Where to Stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park – From Desert Camp to a Luxury Lodge
Where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is a case of budget, style of travel, and who and how many people you are travelling with. This is our guide to all the Uluru accommodation options from luxury lodges and hotels to apartments, hostels, and camping grounds.
Experiencing the UNESCO World Heritage listed Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park in the Red Centre, the spiritual heart of Australia, is an absolute must if you’re heading down under. A sacred site for the Anangu, the Aboriginal peoples who are the traditional owners of the land, it’s a magic place and is breathtakingly beautiful.
And right now – the southern hemisphere winter – is the best time to visit Uluru and Australia’s Northern Territory, where the monumental red rock is located. While Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is located in semi-arid desert of the Red Centre, the Top End of the ‘NT’, as locals call the state, is sub-tropical and tropical.
So while it might get chilly overnight, days are glorious and warm, averaging a lovely 20 degrees Celsius at Uluru and Alice Springs and 24 degrees Celsius in Darwin. That means winter is also the best time of year to explore the Top End, from Kakadu right across to the Kimberly.
If you’re one of the countless travellers complaining about the crowds and sweltering heat in Europe at the moment, then consider Australia’s north – along with Southeast Asia – for next year’s northern hemisphere summer. And here’s where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park when you do.
Where to Stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park – from Desert Camping to Luxury Lodge
Where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park isn’t a question of location. Apart from the exclusive and very luxurious Longitude 131°, above, which is hidden in the desert sand dunes, all the Uluru accommodation is around a 20-minute drive from the colossal rock, clustered together on Yulara Drive, the central ring road, under the umbrella (or shade sails!) of the Ayers Rock Resort and there’s something for every budget.
Ayers Rock Resort is where you’ll find most of the facilities, centrally located at the Shopping Square off the north side of Yulara Drive, which has cafés, takeaways, a supermarket, newsagent, bank with ATM, and post office. There’s also a Visitor Centre (open 9am–5pm) with engaging exhibitions on aspects of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park and the Anangu peoples, located between the Shopping Square and Desert Gardens Hotel.
Where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park really depends upon your style of travel, who and how many people you are travelling with, and your budget. If you’re a lover of luxury, then Longitude 131° is for you. If you’re after 4-5 star comfort, then consider the Desert Gardens Hotel or Sails in the Desert. If you’re happier pitching a tent or travelling in a caravan or camper van, then make a beeline for Ayers Rock Campground. Families, especially those travelling with small children, will love the Emu Walk Apartments. Backpackers can bunk down in a dorm at the Outback Pioneer Lodge, flashpackers can book a room at the Outback Pioneer Hotel, while mid-range travellers can check into The Lost Camel.
This is our guide to where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, covering all types of accommodation, from budget through mid-range to luxury, including the camping grounds, hostel, apartments, 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels, and luxury lodge.
Ayers Rock Campground
The official camping grounds of Uluru, Ayers Rock Campground is the most basic accommodation here. This is where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park if you prefer pitching a tent to checking into a five-star hotel, if you’re a lover of travelling by caravan or camper van, or if you’re on a budget. The set-up here is excellent and far superior to when I first visited Uluru in 1980 with my family when there were no facilities at all. These days you can expect a swimming pool, kids playground, volleyball courts, an outdoor communal kitchen with barbecue facilities, and self-service laundry to wash out the red dust. There are also permanent tents and air-con cabins with kitchen and TVs. Non-powered camping sites start from around A$40. Bookings can be made by email: email@example.com
Outback Pioneer Lodge
The 2-star Outback Pioneer Lodge is where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park if you’re a backpacker or budget traveller. There is clean hostel style accommodation with separate 20-bed female and male dormitories, along with four-bed mixed sex dormitories, which are great for groups of friends, couples and families travelling on a budget. All dorms have air-conditioning and heating, shared bathrooms, communal kitchen, common room with television and Internet access, and a self-service laundry. The Outback Pioneer Lodge also has budget rooms with or without private bathrooms. The Outback Pioneer Bar, a pub cum DIY barbecue joint where you can grill your own Aussie steaks, is hugely popular. There’s also the Pioneer Kiosk for takeaway food, a supermarket, on-site bottle shop, and at the Resort there’s a Thai takeaway and Gecko café. All Lodge guests have access to the resort facilities, including the swimming pools, tennis courts, and free indigenous activities, complimentary return airport transfers, and the free resort shuttle bus. Dorm beds start from A$38.
Outback Pioneer Hotel
Part of the same property but a step (and a half!) up from the Outback Pioneer Lodge accommodation when it comes to quality, the 3.5-star Outback Pioneer Hotel is where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park if you’re a budget traveller looking for private rooms with private bathrooms, a bit more comfort, and little extras such as in-room wifi, bathroom toiletries, and tea and coffee making facilities. Guests here have access to all of the same facilities above, including the Resort facilities (swimming pool, tennis courts, free indigenous tours, etc), the popular Outdoor Pioneer Bar for DIY barbecues in the evenings, and The Bough House restaurant, which offers Aussie-style breakfasts, buffet dinners, include a ‘roast of the day’ and vegetarian options. This is the least expensive Uluru accommodation for private rooms.
The Lost Camel Hotel
Painted in the same red ochre colour of the surrounding desert sands, the 3-star Lost Camel Hotel offers a slightly higher quality of mid-range boutique hotel accommodation than the Outback Pioneer Hotel, so we’re not sure why it’s rated half a star less. Set around a courtyard swimming pool, the modern design is indigenous themed in shades of blue to represent the sky contrasted with mustard-yellows and rust-reds of the scorched earth, and deep purple hues. Traditional Aboriginal crafts and art decorate the public spaces. Rooms are bright and white with splashes of colour and have a mini-bar, flat screen TV, and free wifi. The hotel offers packed lunches for travellers spending the day out exploring and guests have access to all the Resort facilities, including the spa, tennis courts, and barbecues. Also included are free airport transfers and free shuttle bus around the Resort.
Emu Walk Apartments
These excellent 4-star self-contained one- and two-bedroom serviced apartments are where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park if you’re travelling with family and friends and want more space than a hotel room, you prefer cooking in to eating out, or you’re on a long outback trip and need a break from motels, pubs and caravan parks. The fully equipped kitchen is well fitted out and dining tables seat six. There are separate living areas with plush carpets, comfy sofas scattered with cushions with colourful indigenous designs, cool lampshades created from traditional baskets, and indigenous artwork on the walls by artist Raymond Walters. The bedrooms are just as comfy with soft doonas and warm woollen throws for those cold winter nights. Close to the local Shopping square for supplies. There are free airport transfers, free parking if you’re on self-driving, and complimentary shuttle service, although it’s an easy walk from here to the Resort’s restaurants, cafés, bars, and shops for supplies. Emu Walk guests can use the swimming pool at Desert Gardens Hotel.
Desert Gardens Hotel
This is where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park if your dream is to take in dramatic vistas of the colossal red rock from your bedroom or the balcony as you’re enjoying sundowners. Surrounded by lofty ghost gums and flowering shrubs, the 4.5 star Desert Gardens is set within an oasis of native Australian gardens and is the only hotel with Uluru views from rooms. The hotel has 218 guestrooms with Deluxe rooms offering vistas of the desert landscape and Uluru, while Standard rooms overlook the garden and alluring blue swimming pool. The indigenous Australian-inspired décor features splashes of red and ochre with rooms and public spaces furnished in plush sofas and colourful cushions covered in prints of Aboriginal art of the desert region. The hotel is home to two restaurants: the casual all-day diner, Mangata Bistro and Bar, which takes its name from the local Pitjantjatjara word for ‘desert quandong’ and offers buffets as well as an a la carte menu, and the more elegant Arnguli Grill and Restaurant – ‘arnguli’ means ‘bush plum’ – which offers more refined Australian cuisine in the evenings only. Both restaurants showcase Australian produce, especially native ingredients. It’s an easy stroll to shops, cafés, bars, and Red Ochre Spa, although once again, guests can use the free shuttle bus to get around.
Sails in the Desert Hotel
The only 5-star hotel at Uluru, Sails in the Desert Hotel is where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, if you’re looking for a little luxury and a lot of comfort but don’t require the pampering of Longitude 131°. Crowned by soaring white shade sails, the 228 generously sized rooms and suites have balconies or terraces. Featuring plush furnishings with indigenous designs and Aboriginal art on the walls, the elegant rooms have the level of amenities that you’d expect of a five-star hotel, with flat screen TVs with the latest movies on demand, wifi, comfy bathrobes, quality toiletries, mini-bars, tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryer, and so on. The Deluxe terrace rooms have spacious outdoor areas with sofas and Jacuzzi that are wonderful for kicking back on balmy evenings. The hotel is home to the outstanding Red Ochre Spa’s and there’s a large swimming pool lined with eucalyptus trees. After dark you can sip cocktails at the Walpa Lobby Bar or dine on Australian cuisine at the romantic candle-lit Ilkari Restaurant. Sails in the Desert also plays host to the superb Mulgara Gallery which takes you on a journey of discovery of Central Australia’s Aboriginal art, introducing you to the different traditions, styles, motifs, and stories. Once again, guests have access to the free shuttle bus.
Longitude 131° is where to stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park if you want to spoil yourself or a loved-one (this is perfect for a honeymoon) with exclusive accommodation, superb contemporary Australian cuisine, and special experiences. Hidden amongst the dunes, Longitude 131°, pictured above, is the most luxurious accommodation at Uluru. Each of the 15 elevated pavilions – choose between Luxury Tent and Dune Pavillion – house sleek, light-filled suites with a tented canopy-style roof, floor to ceiling windows offering sublime sweeping vistas of the stunning desert landscape and colossal Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and wooden decks with plunge pools, fireplaces, and comfy beds, where you can unfurl a swag to snooze under the stars if you choose. Beautifully decorated in dark timber and furnished with leather sofa seats and warm woollen throws, each suite features impressive indigenous artworks and black and white archival documents and images on its walls, along with an array of mod cons and amenities, including a music system, coffee maker, complimentary in-suite bar, wifi, safe, bathrobes, slippers, and backpacks.
The Dune House, which boasts a design that tips a hat to the traditional Australian outback homestead, has a spacious guest lounge, bar and restaurant, where guests can enjoy complimentary cocktails, exceptional cuisine created from Australia’s finest quality produce, and outstanding Australian wines. The Kinara spa offers rejuvenating treatments and there’s a larger swimming pool for all guests to use. Signature experiences included in the rate, range from guided excursions with the traditional indigenous custodians to lesser-visited gorges, such as Kantju and Walpa, sunset overlooking Uluru with a chilled glass of something and canapés in hand, and a multi-course dinner under the desert sky with some star-gazing. As you’d expect from a luxury lodge offering such a high level of service, amenities and experiences, this is the most expensive property at Uluru, with rates starting at A$2,700 per room per night for a 2- or 3-night minimum stay package that includes all meals, an open bar with French Champagne, premium wines and spirits, an in-room bar, signature experiences, and return airport transfers.
Bookings can only be made online at www.longitude131.com.au.