Yulara, also known as Ayers Rock Resort, is a service town for Uluru, acting as an accommodation base for visitors to the park. It was constructed in the 1980s and is just outside the national park boundaries.
In 2010 the resort was purchased by the Indigenous Land Council who plan to have 50% of the resort's workforce made up of indigenous people by 2018.
Most people at Yulara would stay one or two nights, and many are on tours. Finding people who spend a week is unusual. The township tends to be very quiet during times when the tours are viewing the rock. The hotel swimming pools (what there are of them) and bars are empty during the mid-afternoons.
Get in the same way as you would to Uluru. There is a free shuttle service between the airport and Yulara meeting every flight.
The distances in Yulara are walkable for many visitors, the Yulara drive loop which comprises the entire resort is 3km (1.8mi) in length and there are paths across the sand dune in the centre of the loop. Heat in the middle of the day, or lack of nighting after dark, may stop you walking at some times of day but walking is very pleasant, with views of the rock, and opportunities for wildlife spotting. The paths on the sand dune in the centre are not paved and therefore not wheelchair/scooter-friendly but Yulara Drive itself is flat and paved.
There is a free shuttle that connects all the hotels and campground at Yulara. It arrives approximately every 15 minutes.
But you can't come to Yulara and leave without seeing Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. So, you need to have a plan as to how to do that. And each option has a substantial cost.
- Avis and Hertz have car rental offices at the airport. Both also have counters in the tourist information centre in the shopping mall of the Yulara township. The roads connecting Yulara, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are all paved and maintained, so there's no real challenge to the driving. Car rental is the best option for independent travellers. High season rates are around $100/day, but advance booking in the low season can bring the price down to half of that, which is excellent value. Only 100 km per day is included, and you'll bust this limit if you drive to the Kata Tjuta. You may be able to avoid this limit by booking through AutoEurope.
See Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park#Get in for tours and other transport to the park.
For an idea of the wildlife in the national park, visit the visitor centre, located next door to the Desert Gardens Hotel.
You might also want to see Mount Conner, a plateau frequently mistaken for Uluru by travellers. It's about 120 km east on the Lasseter Highway, and takes about an hour.
Of course, the main thing to do is to get out to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but the lookouts in the resort tend to be forgotten about - and at sunrise and sunset they have a different aspect for a photo.
- 1 Imalung Lookout (Climb the sand dune at the center of the Yulara Drive loop). The most central lookout, Imalung has excellent views of Uluru and partial views of Kata Tjuta. It is crowded but not unbearable at sunrise and sunset. Free.
- 2 Pioneer Lookout (Climb the sand dune to the south of the Pioneer Outback Hotel). Pioneer has excellent views of Uluru. Free.
- 3 Naninga Lookout (Climb the sand dune to the south of the campground). Good views of the town, as the most northern lookout it has somewhat more distant views of Uluru. Free.
- 1 Field of Light, 177 Yulara Drive. Before sunrise, after sunset. Bruce Munro's Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku (‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’) is a light sculpture the size of seven football fields that visitors can walk in in the dark. The exhibition must be accessed via bus from the resorts. $44 adult for self-guided transfer from resort, $98 for sunset viewing.
Arrangements can be made for helicopter tours of the area, ranging from quick, ten minute buzzes of Uluru to longer rides taking in Kata Tjuta and King's Canyon as well. For a more level perspective, visitors can try camel rides. There are also astronomy walks in the evening. Reservations must be made for all events, however. Offices are located throughout the resort.
At most places, being run by a monopoly and in the middle of absolutely nowhere, things in Yulara are expensive. Hotel rooms cost much more than in Sydney, restaurants charge at least twice what they would be elsewhere, and even groceries are inflated. Fuel, however is surprisingly cheaper than anywhere in the area, so this is the best place to fuel up for all directions.
- 1 Gallery of Central Australia (GoCA), Yulara Drive, ☏ . 9AM-5PM. Gallery of Indigenous art from communities throughout Central Australia, artwork for sale ranging from the hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
- 2 IGA Supermarket, 170 Yulara Drive. 10:30AM-6PM. Small supermarket with surprisingly normal prices for the location, limited fresh food.
- 3 Shell Service Station, 275 Yulara Drive. 8AM-3PM. Fuel, also limited drinks and snacks. This is the only fuel for several hundred kilometers around.
Each of the hotels and campgrounds in the resort have a restaurant or two that is priced within the same range as the accommodation, although expect to pay a premium for the location. Kitchens are open only part of the day. All restaurants are within the ring road and thus within shuttle bus or walking distance of each other.
The only budget option is self-catering. Groceries can be purchased at the IGA supermarket for only mildly inflated prices. The Outback Pioneer has a kitchen for guests only.
- Gecko's Cafe. At the shopping centre. Decent pizzas, pastas and burgers for around $20.
- Outback Pioneer Barbecue. Sells burger patties from several different kinds of meat (and non-meat) and grills to cook them on. A fairly decent all-you-can-eat salad and fruit bar is also included in the purchase price, meaning that for around $25 you can stuff yourself silly — quite a bargain by Yulara standards. There is a bar with live music in the eating area featuring "The Aussie Bush Music Show".
- Rockpool. Served by the pool of the Sails in the Desert Hotel, great tapas, inexpensive option compared to hotel dining. Great atmosphere outside. Operates only in the high season.
- Sounds of Silence Dinner. An extremely popular - albeit expensive ($159 per adult) - night under the stars. Advance bookings (e.g. 3-4 days) are essential even in low season. Coaches take diners from Yulara to one of a few dining areas out in the desert. Champagne (or beer, upon request) are served while the sun goes down over Uluru or Kata Tjuta and the inevitable didgeridoo plays. The clean, elegant dining area is lit by torches and table lamps. The food is served buffet-style, but it's cooked with the attention of a gourmet chef (considering the circumstances). Between the main course and dessert, an astronomer talks about the stars that are out that night, and telescopes are available afterward. There is also a bonfire. Reservations can be made at the various tour offices around Yulara. Ostensibly, reservations can be made over the internet as well, but it's a good idea to follow-up by phone, as coordination between the resort offices and the tour company are spotty at best.
- Desert Awakenings, occasionally available, is a breakfast version of the aforementioned Sounds of Silence. It includes a guided tour around the base of Uluru and ends at the Cultural Centre.
Yulara offers a variety of accommodation from camping through to 5-star. The village is split up into sections depending on the accommodation type. All the hotels, the campground, the lodge, and the hostel are managed by Voyages, +61 8 8957 7888, fax +61 8 8957 7615, , .
Because of the remoteness, and the nature of the concession to a single operator, expect to pay a premium for accommodation. Don't expect large lagoon pools, or resort type activities at the hotels. The township can get quiet during the day as people take part in sightseeing activities within the park.
- 1 Ayers Rock Campground, 173 Yulara Drive, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Tent sites, powered sites and cabins. A cabin is $150 per night and sleeps up to six people. A campsite for two people is $15.50 for a powered site and $13 for a tent site. Each additional person on a campsite is $11.50 per night, or $6 per for children.
- 2 Outback Pioneer Hotel and YHA Lodge, Yulara Drive, ☏ , email@example.com. The Outback Pioneer Hotel is closed through to mid-2023 for accommodation, although the bar and eatery remains open.
From $300/night even in the off season, all other accommodations in Yulara are firmly in the splurge category in price, if not facilities.
- 3 Desert Gardens Hotel, 1 Yulara Drive. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Nice hotel, comfortable rooms and a beautiful pool. Some rooms have views of Uluru. From $400 per night per room.
- 4 Emu Walk Apartments, 3 Yulara Drive. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. These fully serviced apartments accommodate about six people. $420 per night 1br, $680 per night 2br.
- 5 Lost Camel Hotel, Yulara Drive. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Chic and funky with many on-site restaurants, but quite small rooms. $330 per room per night (min stay 2 nights).
- 6 Sails in the Desert, 163 Yulara Drive. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. The only 5-star hotel in Yulara, but despite the swish lobby and public areas, the rooms more closely resemble a motel. Pool and three expensive restaurants. From $475 per room per night.
A stone's throw away is one more option:
- 7 Longitude 131°, ☏ , . With a maximum capacity of 30 guests and twice that many staff, what is quite possibly the most expensive hotel in Australia consists of 15 safari-style permanent tents, each directly facing Uluru. Rates include Uluru tours and all meals — or if you really don't want to mix with the hoi polloi, why not rent the whole thing for a mere $61,000/night? From $2000 a night..
There is a shopping centre which has a supermarket (with some produce and baked goods), take-away restaurants, gift shops, newsagents, an ANZ bank and ATM, and a post office.
There is also a petrol station in the resort, it is not open 24 hours. Top-up your tank the night before if you plan an early morning departure. There is also a hairdressers that does beauty treatments as well.
Flies in Yulara are seasonal (and unpredictable), but when they're out in force, there can be lots. When you first arrive you may laugh at people looking stupid wearing full screens over their hats, but after a day out you may be joining them.
- 1 Royal Flying Doctor Service and Medical Centre, 201 Yulara Drive, ☏ . The medical centre is staffed with a general practitioner (doctor) and remote nurses. There is no pharmacy; the medical centre can supply basic medications.
The nearest hospital is in Alice Springs.
- Watarrka National Park is about 2.5 hours east and is dubbed "Australia's Grand Canyon"