Even though I enjoyed every moment of exploring the Northern Territory’s Red Centre, the real star of course was Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). If you travel to Uluru, you will necessarily be a guest of the Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, namely because they’re the only game in town. But don’t let the name fool you, this is a truly remarkable facility with accommodations for absolutely every budget.
For the super wealthy, there is Longitude 131°. This is super expensive ($1,800 per night), private and very exclusive. Oprah stayed here though, so it must be good. With that out of the way, we can talk about real, non-Oprah accommodations.
There are two superb hotels on the higher end of the spectrum, Sails in the Desert and the Desert Gardens Hotel. These award winning hotels are what will attract most of the clientele who are used to 4-5 star hotels, but don’t want to spend $2,000 a night. On the more moderate level, there are two options, the Emu Walk Apartments and Lost Camel Hotel. The Emu Walk Apartments are self-contained apartments and the Lost Camel is a cute, 3 ½ star hotel. Finally, for the budget conscious there are another two options, the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge (part hostel, part hotel) and the Ayers Rock Campground. Regardless of where you stay though, you are on the Voyages Resort property and have access to all of the benefits found there. This includes use of the restaurants, pool, stores and shuttle system connecting all areas of the resort.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as we drove up to the property, but I was relieved to be there after a long day of driving from Kings Canyon. I was also excited that we were spending two days at the resort, it seemed so luxurious to be able to slow down and enjoy Uluru.
We were booked at the Desert Gardens Hotel, and I was impressed from the very start. The lobby was sleek and uber-modern, honestly not what I was expecting from the Outback. The staff were professional, kind and helpful. It may seem like a throwaway compliment, but great front desk staff is not always easy to find, but when they exist always make the trip infinitely more enjoyable.
We received a thorough briefing on the resort, the activities I had booked and some helpful flyers. Another convenient feature is that no matter what experiences you book, the hotels keep track of them for you and can help point you in the correct direction. Plus all of the activities pick up from all of the various hotels, making it very easy to get out and see Uluru or whatever else you want to do. After reading a fascinating flyer warning about some sort of poisonous centipede that was common in the area, we were finally led to our rooms.
We typically stay in nice hotels, it’s a conceit that we enjoy and we are usually willing to spend a few more dollars for a great hotel experience. Not everyone will agree with me, but where we stay while traveling can make a big difference and I am a firm believer in the benefits of a great hotel. As soon as I entered our room at the Desert Gardens, I realized that this was indeed a great hotel.
Just as I had been pleasantly surprised at Kings Canyon, I was amazed at the modern decor and sleek look of the room. Traveling through the Outback I was braced for dated furnishings and out of date hotels, but not at the Desert Gardens. Modern, clean lines and a gorgeous bathroom rounded out the expertly managed look of the room. The real winner though was the view. As I pulled back the curtains I let out a slight gasp as I was unexpectedly met by the reason we, and millions of others, travel to this remote spot of land in the middle of nowhere – the Rock.
I sat on the balcony, drink in hand and gazed at Uluru in all its glory, amazed that I was actually THERE doing THAT. It was one of those moments that makes the entire trip worthwhile.
The rest of the hotel experience was just as great, the meals were delicious, some of the best we had in Australia, and everything was just so easy. It had the convenience of a resort without the feel of one; the perfect combination.
I’m not going to lie, you don’t have a lot of choices for hotels when you travel to Uluru, you pretty much have to stay at the resort. For my money though, there’s nothing comparable to the experience you can get at the Desert Gardens Hotel.