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Yulara

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Yulara is a town near the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the south of the Northern Territory, Australia.

Understand

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.

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

Get in the same way as you would to Uluru. There is a free shuttle between the airport and Yulara meeting every flight.

Get around

There is a free shuttle that connects all the hotels and campground at Yulara. There are also very pleasant walking tracks between them, with views of the rock, and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

  • Avis [1] and Hertz [2] have car rental offices at the airport. Both also have counters in the tourist information centre located 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 travelers. 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. Beware that only 100 km per day is included, and you'll bust this limit if you drive to Kata Tjuta. You may be able to avoid this limit by booking through AutoEurope [3].
  • AATKings [4] and a few other companies run buses from the airport to the resort, and also from the resort to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
  • Uluru Express [5] offers unlimited access to the Park from your choice of hotel at Yulara for 2/3 days for $155/170. This does not include admission fee into the Park. Admission costs an extra $25 per person. This is a great deal for those who wish to see all the attractions in the park. Other trips are available.

See

There are 4 lookouts in the 'town' area of Yulara, which give views out onto the National Park. Each of the hotels/camp grounds have a lookout close to them, being the Emu Lookout for Desert Gardens, Emu Walk apartments, Lost Camel and Sails in the Desert, Pioneer Lookout for the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Naninga Lookout for the Ayers Rock Resort Campground. There is also another look out in the middle of Yulara Drive, called the Imalung Lookout.

Additionally there is a lookout in the coach campground area, should you be travelling on a coach camping tour. This gives a view of the resort, as well as Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

For an idea of the wildlife in the National Park, visit the Visitors Centre, located next door to the Desert Gardens Hotel.

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.

You might also want to see Mount Conner, a plateau frequently mistaken for Ayers Rock by travelers.

Do

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.

Buy

Costs

Being run by a monopoly and in the middle of absolutely nowhere, everything at Yulara is expensive. Hotel rooms cost much more than in Sydney, restaurants charge at least twice what they would be elsewhere, and even groceries, are inflated. Petrol, however is surprisingly cheaper than anywhere in the area.

Eat

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. Be aware of the time of day, as meals may be 'on' or 'off', meaning that kitchens are not open at all times. All restaurants are located within the ring road and thus within shuttle bus or hiking distance of each other.

Budget

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.

Mid-range

  • Gecko's Cafe, at the shopping centre. Decent pizzas, pastas and burgers for around $20.
  • Outback Pioneer Barbecue, which 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".

Splurge

  • 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.

Sleep

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, [6], [7].

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 activities sightseeing within the park.

Budget

  • Ayers Rock Campground, [8]. 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.
  • Outback Pioneer Hotel and YHA Lodge, [9]. Cost is $33 for a bed in a large dorm room or $37 for a bed in a 4 person room. Bring your own towel for showering.

Splurge

At $300+/night even in the off season, all other accommodations in Yulara are firmly in the splurge category in price, if not facilities.

  • Desert Gardens Hotel, [10]. Room rates are about $400 per night for a double standard room and $480 for a double deluxe room.
  • Emu Walk Apartments, [11]. These fully serviced apartments accommodate about six people. Nightly rates are about $500 per apartment.
  • Lost Camel Hotel, [12]. Room rates are about $400 per night. CD players in the room, very chic, very funky.
  • Sails in the Desert. [13]. 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. Rack rate $629/night, although 2-for-1 promotions are frequent in the low season.

Technically not in Yulara itself, but only a stone's throw away, is one more option:

  • Longitude 131°, [14]. 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 start from $2040/night in the low-season, including 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?

Cope

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. It is advisable to 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.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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