For many, a trip to Australia’s Red Centre is a once in a lifetime opportunity. From high-end dining to a walk with unbelievable scenery, discover the best things to do in Uluru, no matter what your budget.
A visit to Australia’s Red Centre is something special indeed.
And whether you’ve saved up your pennies for this occasion, or are determined to see the sights on a backpacker’s budget, you’ll find there’s plenty of things to do at Uluru.
Top of the list of course, is walking the perimeter of the rock, which is a fantastic and awe-inspiring experience, suitable for all fitness levels.
However, there’s lots else you can get up to in this part of Australia. You can take part in fantastic dining experiences, see some unreal nature and learn more about the Indigenous culture of the area.
So without further adieu, here are some of the best things to do at Uluru.
The best things to do in Uluru
Visiting Uluru? Some important information
Before we launch into the activities at Uluru, here’s some basic information about the area:
- you may know Uluru as Ayers Rock. Formally, it is stylised as Uluṟu/Ayers Rock. I recommend referring to it by its Indigenous name of Uluṟu
- one of the world’s largest monoliths, it’s estimated to be 550 million years old
- Uluru is located on the traditional lands of the Anangu people
- the land surrounding Uluru is a national park, officially Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
- to enter, you’ll need to purchase a park pass. The cost is $38 (adult), which is valid for 3 days. If you plan to visit several National Parks in Australia, you can save on costs by purchasing an annual pass for $50 (adult)
- unless you’re doing a day trip to Uluṟu from Alice Springs, you’ll stay in the town of Yulara, at Ayers Rock Resort.
For more, check out these tips for planning your trip to Uluṟu. And here’s what you can get up to while you’re there.
1. Do the Uluṟu Base Walk
One of the best things to do at Uluṟu is the Base Walk.
It’s a long walk – 10.5 kilometres in length (around 7 miles), which takes around three hours at a leisurely pace. Bring water! And maybe snacks (although food is available from the nearby Aboriginal Cultural Centre).
I’m a walker, yet I’ve done no other trek like this. It’s truly astonishing and beautiful, to see this rock at every angle.
Along the way are plaques featuring various Aboriginal stories that are tied in with the history of Uluṟu. As you read the stories, you could see the features of the rock that inspired these century old tales.
The magic of the ages is prevalent in this experience.
All that is asked is that you stay on path, do you don’t damage the natural vegetation in the area and that you don’t photograph certain parts.
Why? Because they are sacred to Aboriginal culture and a part of certain traditions.
It’s a big rock. Despite the restrictions, the photographic opportunities are endless – trust me.
For something extra, opt for a guided tour at sunrise with a local guide, which includes breakfast. Or take a self-guided audio tour so you can learn about the history and cultural relevance of the area along the way.
No car? No problem
If you don’t have a vehicle, you’ll need to organise transport to and from Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. These can be done via the hop on/hop off bus.
If you do have a car, then you’ll find the base walk is one of the best things to do in Uluru for free (after paying park entry, that is).
Keen hiker? Check out these inspirational books about walking.
Note: as of October 2019, it is no longer possible to climb Uluṟu. This is a good thing. Uluṟu is scared to local Indigenous culture and this practice was seen as being disrespectful. Plus the treat of many footsteps has left a scar on the rock. Honestly, there wouldn’t be much to see from the top of the rock – it’s the star attraction here! For birds-eye views, consider jumping on a helicopter ride over Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park.
2. Cycle around Uluru (or jump on a segway)
If you don’t feel your up to the walk, or you’re short on time (or up for a different sort of adventure), you can choose to either ride a bike around the rock – or a segway.
You can rent a bike from Outback Cycling, to zip around Uluṟu. Obviously be respectful of the people walking around – let them know you’re coming with the aid of your bike bell and don’t ride too fast.
Hire is priced at $60 for a standard bike and $45 for a kid’s bike. Helmet hire is included in the price.
You can pick bikes up at the Cultural Centre if you have your own vehicle, or choose a booking option that includes transfer to and from the park on the hop on/hop off bus.
If it’s too hot to walk or mobility is an issue, you might want to choose a segway tour around Uluṟu. These are conducted in small groups at sunrise or during the day.
3. See the rock at sunrise or sunset
Uluṟu is gorgeous no matter what time of the day, but at sunrise and sunset, the changing light and colour in the sky provide a dramatic backdrop.
There are plenty of things to do at Uluru that are timed around sunrise or sunset, so you won’t miss out.
If possible, it’s great to time your walk around sunrise, to take in the changing colours up close. Then choose another experience for sunset, such as a dinner or helicopter flight over the park.
4. Grab a seat at the table for Sounds of Silence
Sound of Silence is one of the top things to do at Uluru, an evening of dining in Australia’s Red Centre.
The experience includes canapes and chilled sparkling wine on top of a dune, which overlooks the national park.
This is followed by a ‘bush tucker’ inspired menu, full of native Australian ingredients.
After the meal, you’ll hear the resident star talker tell tales of the night’s sky.
All in all, a lovely experience to take part in during your time at Uluru.
Alternatively, you can choose to have a BBQ dinner in front of Uluru at sunset, which includes wine and pick up from your hotel.
5. Or settle in for an epic eating experience at Tali Wiru
Tali Wiru is the next-level dining experience at Uluru, at an open-air restaurant.
You’re seated in a prime position, where you can watch the sun set over Uluṟu and Kata Tjuta. After arrival (with canapes and sparkling wine), you’ll be seated for a four course meal, accompanied by delicious Australian wines.
Then you’re served a hot chocolate, as you settle in around a flickering fire to observe the night sky.
It’s not cheap, but honestly is one of the best things to do at Uluru, if not in Australia (gastronomically-speaking).
Find out more about why Tali Wiru is worth the cost.
6. See the glittering Field of Light installation
Field of Light by artist Bruce Munro was intended to be a temporary installation. It was such a hit, that it’s been extended indefinitely.
The exhibition is named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku, which means ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara. And it does what it says on the box, with a mass of colourful lights illuminating the surrounding desert in an array of colour.
Jump on a sunrise tour, which includes a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and pick up from your hotel.
And for more foodie options, you can choose to dine in front of the Field of Light, as the sun goes down and the installation comes to life.
7. Take a helicopter ride over Uluru at sunset
This is definitely one of the more expensive things to do at Uluru, but if you have the funds, you should definitely consider flying in a helicopter over Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park at sunset.
This part of Australia is phenomenal from above. It’s also a great opportunity to see Kata Tjuṯa (The Olgas) from every angle.
They are considered more of a sacred sight than Uluru, so access to them is restricted in any case. From the air, you get to see two thirds more than those on the ground would ever be able to.
You’re up in the air for around half an hour. If flying in a helicopter is something you’ve always wanted to do, this may be the perfect setting for it.
Alternatively, you can instead choose to fly over the park in a small plane, if that’s more your speed.
8. Visit the Cultural Centre
The Cultural Centre is located right near the entrance to Uluru, at the start of the Base Walk.
Visit to learn about Anangu culture and the natural environment of the park. There’s also art galleries on site and you can buy food, use the toilet and shop souvenirs.
9. Check out the Gallery of Central Australia
After more things to do at Uluru for free?
Visit the Gallery of Central Australia, located next to Desert Gardens Hotel.
Here you’ll be able to view authentic Indigenous artwork and see artists at work.
10. Ride a camel in the Aussie outback
One weird fact about Australia – camels ride rampant in the outback, having been introduced in the 1800s and thrived in the desert conditions.
Uluru Camel Tours is a camel farm located in Australia’s Red Centre.
You can do a meet and greet with the camels or jump up on one for a ride, either for kicks during the day or specifically at sunrise and sunset.
11. Go on a side trip to Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon is around a 3.5 hour drive from Yulara and it is possible to get there from Uluru if you have your own vehicle, rented or otherwise.
Once there, you can do the Rim Walk. It’s a 6 kilometre circuit which descends down into the ‘Garden of Eden’ and back to the top of the canyon. It takes around 3-4 hours to complete, with some challenging and steep steps at the start.
You can choose to go on a guided tour while doing the walk.
And if you wish to combine Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta into one trip, book onto a guided camping safari and enjoy the sights.
12. Visit Kata Tjuta & do the Valley of the Winds walk
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) doesn’t get as much attention as their world-famous next door neighbour, but they are a site to behold in itself.
These 36 domes are around 500 million years old and can be explored via the Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds walk.
This 7.4 kilometre track should take around 3.5 hours to complete. It’s a Grade 4 circuit, so some fitness is required. It’ll lead you to two lookout points and there’s drinking water available halfway through the walk.
13. Take a day tour to Alice Springs
Alice Springs is the biggest town near Uluru and is well-worth visiting in its own right.
Either hire a car and do the drive there yourself, or pre-book a seat on the Uluru to Alice shuttle.
If you’re staying in Alice and interested in seeing a few of Uluru’s attractions, then you can take a day tour to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, which includes a sunset BBQ dinner.
While in a town called Alice, look out for the Big Books, located at the library, which is part of Australia’s extensive list of Big Things.
14. Ogle the night’s sky
The clear skies of this part of Australia make it one of the best places in the country and perhaps the world for stargazing.
You can very clearly see an arm of the Milky Way and constellations that can only be viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, plus those connected to Country like the Emu in the Sky.
Take part in an Astro Tour with a knowledgeable guide to discover constellations, hear tales and even see some planets, in the wide expanse of the southern night sky.
15. Hear the Mala story at Wintjiri Wiru
Immerse yourself in the history of the Anangu people through the Mala story. This show features drones, light and sound, played out in an open-air desert theatre.
Watch the show after dark, or as part of a sunset dinner experience.
When is the best time to visit Uluru?
The best time to visit Uluru is from late winter to mid-spring.
The climate of the area is much more bearable in the cooler months and the colours of the rock are also more vibrant, in the soft, wintery light.
There are other times of the year that are suitable for visiting Australia’s Red Centre.
Find out more about the best time to visit Uluru.
Where to stay at Uluru
There’s a range of accommodation options for your stay at Uluru.
However, keep in mind that availability can be limited, especially during peak season. Book early to avoid disappointment.
The best places to stay at Uluru
Sails in the Desert is the best place to stay at Uluru. The five star hotel has its own swimming pool and art gallery. It is also home to the Red Ochre Spa.
Best value for money
Although it’s a step down in price, Desert Gardens Hotel is just as nice as Sails and has lovely gardens.
Best place to stay at Uluru if you’re on a budget
Outback Pioneer Lodge is Yulara’s hostel, where you can choose between the twenty bed female and male dormitories or the four bed mixed sex dormitories. The dorms have air-conditioning and heating, with shared bathroom facilities.
Alternatively, if you’re camping you can book into Ayers Rock Campground. The camping grounds feature three options – air-conditioned cabins, powered sites for caravans, campervans, motor homes and camper trailers, or non-powered sites for traditional campers that arrive armed with tent only.
Concluding the best things to do at Uluru
There’s plenty of Uluru attractions for any kind of budget. You can see the rock, take part in the Base Walk, hike the Valley of the Winds and perhaps fork out a little extra for delightful meal. Or you can fly over the national park in helicopter and settle in for a dining experience you’ll think about for years to come.
No matter what you end up doing, enjoy your time in Australia’s Red Centre. It’s a special and sacred place.
Have you visited Uluṟu? What did you do while you were there? For more, check out this list of epic road trips in Australia.