Desert Gardens Hotel. In that regard, it even dwarfs the chic five-star Sails in the Desert at the other end of the resort, or Yulara (zip code 0872), as it is officially referred to in the Territory.
Ayers Rock Resort, and Deserts Gardens itself, is about 20 kilometers from Uluru and about a three hour flight from Sydney and Melbourne. Qantas recently launched direct flights from Sydney to Ayers Rock Airport (also known as Connellan Airport) just a 10 minute drive from Desert Gardens.
It might sound a little “Besser Block-chic,” but Desert Gardens, as the name suggests, is beautifully enveloped in an arid forest of native shrubs and wildflowers (free guided walks through the gardens are offered to guests ) and some of the more expensive rooms offer coveted views of the Rock. It’s hard to believe that the Ayers Rock Resort, designed by Philip Cox, also known as Yulara Township, is almost 40 years old. It is even more difficult to conceive how such low-level environmentally and culturally sensitive design could have been achieved so long ago when environmental ignorance at the national level still exists. No wonder Cox’s design, particularly Sails in the Desert with its billowing shade sail, won the coveted “sustainable architecture” award a few years ago.
My spacious “Deluxe Rock View Room” on the second floor, with balcony and newly laid carpet with a design inspired by dappled light under a canopy of trees, is attractive and comfortable. But the room looks more like it has benefited from a facelift rather than a complete renovation, especially as regards the bathroom. A few more thoughtful touches (such as proper, not instant coffee) would be welcome. But with such an incredible selection of experiences at Uluru – far too many to detail here – you should have rocks (make a rock out of it) in your head for spending too much time in your bolthole.
The station’s remote location does not impede its ability and determination to keep its customers extremely well fed and watered. The main restaurant at Desert Gardens is the newly and beautifully renovated a la carte Arnguli, which is the local Pitjantjatjara word for bush plum. Overlooking the central pool, framed by two magnificent towering ghost gums, Arnguli’s menu is steeped in the flavors of bush tucker. Next door is the more laid-back and equally well-designed Mangata (meaning: “when dong of the desert”), overlooking the native greenery of an outdoor terrace. It is open for breakfast and all day dining with a seating area outside the entrance. Sails in the desert who?
GET OUT OF
The tucker theme at Uluru continues at Tali Waru (meaning “beautiful dune”), the resort’s premier outdoor dining experience that takes place under the stars after sunset canapes and vistas of both the Rock and on the equally remarkable Kata Tjuta (formerly the Olgas) on an elevated site outside the boundaries of Yulara. The refined dishes on the four-course menu, served by a mostly indigenous team, are infused with indigenous herbs and spices. Back in town, don’t miss Yulara’s newest pride and joy, the Gallery of Central Australia (GOCA), which showcases stellar indigenous art, all of which is for sale. The works are drawn from the surrounding desert communities. The resort’s town square, which includes an information center and cafes (one of which, Kulata, also serves as a venue for indigenous hospitality trainees) is a short walk from Desert Gardens or hop on the shuttle free.
Your reviewer was up in total darkness both mornings of his visit to absorb beautiful sunrises. But that view of Uluru from the bedroom, when you’re lucky enough to take it all in, is a real bonus to any visit to this definitive Australian destination, especially as we approach the cooler months and before returning to Australia. number of international tourists.
Garden view rooms, sleeping up to four people, start at $400 a night with a two-night minimum stay. Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara, Northern Territory. Such. : 1300 134 044. See ayersrockresort.com.au
Did we mention the views?
Consider staying an extra night or three for a well-deserved sleep in. This place gets up early and we mean early.
OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE
Anthony Dennis visited as a guest of Voyages Ayers Rock Resort.