Uluru dreaming with kids

Sunset at Uluru
Sunset at Uluru

“Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to see Ayres Rock” my mortifying statement made to our Aboriginal Guide. Here I am, a grown woman with children of my own making an ignorant statement to one of our traditional owners of the region, the Anangu people. Try not to make my mistake when visiting Uluru with kids, call the rock by it’s rightful name, it always has and will forever be Uluru.

It wasn’t our little family’s intentions to have a have a full immersion into the regions Aboriginal culture, there’s something about the pull of the rock that heightened our thirst for knowledge. We wanted to know how this magnificent rock has come to be? Not just in the geologically sense but also spiritually, why was this magnificent rock placed in the here in the middle of our country? Perhaps it was he combination of the comfortable warm breeze, the way time ticks a little slower and the complete and utter stillness that creates the perfect conditions to admire and ponder this all too familiar icon.

There’s a feeling that you know Uluru intimately before ever laying eyes on it, we’ve seen it on stamps, biscuit tins and airline commercials. In the dry and dusty heart of Australian there aren’t many families that make it a priority to visit. We make the excuse of going a a little later as it’s always going to be there. For those lucky to make it to the Rock, it does not disappoint. Surrounded by rich red sand and endless flat desert plains, Uluru’s presences draws our gaze and quietens our chatty minds.

Getting to Uluru by plane – easiest way with little people

Parents need not wait until the hair on their heads turn grey to journey to Uluru in their caravan.  You can easily see Uluru with young kids by flying there.

There are direct flights from Sydney (SYD) to the politically-incorrect-named “Ayers Rock Airport” (AYQ), both Jetstar and Virgin Australia operate flights from Sydney with a flight time of 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Qantas fly direct to Uluru via Qantas and it’s a easy 55 minutes away.

How long do you need at Uluru?

It can be a surprisingly cheap escape from the city for families and you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time to cover Uluru. Apart from the rock itself and the nearby Olgas, there really isn’t a whole lot more to do with kids in this region.

Allow a minimum of 3 days, easily doable in a long weekend, but you can easily stretch it out to 4-5 days.

Where to stay in Uluru with kids

There is not allot of choice in accommodation at Uluru, all owned and operated by the same company, Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, situated 6 km from the airport and a short drive from the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Voyages Ayres Rock Resort

The resort is set up as a small town with your local amenities in the main shopping area including; ATM, post office, supermarket, petrol station, the all-important liquor store, boutique shops and several restaurants. The resort offers a range of facilities such as swimming pools, art gallery, tour desk, spa and tennis courts.

A free bus is available to shuttle you between the accommodation options, which include a backpacker hostel, camping grounds, 4-star apartments, and 4- and 5-star hotels.

Then there is the luxury tents section of the resort, where, apparently, Oprah has stayed. Check out Longitude 131.  Very pricey and they don’t welcome kids under 10 years of age, but a girl can dream, can’t she ? The resort also has free events such as the opportunity to watch local artists paint Aboriginal art, which you can later purchase. Also, we were there for a dancing event where they asked for volunteers to dance like a kangaroo or emu. I made sure I was busy clutching Liam.

Due to the remoteness of the region and the monopoly Voyages holds on places to stay, there’s no bargain to be found.

Prices seem pretty fixed and a bit overpriced for what you get. We chose the comfortable and clean Emu Walk Apartments, which offer a full kitchen, separate bedroom, courtyard and living area. With kiddies, I find it’s better to have these facilities than a hotel room with an extra star or two.

After a day of sightseeing, the kids were fast asleep in the bedroom and we can still have a little bit of a life and some extra privacy, relaxing with a bottle of wine on the couch. I remember being in a hotel in Chicago with Liam, who slept terribly. When he went down for the night, it was pretty much lights out for us. My husband and I would be sitting in the dark at 8pm in the hotel room waiting for Liam to fall into that really deep sleep,in hopes we could turn Letterman on at a very low volume.

Self drive in Uluru with kids is best

Although there are many tours available, with a young family, I would recommend self driving.

We hired a car from the airport and drove to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National  Park to see the sights. A  standard three-day pass costs $25. This allowed us to travel at our own pace and see the things we wanted to see in our own time.

Highlights of Uluru with kids

Our top picks of the best things to do in Uluru with young kids:

Travel_Australia_Uluru_1See Uluru – to climb or not to climb?

The rock is the main reason for the visit and it’s a sight to see. However, there are “Please, do not climb” signs clearly visible as you enter the park and printed on the entrance tickets.

It’s a a moral decision that needs to be made; to climb it like the many people before you have done or to respect the wishes of the original people and decline the climb.

We decided not to climb. It wasn’t just out of the respect for the Anangu people, although we felt a whole lot better for it. As we had a baby in harness and a 3-year-old boy, climbing is not very practical.

It’s quite dangerous climbing the rock. The climb starts off relatively flat and it’s easy going up at first, but then it gets quite steep, requiring rails for holding on. It would also take a couple of hours to go up and down. With very young kids it’s impractical though we did see plenty of teens going up.

It’s going down where it gets precarious. We hung out at the base of the rock, near the entry to the climb and we did take a few steps, I was in thongs and Layla was asleep in the harness. Although seemingly easy to bound up a few meters, when I turned down to descend, I had to slide down on my bum in spots as it was quite steep.

From what I can gather, the rock itself is not a sacred site. However, there’s an area along the climb which is considered sacred. The Anangu people also feel it is unsafe to climb and more than 30 people have died climbing Uluru.

To get a good feel of the rock without climbing it, visit the base of the climb. It gives you a good understanding of how impressive the rock is and a sense of what the climb would be like.  You can get some nice shots as well.

 

Sunset at Uluru

Watch an Uluru sunset with the kids

Uluru at sunset is the rock in all it’s glory. The sunset viewing areas along the red sand dunes are easy to reach as everything is clearly signed and mapped out. We actually decided to experience sunset at Uluru a couple of times.

The first time we arrived late, had nothing to eat, there was nowhere to sit and the kids were going a bit crazy.

Learning from our mistake, the second time around we packed a picnic and rug, had a little bit of wine, and an iPad for Liam loaded with some new games. We arrived 2 hours before sunset to get a good spot to sit and watch, then we stayed until the stars came out, which was an amazing experience.

Firstly, most people start heading out when the sun has set. If you hang around long enough, the rock fades away and the stars come out. They are so impressive as there is no disturbance from city lights. The stars are so clear and there were so many of them. Liam loved this, though Layla was starting to grizzle.

Be mindful of the park’s closing time, which varies during different times of the year. For us it closed at 8pm.

From the viewing area, it takes 10 minutes to drive out of the national park and another 20 minutes to drive back to the resort. I remember this very well as Layla was wailing during the car ride. She was in the « I will scream my little lungs out as soon as it hits nightfall and I’m in a car » phase.

Tips on a sunset at Uluru with with kids

There is a lot of waiting around for sunset. Depending on the time your arrive, it could be a good 2 hours of waiting for and watching the sun to finally set.

With kids, be prepared. There’s not allot going on for them.

Pack some things to keep them busy; toys, puzzles, games, gather some sticks to draw in the red sand, some crayons and a colouring book or for us an iPad with new games. As for things to do whilst you are there, there are ample sandy paths to wander around. Also pack some snacks or a bit of dinner for the kiddos as there are no food facilities there. Once it gets dark, it’s a little cooler so come with an extra layer, just in case.

Take a walk around Uluru

All the walking trails are clearly labelled on a visitor guide provided on entry. You can also download a visitor guide.  This was a great guide for assistance in planning what you would do for the day.

The trails around Uluru are not overly difficult. Most are “All-Access” for wheel chairs, so you can take a pram along. Even the Grade 2 and Grade 3 walks aren’t all that strenuous.

The problem with young kids is the duration of the walk. My 3-year-old became pretty tired and had to be carried on some of the longer walks. The guide also notes the estimated duration of these walks, which is helpful and quite accurate if you have little kids. For two healthy young people it would realistically take less time. We did the MALA walk to Kantju Gorge, where you can see really clear Aboriginal rock art, and the Kuniya Walk to the Mutijulu Waterhole.

We also did part of the Base Walk before turning around to head back, as the full circuit is 10.6 km and we were concerned about the length. I would recommend all these walks for kids. Pack plenty of water as not all the walks have watering stations to fill up your bottle.

We packed a lunch and snacks for the day before we headed out. However, the drive to the cultural center from Uluru is not far and there is a restaurant there. On the travel forums they say the meat pies are really good. One guy said it was the best he’s ever had. I believe that on some of these walks there are guides available at specific times. We, unfortunately, missed them.

Walking Uluru tips with kids

Consult the map on which walks to take and when to take them. By the middle of the day, it’s pretty hot and dry so try to finish a walk around lunch time. Also, there are not many sheltered areas, so pack plenty of water for everyone, hats, and some snacks. There are watering stations to refill your bottle at the start of some walks, however not all of the walks have this.

Learn at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre

One disadvantage of self driving is that you can’t take advantage of the knowledge offered by a guide. However, you can gather this knowledge elsewhere. We stopped into the Cultural Centre, entry is free and there are toilets and a picnic area for lunch. It’s a nice building for kiddies to run around. Whilst it’s not the most interactive, you get a good immersion into Aboriginal art and culture.

A favorite take away for me was The Sorry Book, a compilation of letters written by tourists to the Anangu people, apologising for taking some sand or pieces of the rock. Some later returned them. (One letter was from a women whom blamed her bad luck, poor health and family illness on the fact that she had taken rocks from the sight.)

There’s also displays of the fauna and flora in the region, which you can point out to the kids on your walks. It was nice to share a little Aboriginal history with the kiddies. We didn’t stay too long as there were a some hunting tools Liam couldn’t help getting his fingers on, as he was only separated from them by a thin piece of string.

Travel_Australia_Uluru_11

Visit The Olgas (Kata Tjuta)

The Olgas seem less impressive in appearance. Where Uluru is one whole rock. The Olgas, otherwise known as Kata Tjuta, are made up of a series of large domed rocks.

The best part about The Olgas is that you get to explore in between them, offering a more intimate experience. I really loved both the The Walpa Gorge walk and The Valley of the Winds walk. Both are very clearly sign posted and can be accomplished with small children, although, we only went to the first look out of The Valley of the Winds walk and turned back.

The entire circuit around is 7.6 km (4 hours) and turns from Grade 3 moderate to Grade 4. There are sections of the walk that we completed which did have some rocky and steep surfaces to climb up and it was also quite sunny and hot. So bare this in mind with little ones. My three-year-old really loved it, but did require a bit of carrying from dad during the walk back.

Sunset and sunrise at The Olgas is just as amazing as Uluru, with the same vibrant hues of red and oranges. Where Uluru separates the bus tours from the cars, everyone is together at Kata Tjuta. We watched the sunset with a large group of senior tourists, who kept the kiddies entertained for awhile. The Olgas are another 15 minutes further still from Uluru, so allow 45 minutes to get back to the resort.

Enjoy the Sounds of Silence (not the dinner, just the sound of silence)

One of the first things we noticed was how remote we felt we were.

There really is nothing else around you at Uluru. You don’t necessarily have to pay a hefty fee to experience the Sounds of Silence. It’s all around you. However, there is the award winning Sounds of Silence dinner, which is a silver service dining experience in the desert, complete with a sunset view of Uluru in the distance. This is not recommended for children under 10, which is understandable as other diners would prefer their sounds of silence without a side of screaming baby or whiny kid.

Have you been to Uluru with kids? Is there something you did that you would like to share?  Please comment below.

19 Comments

  • Hi, thanks for your post from last year. My husband and I and our three 4- year olds are heading to Uluru in early April this year. We did not intend to hire a car due to the 3 x car seats needed but from your post and a few others it sounds like it would be better. Did your hire car come with car seats? Also, we were thinking about hiring bikes to ride around Uluru. Our children all ride standard pedal bikes. Do you think this is possible for 4 year olds…

    • Hi Clara, we didn’t hire car seats but bought our own. When you fly car seats are not counted as part of your luggage weight – but super cumbersome to carry around. If you intend to hire three car seats book well ahead and call the hire company for availability. From experience hiring from other outlets (not Uluru) they might not have the car seat available. Be warned that these car seats are the bare bones type too. As for hiring a bikes, I know of a company that does it for small kids also http://outbackcycling.com/uluru/ absolutely would be a great idea. Just know that it might be hot and there isn’t much shade. x Rene

  • Thank you for the article. We are visiting Australia from Germany with our then 8 months old son in April/May this year. We have a rental camper for 4 weeks, driving from Sydney up to Cairns. Now we are discussing whether or not we should fly to Uluru from Cairns at the end of our trip. Do you have any experiences with flies in mid-May? I’m less worried about us than about our little one. Not sure whether he would enjoy the experience of having a flynet over his head… Maybe you can help.

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for reading. When we visited in April there were absolutely no flies, we didn’t even think about a fly net. It was still cool at night and the weather during the day was perfect. The warm wet weather (summer) apparently brings out the flies and as it gets cooler there are less of them. I hear they can be quite overbearing so a fly net over the face will be better than a swarm of flies. Whilst it’s most likely that winter months have less flies than summer months, conditions can be unpredictable and dependent on the season before (e.g. whether it was a hot summer or a wet winter). Although we didn’t travel in May, it’s a perfect time to visit Uluru with great weather and there “shouldn’t” be any flies about. However I would pack the fly net and insect repellents just in case. Happy travels and enjoy Australia! xo

  • So happy I read your experience! We are going to Uluru in a few days with our 3 year old and were son concerned as to what we could do there with him! These tips are great, I imagined the base walk would be too much and we weren’t sure if renting a car or going along with the tours! Thank you so much for sharing!!

    Would you recommend taking a toddler carrier for the walks? My son has obviously outgrown the baby carrier we had and I’m looking at those hiking carriers… but maybe it might not be necessary??

    • Hi! So glad it’s useful 🙂 Hope this gets to you in time. I haven’t used a hiking carrier but my friend swears by it for a 3 year old – she used the Karinjo by Kathmandu. Expensive and you might be able to get by without it, we did but only with husband carrying baby in arms. Have a ball. x

  • Thank you for this incredibly useful information! We are planning a trip with an 18 month old and it’s so helpful to hear what worked and what didn’t from someone who’s been there. Thank you!

    • Thank you Sara for reading and I’m so happy you found this useful, you’ll have a ball in Uluru with your family, happy travels xo

  • Hi! How old is your baby when you went to Uluru? When is the best time to go to Uluru? Me and my wife have an 8 week old daugther now and is planning to visit Uluru sometime end of June to early July this year (she’ll be close to 6 months at the time). Any tips and or advise for us? We are currently in Darwin, Northern Territory so I think fliying to Uluru seems to be the best options for us.

    • Hi Jono, our kids were 2 and 4 at the time. The tricky bits is waiting for sunset with a toddler and some areas required kids to be carried. But overall it was very manageable. The best time to goto Uluru is in the dry season from April to September.

  • Hi, thanks for your tips! I will be traveling with hubs and my then 1-year old daughter in a couple of months. I was getting overwhelmed doing research over the numerous tour packages available in Uluru, yet none were suitable for infants. Your entry is exactly what I was looking for – a practical guide on how best to make most of your Uluru trip with small kids, without having to burn a hole in your pocket. Car rental prices are also reasonable. Thanks again!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and to leave a reply. You made my day and have given me some inspiration to continue to write, I hope you found something useful in this post and have a wonderful trip. Uluru is so great and I think more people with little ones should go see it. xo

  • Awesome!
    I hope to make a trip there soon. Maybe next year 🙂 Ive heard about Longitude and really want to stay there too. Isn’t there two parts of it? One a little bit more casual then the other? I’m hoping I can go with my kids. My mother, an Aussie, lived out there for a couple of years and my grandmother ran a hotel. I’ve heard so many childhood stories.

    i’m walking in my mothers food steps while living here in Australia.

    • Hi, I think Longitude is the swanky no kids, Royal and Oprah loving fancy tent section. There is a resort area called Sails which is near Longitude’s entry but it’s not the same. They are prettier hotel rooms but not luxury tents.

      Looking forward to your Uluru trip and following your mums foot steps. How inspirational. xo

  • I enjoyed reading about your visit with kids. I visited Uluru way back when I was a young single globe-trotting back-packer and it was only known as Ayers Rock and everybody climbed it. The only sign at the bottom was one warning you of the risk of death upon climbing as it was so steep. It certainly didn’t mention it was a sacred place. How could we have been so disrespectful? It’s shaming to think back on. However, as it was the done thing, I did climb and I have amazing memories to this day of my time there. I loved the Olgas too. One day I will take my kids there but living on the other side of the planet, it’s not on the cards for the foreseeable future. Thanks for the memories!

    • So happy to have connected with you. Love a back-packer! Those days are gone for me as well. You’re right it’s done now and the “Please don’t climb” has only been in full effect the last few year. Glad you got to visit Oz. xo

  • I’m so excited to find a fellow traveler in my SITS tribe! 🙂 I love that you’ve continued to explore the world as a mom- I bet your children will have such a unique outlook on life after getting to see so many different places. When I visited Australia a couple years ago, Uluru ended up being my favorite stop! It really did feel like a spiritual place, and I couldn’t get over the way Uluru glowed at sunset. Gorgeous. Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories!

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