A DETAILED GUIDE TO CHOOSING ACCOMMODATION IN ULURU
Choosing your accommodation in Uluru is as much a matter of budget as it is style. The remote location makes things pretty pricey in this part of the country. We took the time to check out all the options while we were in the area and share our thoughts to help you decide where you should stay when you visit the red centre.
The first thing to know when you start planning your stay here is that one company, Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, manage all the accommodation in Yulara, the nearest town to Uluru.
While the properties may have different branding, it’s under one management team, and the facilities and amenities are quite similar across the resort.
COVID update: Uluru reopened to visitors on August 6th 2020 with the agreement of the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land; however, their community are still incredibly vulnerable to this disease. Please consider this before you make any plans. You will find the current news about parks status here and official advice from Ayres Rock Resort here.
Choose from 5-star comfort, self-contained apartments, backpackers dorms or the campground; it’s all here.
Voyages Ayers Rock Resort
The red centre is the most expensive part of Australia, you are in the middle of nowhere, and a captive audience so accept it is what it is and then decide on a budget.
The resort was built in the mid-1980s, the resort, which has been refreshed and updated multiple times, still feels very much of that decade. Keep in mind you don’t go to Uluru for luxury, and if you are, stay at Longitude 131.
When we can’t decide where to stay, we usually choose the property with the best location. The thing is that here, it doesn’t matter; it is all arranged in a loop with the Town Square in the middle.
A free shuttle travels between the shops and restaurants in the Town Square and the hotels and campground. Where you stay is not a huge deal as there is not more than about 600m distance between any hotel and the centre.
The resort offers a range of free cultural activities that are available to all guests.
We visited all the hotels and accommodation options on our recent fact-finding mission and share the photos and our opinions here.
Sails in the Desert Hotel
Sails in the Desert is the resort’s 5-star offering. First impressions don’t feel luxurious, the exterior is pretty functional and reminded me of a conference centre, but on entering things vastly improve.
You are greeted by a spacious, well air-conditioned lobby and the Mulgara Gallery which features a colourful display of indigenous art and local products. The lobby is furnished in neutral tones, and a light-filled seating area overlooks the gardens.
The resort offers three types of rooms: money is no object
- Standard rooms – a 36m2 room with a small terrace
- Terrace rooms – small to medium-sized terraces, depending on which room you get.
- Suites – if money is no object these are lovely – with two terrace spaces and a good size living area
All rooms offer the choice of a king or two queen beds. While we did not stay here, we were given a tour of one of the standard rooms and to be honest; it did not feel all that different to our room at Desert Gardens once you were inside.
The pool at Sails is large, and the pool bar opens from mid-morning till mid-evening. It’s nice enough, but it does not scream luxury. Perhaps the pool fencing detracts however it is the nicest pool in Uluru. The gardens are particularly lovely and well maintained.
There are two restaurants on-site. We ate at the Walpa Lobby bar with had a range of salads, sandwiches and burgers on offer with prices similar to the rest of the Ayers Rock Resort. The buffet breakfast is reportedly excellent.
We decided to spend our three nights at Desert Gardens, the resort’s 4-star option.
2 double beds
A comfy reading chair and big TV
Desert Gardens also features “Sails”
Desert Gardens also offers 3 styles of rooms:
- Garden view room – 35m² with a small porch
- Desert Deluxe room – 39 m², a view of the desert and a bathtub
- Rock View room – a king bed and balcony – these are the only rooms at the resort with views of Uluru
The rooms have similar furnishings as those in the more expensive Sails resort. We chose the entry-level garden view room and our friends, who travelled with us, chose a Rock view room.
The rock view was beautiful, but we were happy with our choice as we spent little time in our room and had many opportunities to view the rock during our visit.
The swimming pool here is very pedestrian, it reminded me of a larger backyard style pool. There was nothing fancy about it at all, but it was cold, and there were plenty of sun lounges.
Guests can use the pool at Sails, so this is not such a big deal, and if you are anything like us, we were after the sunrise hiking. We were happy for a shower and sleep in the middle of the day so the lack of shade and the smaller pool was not a big deal.
Desert Gardens has two onsite restaurants and a bar. Buffet breakfast was included with our booking, and it was a great way to start the day. The property is next door to the gallery where the free art and cultural talks take place.
After viewing all the properties, I think this is the best value for money.
Emu Walk Apartments
Emu Walk Apartments sit between Desert Gardens and the Town Centre. They have been recently refurbished, and the decor is modern and fresh. If I were going to book for more than a couple of nights, I would choose to stay here as eating out for three meals a day at Yulara adds up!
One and two-bedroom apartments are available, both come with a fully equipped kitchen, so self-catering is easy. The local IGA supermarket is only 5 minutes walk away. We found the prices at the supermarket reasonable.
The apartments have in-room laundry facilities which is any considering how much red dirt gets on everything you own!
The one-bedroom (55m²) is fitted out with a king bed in a separate room and a sofa bed in the living room. The apartment is a good size and can easily suit a family if the kids are happy to sleep on sofa beds in the living room.
Two-bedroom apartments (70m²) and can sleep up to six. The only drawback is one bathroom, which can make getting everyone out the door on time for tours challenging.
There is no swimming pool here, but it’s a few minutes’ walk to either Desert Sands or Sails, which are available for guest use.
When we visited the Lost Camel recently, the staff mentioned the property was previously a residence for employees of the resort. After a makeover in 2018, it is now a boutique option for guests. The rooms are small at 22m², most feature a king-size bed that can be split into two singles, but that does not leave a lot of space.
While it bills itself as a boutique property, I would view it more as a fairly basic model, and I think you would be better paying a little more for Desert Gardens or choosing the older style budget option at the Outback pioneer.
The Lost Camel is in between Sails and the town centre, so while it does not have a restaurant on-site, it’s minutes’ walk away from other options. The pool is lovely and the staff friendly, but unless you get a good deal, I think there are better choices.
Tip: Not all rooms here have windows, so be sure to check if that’s an issue for you (it would be for me)
I would not choose this property as I think the rooms are just too small for the price charged.
Outback Pioneer Hotel
A popular choice for budget travellers, Outback Pioneer, is rated three stars. It’s a motel style room with dated decor, but it is one of the more affordable choices here. Being located on the same site as the town’s pub, it’s well suited for those planning a few nights while in town.
There is only one room type available at 30m² with a double and a single bed, a small table and chairs and a basic bathroom. The property has a pool and a children’s play area, but you can also access the facilities at all the other properties.
There are three restaurants on-site, a do-it-yourself BBQ place with a buffet salad bar, a pizza and burger takeaway spot and the Bough Restaurant, which offers a buffet breakfast and a 3-course dinner option each evening. The bar features entertainment several nights a week, and it had a fun atmosphere.
Our biggest disappointment was that the bar was outdoors with no air conditioning, so we ended up back at Desert Gardens for our drinks.
Outback Pioneer Lodge
The resort‘s hostel provides 4-bed private rooms with and without en suites and also 20-bed male and female dormitories. There is a communal kitchen and living room with tv and free internet signal.
Guests have access to the same activity program as the rest of the resort. If you are just looking for a bed, it is perfectly adequate.
Related: Have you decided which walks you will try in Uluru?
Ayers Rock Campground
Also part of the resort the Ayres Rock Campground offers tent sites, caravan sites and cabins. There are communal cooking facilities. Located a short walk from the Pioneer Lodge. The campground has its own pool and kids’ playground.
Sadly we have no personal experience of Longitude 131. At over $1500 per person per day, it’s unlikely we will anytime soon! If you have a bigger budget than we do, you can find out more here.
Related: Heading north? Check out our guide to the Best Things to do in Darwin