Escape the hustle and bustle of Melbourne and journey to the country's red centre, where the skies are clear, the stars are out and the landscapes are spectacular. Whether you're looking to learn more about our Indigenous ancestors, spot some native flora or explore the depths of the outback, you'll be able to do all that and more in this corner of the Northern Territory.
Things to do around Uluru
This art installation is the first of its kind in the Northern Territory. The 50,000 odd solar-powered stem lights were dreamt up by British artist Bruce Munroe, when he was first travelling around the outback in his early twenties. As dusk falls the dark desert makes for a perfect canvas for Munroe’s installation – the incandescent lights twinkle like the night’s sky. The artwork was installed in consultation with the Ananu people and will be on display until December 2020.
Whether you marvel from Uluru from its base or afar, try to check out the rock from as many different viewing points as possible. Right up close you can explore crevasses and caves, which are filled with history, paintings and even the Matitjulu water hole. From way back you can admire its sheer size and the different colours it turns as the sunlight hits it. Forget about the selfies, just embrace it for what it is.
Set your alarm early because sunrise and sunsets are truly your golden hours. Stretching clouds turn a palette of dusty pink, lilac and eggshell blue, contrasted against the ochre desert dunes. Hire a car and drive across to the open desert to get the best views. The roads are wide and often you'll find the best views outside of the tourist car parks.
With little to no light pollution, a clear night gives you an awesome chance to admire the celestial vistas. If you dine at Tali Wiru a star talk is included with your meal.
Hop on the back of a Harley, bop along on a camel, cruise along on a bicycle or ride high in an all-terrain-vehicle. There are plenty of ways to get around Uluru that’ll give you an experience in itself. We opt for the slow-moving camels – it’s a calming way to take in the vast expanse of the desert.
In the springtime, the desert can transform with scrub, flowers and cacti. If you're around during this time, this semi-arid region blooms with desert oaks, honey grevillea and mulga tree.
In the cooler months, this pop-up restaurant serves a five-star dinner in the red centre. The menu draws on native ingredients and flavours – think lemon myrtle, native samphire, emu apples, desert lime and salt bush all used in refined dishes. Standouts from the menu include a bush tomato burrata and Paroo kangaroo rillettes. The only thing that will distract you from the food is the stunning setting – Uluru is your dining companion.
Flying above South Australia and the Northern Territory is a spectacle in itself – hilly green ranges transform in vast plains of rust desert. While you’re in the sky also keep an eye out for the stunning flats surrounding Lake Eyre. And when you’re close to landing you’ll be able to spot Uluru from a bird’s eye view.
Kings Canyon definitely lives up to its illustrious name. It's about four hours' drive from Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and the drive is part of the fun, with long stretches of empty road as far as the eye can see. The canyon itself features 100-metre canyon walls that stretch above palm forests and red rock sandstone. Head out on a six-kilometre walk around the rim and stick around town to check out the time-warped town, too.