Australia's vast Red Centre was an impenetrable frontier to tourists for hundreds of years. Nowadays, groups such as Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia have opened this living cultural landscape to everyone, while respecting and supporting local communities and indigenous cultures.
Managed by Voyages, Ayers Rock Resort is described as an oasis within the middle of Australia's central desert region and encompasses five individual accommodation options to suit a range of requirements.
SAILS IN THE DESERT
For unrivalled accommodation, dining, relaxation and recreation, Sails in the Desert is the resort's premium hotel, a beautiful contrast to Uluru's raw, red beauty. Soaring white sails crown the hotel and shade the 228 luxury five-star rooms and suites, where guests can relax with a treatment at the Red Ochre Spa, swim the expansive gumtree-lining pool, or feast from a range of culinary temptations. In-house restaurants include the international, brasserie-style Ilkari Restaurant, with its signature dishes enlivened by indigenous flavours, and the casual contemporary Walpa Lobby Bar - from coffee, cake, and cocktails to light meals and night caps.
The mystery, colour and wisdom of the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu people, are woven into every facet of the hotel's modern design, including a collection of indigenous artworks. The passion behind Aboriginal art can also be discovered in the hotel's Mulgara Gallery.
Set to open in July, the Lost Camel Hotel has found its way back to being a contemporary and fun accommodation option for guests at the busy resort. Originally opened in 2002, it was transformed into staff accommodation a decade later, before its imminent reopening as a mid-scale, boutique-style hotel. Located in the heart of Ayers Rock Resort, and only 20 minutes from Uluru, its compact studio-style rooms are furnished in a stylish mix of Aboriginal and urban themes. Guests can soak up the sun by the pool, browse the shops or enjoy a casual meal at one of the cafes located in the Resort Town Square, just minutes' walk away.
Guests from each of the Ayers Rock Resort properties have access to an impressive spectrum of internationally acclaimed experiences in and around Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. There are over 70 tours and activities to choose from – unique opportunities to indulge in the free, daily Indigenous Guest Activities programme, an astronomer's guide to the night sky, dot painting workshops, and tours of the big, red rock itself by camel or motorcycle.
The resort's monumental solar-powered, immersive art installation, Field of Light Uluru by Bruce Munro, is part of its commitment to arts and culture. More than 50,000 glass spheres bloom as darkness falls over the spiritual heart of Australia, illuminating a remote desert area the size of nine football fields and within sight of Uluru itself. There are a range of tour options each evening, as well as a sunrise experience. Field of Light is Munro's largest work to date. Opened on 1 April 2016, it has already deeply moved more than 200,000 guests, so unsurprisingly its season has been extended until 31 December 2020.
Along with the desert, food and wine experiences take centre stage as part of a stay at the resort, including fine dining under the stars. Two stand-out signature open-air dining experiences that mix dining with indigenous culture include the award-wining Sounds of Silence and the premium, and more intimate, TaliWiru.
There is more to the Northern Territory than Uluru, however. Its capital city, Darwin, located at the Top End of the Territory and bordered by the Timor Sea, is fast becoming a popular destination for those seeking the right balance between excitement and relaxation. Whether you're unwinding on the waterfront, hiking national parks or flying to remote areas for an outback experience, Darwin is the gateway to an experience you'll remember.
And one of its most unique is offered by Outback Floatplane Adventures. As the name suggests, these exciting tours include a spectacular floatplane flight with aquatic landing, as well as an airboat tour over the wetlands and through the monsoonal rainforest. You'll also get to relax on a billabong cruise along the pristine Sweets Lagoon, enjoy a BBQ breakfast or lunch, and have the opportunity to encounter local wildlife. Yes, that means crocs!
To extend the fun, book the overnighter and, after your afternoon tour, you'll be escorted across the Finniss River Floodplains to the Ultimate Outback Adventure Camp. Unwind on the deck of your secluded, luxurious safari tent, or freshen up in your own outdoor shower, before making your way to the elevated dining deck. Gather around the fire pit to watch the sun set over the plains, while the welcoming staff provide a gourmet Australian BBQ for you to dine under a star-filled sky. This is glamping, and the Northern Territory, at its best.