More Than a Rock: The Best Experience Around Uluru

Journeying to Australia’s most iconic rock is an essential travel experience. While there are a variety of way to experience Uluru, there are also plenty of other attractions in the Northern Territory desert worth visiting to make sure you get the most out of your travels.

There are other rocks to explore

Uluru (Ayers Rock) may be the main attraction in Australia’s Red Centre, but it’s not the only rock worth visiting. Roughly 30km from the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where Ayers Rock is located, are 36 striking red domes of Kata Tjuta (The Oglas) that are definitely worth the journey. Like Uluru, Kata Kjuta looks particularly stunning at sunset, and the dune viewing platform is a fantastic place to enjoy sunrise. The domes can be visited on many of the tours available, or independently with a $25 park entry ticket.

There is also ‘Fools-uru’ which is known as Uluru’s forgotten rock. The stunning mound sits on Curtin Springs cattle station which is located 80km north of Uluru. Tourists were once able to drive freely through the area, but following a significant number of rescues, station owners now use SEIT Outback Australia to run the tours from Uluru.

On a half-day 4WD tour of the area, you’ll visit the remarkable salt flats of Lake Swanson, featuring free-roaming cattle and camels – it is thought that almost half a million camels run wild through the Australian outback.

Hiking Kings Canyon

Located 300km from Uluru, it is possible to make a day trip to hike the magnificent Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park. There you can do the famous 6km Rim Walk which can take between three and four hours. On days where the temperature is set to reach 36°C it is recommended that you aim to arrive before 9am, as rangers will close the gates in extreme heat for safety reasons.

If you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can book a return guided tour with AAT Kings. They also offer onward passage to Alice Springs at the end of the day, if you’re wanting to continue travelling north. The tour stops at Kings Creek Station for breakfast (where you can stock up on water for the hike), and then the lush Kings Canyon resort for lunch post-hike.

The Rim Walks starts with a step climb (worryingly nicknamed ‘Heart Attack Hill’), but once you reach the peak it’s a relatively easy stroll through the stunning landscapes including beehive-like domes of the ‘Lost City’, followed by the rich oasis at the heart of the canyon known as the ‘Garden of Eden’. Those who are looking for a less strenuous walk might prefer the 2km Creek Bed Walk, which highlights the impressive views of the canyon’s edge. Keen hikers can head to the Giles Track, a 22km route which is typically done at night. Like Kata Tjuta, part of the gorge is sacred and tourists are discouraged from wondering from the designated tracks.

My Experiences of the Yarra Valley

On my travels to Australia and around Melbourne I was lucky enough to meet Dutch-born landscaper John van de Linde.

Despite his Dutch heritage he told me he has always adored French gardens. So amazingly, when he transferred to Holbrook in regional NSW he became overwhelmed by the arid heat (who would have thought?).

Upon visiting his garden I could see the experience shaped him and in his own words he’s “been seeking shade ever since”.

Mr van de Linde and his wife Prue discovered a vacant paddock available to buy in the Yarra Valley approximately 2 decades back and have been producing Alowyn, a botanical wonderland complete with French gardens, ever since.

During the build, they actually built it with shade as a priority in their heads – so much so that in summer, you can walk from one end to another in the shade if you desire to.

Beyond the garden, the region is also well known because of its magnificent yarra valley wines and vineyards, but a culinary escape in the area should surely include a dash by Alowyn.

When locating a foundation, look no farther than the lavish Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa. From the well-appointed suite, you can overlook the valley and tuck into breakfast in Rae’s Restaurant, watching the hot air balloons float through the clouds.

The hotel is just 1 kilometre from the two and gardens; and close to the area’s sweetest appeal – the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.

There you can catch a hot chocolate, a spoonful of samples and see the staff make their magic throughout the mill window. Open in 2012, this mecca for chocolate fans has recruited six qualified chocolatiers out of Belgium and France to direct the group hand crafting some 250 distinct products, such as fresh, tasty truffles; something you’ll struggle to find in even the best specialty grocery in Melbourne

After satiating your sweet-tooth, it is time to locate wine and there’s a yarra valley winery for every taste and price point.

For a casual dinner and cheeky tasting, you cannot go beyond Innocent Bystander at Healesville. It is shareable plates paired with its unique way of wine tastings – kegs and automatic pourings.

But if you’re more accustomed to the taste of luxury, Levantine Hill will leave you wowed and desiring more.

A winery that won’t compromise on quality, owners Elias And Colleen Jreissati have spared no expense in producing French-inspired wines, an architecturally-designed basement door complete with helipad for aircraft, and a menu which emphasises regional freshness.

When you have not had your fill, then Yarra Yering’s basement door is not far away and ought not to be missed.

James Halliday winemaker of this year (2017), Sarah Crowe is creating stunning drops at what’s often named among the area’s top wineries.

On day two, in case you are in a more lively mood, the Award-winning Four Pillars Gin distillery in Healesville will have your tastebuds and Instagram account popping.

Four Pillars create eight, exceptionally popular gins. So go in, grab a tasting plus a share platter and I dare you to not take a photograph in the fashionable space decorated with contemporary, native floral structures.

And when a traditional country pub is exactly what you’re craving, then Look no farther than the “center of the Yarra Valley” – the Healesville Hotel.

The resort prides itself on providing a seasonal menu; sourcing ingredients from local and Melbourne-based fresh food store suppliers, along with an outstanding wine list, showcasing the very best the area has to offer with welcoming staff also.

IF YOU GO

Travelling there: The Yarra Valley is roughly a one-hour drive from both the Melbourne CBD and Melbourne Airport.

Accommodation: There are several amazing spots that also provide luxury catering and wedding facilities. Prices for most accommodation is roughly $150 per night for a standard queen room.

Activities: For more advice about exactly what the Yarra Valley has to offer visit visityarravalley.com.au