Yulara is the service village for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and has effectively turned one of the world's least hospitable regions into a comfortable place to stay. Lying just outside the national park, 20km from Uluru and 53km from Kata Tjuta, the complex is the closest base for exploring the park.
My wife and I have just finished a few days doing a self-drive trip from Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to Alice Springs as part of a bigger trip around Australia and I thought I'd share some tips and info we gathered along the way.
First, there are many group tours running from Uluru to Alice Springs or vice versa, taking in Watarrka NP (Kings Canyon) along the way, and I could see that being a good option for solo travellers or people looking for the group trip experience. For us, we wanted to go our own way for various reasons, and with two of us the self-drive option was competitive on price. If there were at least three of us, I'd say it would definitely be cheaper to DIY.
We rented a Toyota Corolla - it was 4WD, but we never took it off road as you don't need to leave sealed roads to see Uluru, Kata Tjuta, or Kings Canyon. I'm sure there are amazing places you can only get to on the dirt tracks (and might have saved some time getting to Alice Springs by the Mereenie Loop, but it was a sedan without much ground clearance and also I don't have a ton of experience with off-road driving, so 45 degree C weather in the isolation of the outback was not where I wanted to test it out!)
When looking to book the car directly from the car rental companies, I think they all had limits on the number of "free" kilometers with extra per-km charges for going over, which we almost certainly would have. However, if you book through Voyages (the company that runs the Ayers Rock Resort), you can get unlimited distance.
We also did a one-way rental from Ayers Rock Airport to Alice Springs, which (unsurprisingly) carries with it a hefty fee, but most of the companies will waive this if the rental is for a certain number of days. We went with Avis, which offered no one-way fee for 3 day rentals or longer (which I think was the shortest offer).
In retrospect, Alice Springs was not really worth visiting IMO, unless you're also going elsewhere in the region like the western MacDonnell Range. I wanted to see it as it has always stuck out to me as an "exotic" place, and so for that reason I'm glad we went, but otherwise I'd give it a miss unless flight times and prices work out better from there. You can also hire a car there from an independent company (Central Car Rentals) that also let you rent camping gear if you're doing that, but they don't do one-way.
I jotted down the following fuel prices as we went (all AUD per litre). The Mount Ebenezer roadhouse on the Lasseter highway between the turnoff for Kings Canyon and Erldunda was shut when we went through, with a sign announcing temporary closure but no indication when they'd reopen or when they had closed, so I wouldn't count on them for fuel.
EDIT: I don't know why the markup isn't working here, but the column headings are for Location, regular unleaded, premium unleaded and diesel.
The township of Yulara supports Ayers Rock Resort where visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are accommodated. The resort features different levels of accommodation from hotel, apartment style, budget and camping. There is a commercial centre with supermarket, bank, newsagent and food outlets. Yulara also has a service station, a Royal Flying Doctor Service clinic, police station and fire service. Ayers Rock Airport, located a few kilometres from the resort, is linked by daily Qantas flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Cairns and Alice Springs.
My husband & I highly recommend this unique attraction! We booked the sunset flight, and we were the only ones on it — just us and the guide that goes up to operate the balloon. The views were spectacular. We got to experience a 360 degree sunset. The sky was magnificent — bold shades of red and orange. We were able to get a bird’s eye view of Yulara, Uluru & Kata Tjuta. Photos & memories to last a lifetime!
The balloon has only been open for about 3 weeks, so I imagine that it will get much more crowded once the word gets out. The price is relatively steep, but worth the money in our opinion. We felt very safe; the operation is well run and the staff is friendly & helpful.
It’s the only place in the area to get those views without booking a flight or helicopter. I believe you can book the experience for any time of day, though we thought the sunset was the perfect time. Our time up in the balloon was about an hour.
Thanks to the SkyShip team for a very memorable evening!
Our bus driver told us about the skyship as we were driving in from the airport, and we stopped by the town center tourism office to book a sunset flight.
We were the only two people on board the balloon (besides the operator) which could have held around 8-12 people (depending on weight,) and ascends 150 meters in the air held in place by a thick cable. The views were incredible, its silent and peaceful and you get an unobstructed full 360 of the landscape as the colors change Uluru and the other massive monuments all around.
This is still a new attraction, but I would recommend this to everyone.
If you want to experience the beauty of Uluru then this is the tour to do. You must be prepared to start your day at 4:45 AM and then be prepared to trek for about 10 miles around the base of Uluru. Rachel was our guide and her knowledge of the indigenous people and the history of the rock were impressive. Her sensitivity to the significance of this sacred site made our trip and tour even more worthwhile. But note this trek is for those who are physically fit and you should avoid it if you can’t handle heat and physical effort.
Rock and roll your way to Uluru for the best sunset and sunrise you’ll ever likely to see. Swap one natural wonder for another over these five days and see red...in the best possible way with the utterly stunning red rock landscapes. Stargaze, BBQ, climb up canyons and gaze at water holes. This is one outback trip you’ll never forget.