Uluru is an unexpected luxury and adventure holiday

When you imagine a luxury restaurant, you often think of Italy or the south of France. But there’s one unexpected spot in Australia that’s in high demand for culinary experiences.

Uluru is a big mystery to many Australians, but the area has been completely transformed since the controversial climb was closed on October 28, 2019.

As part of Anangu’s bid to close the Uluru climb, they were encouraged to generate other income from tourism and introduced several new attractions to the area, including Segway tours around the rock and a sunset dinner at Wintjiri Wiru.

I was pretty naive about what was going to happen when I contacted Virgin Australia who recently announced that flights from Melbourne and Brisbane would start on June 6th and 7th.

It’s entirely possible to visit the Red Center on a budget, but if you’re willing and able to shell out some money, you’ll have some unforgettable experiences. You could even say it’s list-worthy. You might not expect Uluru to be a quiet place of luxury mixed with an adventure holiday.

Where to eat in Uluru

The trip was a whirlwind of good food – and as a celiac I can’t always say that, as my food options are usually very limited.

Sails in the Desert, one of the many accommodation spots at Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, has a few places like Walpa and Pira Pool Bar, but if you’ve ever wanted to splash around after a meal, I highly recommend Tali Wiru Dinner Under the Stars.

Yes, it’s not cheap at $440, but it’s worth every penny—and more, in my opinion.

Imagine this; the sun is setting over the back of Uluru. You are handed a glass of bubbly and as you walk up the dirt track, a man can be heard playing the Yidaka.

They offer you a mix of canapés such as mushroom caps stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes or duck with emu pate or kangaroo with natural ingredients. That’s all before you sit down with just 19 other guests to eat under the stars.

There is a four-course meal with wine, where guests can choose from three starters, main courses and desserts. Almost everything was gluten-free except for dessert and one canapé.

However, the chef immediately prepared versions for me, which were – no hassle and no fuss.

I have eaten at Michelin starred restaurants and I can say that there was something so incredibly special about this night. It outweighed any dining experience I’ve ever had with some of the best food I’ve ever had.

The highlight of the evening was the incredible atmosphere of someone playing traditional instruments and sharing local stories about how the Anangu people used the stars.

Another great dining experience is the Wintjiri Wiru Sunset Dinner, which is priced significantly lower than Tali Wiru at $295 for adults and $125 for children.

The three-hour experience includes cocktails with Beachtree Gin, an indigenously owned distillery, and canapés overlooking Kata Tjuta and Uluru as the sun sets. You then receive an individual basket of seafood, dried kangaroo and emu, along with dessert and wine. Again, my celiac disease caused no problems.

Then another wonderful experience awaits you – a sound, light and drone show that tells one of the local ancestral stories.

This is a very fun way to help children understand a little more about the First Nations community. However, there is a risk that the wind will prevent the drones from flying. But that doesn’t mean the night is over. The light and sound show is just as amazing without it. In my experience, only half of the 20 minute show worked, but everyone got a partial refund for not getting the full experience.

Where to stay

There is one resort in the whole of Uluru – Ayers Rock Resort – but it has different levels of accommodation. There is a campsite, Outback Hotel and Lodge, Emu Walk Apartments, Lost Camel Hotel, Desert Gardens Hotel and Sails in the Desert. I stayed at Sailys in the Desert which is more of a luxury brand. I opened my balcony door for a view of Uluru. Like, how cool is that? There is a pool with a cocktail bar, tons of restaurants, a day spa, and a handful of shops not far away. There is something for every pocket.

What to do

I’m not a morning person, but trust me you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t get out of bed early to watch the sunrise over Kata Tjuta and Uluru. You can do this in several ways. My personal favorite was watching the sunrise while riding a camel named Curly who had a penchant for biting people. Each camel’s personality was as unique as a puppy and I was totally there for it.

Segwaying around Uluru while listening to someone give an insight into some of the history of Anangu was also a very fun and unique way to visit the rock. The actual hike around Uluru is about 10km so if you’re not used to walking a lot this can be an easy way. However, beware, there are some obstacles on the ride. Seeing Kata Tjut and Uluru from the sky – or a helicopter ride – is also an unforgettable experience. It’s almost as if the “adventurer element” is still alive and well in the area even though the climb has been halted – and rightly so. But I think it’s a great way to keep that energy going.

The hike between the two peaks of Kata Tjuta is also a highlight, especially with a guide who tells you about some of the artworks and what some of the plants are used for.

But for a truly authentic experience of getting to know the Anangu people, I think the best place to visit is Maruku Arts and Walkatjara Arts. This is a brilliant place to learn more about what some of the images mean in Indigenous art, as well as a chance to hear some local history. This is truly one of the most meaningful moments of my life. Hearing someone share their culture with you is a moment of clarity that no one should miss.

Maruka Arts has been owned by the Anangu people for over 40 years and has become one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal owned and operated organizations with 900 artists from 20 remote communities.

How to get there

There aren’t many ways to get to the center of Australia, with the only options being car or flight. However, this has been made much easier as Virgin Australia has announced that from June 6 they will have four flights from Melbourne to Uluru and four return flights each week. There will also be three flights from Brisbane to Uluru and three return flights each week from June 7.

This writer traveled to Uluru as a guest of Virgin Australia

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