Travel to Ayers Rock: Should you drive, fly, take a bus or catch a camel?
Travel to Uluru – Ayers Rock shouldn’t be a headache…
As far as we’re concerned, getting to Uluru is all part of an amazing outback adventure.
We’ve been there dozens of times.
We even go there for weekend getaways.
We know a thing or two about getting to Australia’s most recognisable landmark.
So on this page, we’ve written an honest, no-nonsense account of all the good and bad things about getting to Ayers Rock by various means of transport.
We’ve even included fuel costs for people who’d love to drive this amazing part of Australia.
By the end of the page, you’ll have an idea of which form of travel will suit you the best – BUT make sure you check out the links to other pages and sites that will help you find out everything you need to know to get to Uluru.
THIS article will help you plan your Uluru adventure and avoid common tourist mistakes.
Flying to Uluru – Ayers Rock
You can fly to Uluru – Ayers Rock via Qantas or Virgin Australia from all Australian capital cities (except Canberra!).
*NB: From April 2013, Jetstar will replace Qantas in flying to Uluru. This means slightly cheaper airfares.
Connellan Airport is the name of Ayers Rock’s airport. It’s located 10 minutes drive from Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort). There are free shuttle buses and hire car desks at the airport.
Before you hire a car at Uluru, make sure you read this page. You’ll save yourself money and unnecessary headaches.
A flight from Sydney to Ayers Rock takes around three and a half hours; from Melbourne, it takes about 3 hours.
Flights cost around $160 each way, but you can sometimes find cheaper flights around $130 (ex-Sydney)
Flights from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock take only 45 minutes, and are around $120 each way.
Flying to Ayers Rock will save you time, and you’ll get some great views of the Rock as you’re coming in to land.
The downside is that you’ll miss out on one of the best parts of the adventure: crossing a big part of Australia by car to get to Ayers Rock.
We are advocates of slow travel and we feel passionately about this.
The drive to Uluru is one of the most amazing, iconic road trips in the entire world.
We urge you to think about taking the time to drive.
Our suggestion is to fly into Alice Springs, spend a day there and then drive to Uluru spend a couple of nights and fly out from there.
One Day At Uluru? BIG MISTAKE!
If you are thinking about flying in and out of Uluru and only spending ONE DAY there, DO NOT DO THIS!
Despite what some other travel bloggers have written, one day at Uluru is simply not enough time to experience this most special of Australian places.
Flight times to the Rock from capital cities and even Alice Springs mean that you will miss out on seeing a sunrise or a sunset, spending quality time at Kata Tjuta, taking any more than a very short walk or spending time just soaking up the atmosphere.
Yes, it is possible to just spend one day there but seriously, if you are going to spend all that money to get there and NOT see a sunrise or a sunset and completely MISS out on Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) – then we think you are wasting your time and your money.
One day at Uluru? NO WAY!
Don’t rip yourself off.
Read our Uluru pre-trip planning guide to learn how to get the best value for your hard-earned money.
Driving to Uluru – Ayers Rock
In our opinion, driving is probably the best way of getting to Uluru – Ayers Rock.
A lot of overseas tourists (and many Australians) spend thousands of unnecessary dollars flying to Uluru.
Yes, THOUSANDS of dollars.
Flying is an expensive and restrictive option. If you fly, when you get to Uluru, you’re dependent upon tour buses or hire car agencies (read all about the Uluru car hire rip offs here) to get around anywhere.
If you fly in and fly out, you’re restricted by airline timetables and the severe rules that hire car companies place on many outback hire cars.
For example, if you DON’T have a car and you fly to Uluru then decide that you’d like to go to Kata Tjuta, a shuttle bus will cost you $120 (in 2019) per person.
We often wonder why people fly to Uluru when it’s so easy to drive there – in fact, you’re driving on some of the BEST roads in Australia and you don’t even need a 4WD to get there.
The road to Uluru is so good, you could drive there in your Mum’s four cylinder Barina! (If you’re from the US, read that as Grandma’s Honda – yes, it really is an easy, but long drive to Uluru).
So to convince you, below we present the reasons you should drive to Uluru.
You can even use this cheap little iPad app to find FREE campsites along the way.
Benefits of Driving to Uluru
- The fun and freedom of a real outback road trip
- You can travel to Ayers Rock entirely on sealed roads if you choose, so you don’t even need a 4WD.
- There is so much to see and do along the way to Uluru. There’s the adventure of driving the legendary Stuart Highway if you’re coming up from Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide.
- If you’re driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, then there’s must-see places like Stuarts Well (where the singing Dingo is), the Finke River, Mt Connor, and the stunning landscapes along the way
- There’s no better way of getting a sense of how big Australia is
- You’ll see first hand that the outback is not just flat, boring and dusty. It’s actually got mountains and lots of trees
- You can go where you want to go rather than following a tour itinerary, and stop when you want to stop
For us, these are all reasons why we prefer to drive rather than fly.
In fact, we’ve put together two special guides to show you how easy it is. Everything you need PLUS an amazing detailed itinerary with fuel, accommodation, sightseeing, costs and our local’s perspective on these trips – after all, living in Alice Springs we drive these roads all the time.
Read our COMPLETE itinerary for driving from Alice Springs to Uluru
Read out complete itinerary for driving from Adelaide to Ayers Rock/Alice Springs
Yes, there are a few.
Here’s what’s not so good about driving to Uluru – Ayers Rock:
- You will need to add in at least 2 extra travel days to your itinerary
- Ayers Rock is a long, long way from everywhere. Even Alice Springs, the nearest outback town, is 450 km away (5 hours) by road
- If you’re driving from Sydney, Melbourne or even Adelaide, it’s going to take you at least 2 or 3 full days of driving to get to Uluru
- The price of fuel on outback highways is up to 30 cents per litre MORE expensive than it is in Australia’s capital cities
Real Fuel Costs
Currently (2019) fuel in the roadhouses (service stations/gas stations) along the Stuart Highway is anywhere from $1.80 – $2.40 per litre. Fuel is cheaper in towns such as Port Augusta and Alice Springs, and much cheaper in capital cities.
Driving from Sydney to Ayers Rock in a 6 cylinder station wagon will cost you around $450 one way (based on a fuel price average of $2.00 per litre).
In a big 4WD like a Toyota Landcruiser or Prado, you’re looking at $710, based on an average of $1.80 per litre, and an economy of 13KPG on the highway. (We know. We’ve got one!)
Of course, if you’re sharing the fuel costs and camping, then driving to Uluru – Ayers Rock will be a lot more affordable.
This page will give you details on where to find shared rides. Our tip is to try Gum Tree first!
We really encourage you to think about driving to Uluru – especially if you’re an Australian. The positives far outweigh the negatives – and you can even find free accommodation along the way if you use this sneaky iPhone app.
Bus to Uluru
Bus travel to Ayers Rock is a real option if you’re looking to save money and see a lot of the outback
However there’s one really important thing you need to know:
- You can only catch a bus to Ayers Rock from Alice Springs
There’s no Greyhound bus service to Uluru from Adelaide or Melbourne or anywhere else.
The good news is if you take a bus from Alice Springs you’ll see a lot more of the outback, including it’s unofficial capital, Alice Springs.
In our opinion, if you go to the outback and don’t visit Alice Springs, you are making a huge mistake.
Bus companies who travel to Uluru – Ayers Rock from Alice Springs:
- AAT Kings (1800 556 100 or (08) 8952 1700). http://www.aatkings.com.au/ Alice Springs office: 74 Todd Street, Alice Springs. Fares start at $180 (Last checked: 14/11/2019).
- Austour (1 800 335 0090) http://www.austour.com.au/ Call or email for prices and availability.
Package tours are a popular way to travel to Uluru – Ayers Rock from almost anywhere in Australia.
You can find all kinds of different tours ranging from cheap, backpacker camping style tours, to 5 star luxury tours.
The most popular tours to Ayers Rock are either the down-and-back in one day tours offered by Emu Run, starting and finishing in Alice Springs.
Or the many three day tours offered by a whole gamut of tour companies, also starting and finishing in Alice Springs.
To help you learn more, we’ve written an entire page about Uluru Tours here.
Hitching to Ayers Rock
We see lots of backpackers standing on the side of the Stuart Highway with their signs held out for Uluru.
We’ve occasionally picked people up and given them rides.
Hitching in Australia is reasonably safe, although I wouldn’t advise that women do it alone!
Dress nicely, hold up a sign and be prepared to wait. You will get a lift eventually.
Again, use your commonsense. If someone looks suspicious, then they probably are! Trust your gut feelings and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Hitching in Australia can be fun and a cheap way to get around – but safety and commonsense much always come first!
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What are YOUR experiences travelling to Ayers Rock/Uluru?
Do you have any tips and tricks to share?
We’d love to know! Whether it’s good or bad news, share your thoughts with everyone in the comments section below.
Thanks for the article. Our family of 5 is headed to Australia next year. I’m trying to convince my husband that we should drive to Ayers Rock. Your article might just do the trick.
I’m takin my pink kombi to ayers rock from coffs Harbour next year 😀 any tips? Top speed is 95km so it’s gonna be a long but great one.
All the best christie have a good one me and my partner are thinking of doing saame from liverpool we have been talking about this just get your mechanical bit throughly checked mate u shall be mine
Denkt ihr es ist möglich die Route Sydney -> Ayers Rock -> Adelaide -> Great Ocean Road -> Melbourne in einem Monat zu schaffen ?
Ich habe für die Fahrt von Sydney zum ayers Rock 4 Tage eingerechnet und vom ayers Rock nach Adelaide 3 Tage
Ist das realistisch ? Wir sind zwei Leute mit einem Station Wagon
Sorry I don’t know why I posted it in German. I can’t delete it
So I just make it like this and write it in English again.. (I really don’t know why I did it in the wrong language ?)
Do you think it’s possible to drive from Sydney -> Ayers Rock -> Adelaide -> great ocean road -> Melbourne within one month?
I planned 4 days from Sydney to Uluru and 3 days from there to Adelaide (and 3 days at the Ayers Rock)
Is it possible ? We are two persons with a station wagon 🙂
We are going to be in Australia travelling for one month, and while we will be doing a different trip than you are, I have budgeted my time about 5 days for each adventure…you should be able to do this trip in one month.
Thanks for publishing such a great resource!
Me and my friend are planning to make the journey in a camper from Melbourne, via Adelaide to Alice Springs. We’re on a pretty tight budget and are planning to stop at all the free campsites on the way. We’d love to stop and visit Uluru too on the journey. You’ve said, and having researched it myself I agree, not to drive at night, however Uluru is vest experienced at sunset and sunrise. So how would you advise incorporating a sunrise/set viewing into the camper journey without driving at night. Even if we stayed at the closest free camp site to Uluru that would still leave us a 40km drive to do. What would your advice be?
Thanks in advance, Jez.
We (family of 3, 2 adults, one teen) will be in Australia late May and June 2016. Plan on renting a car in Melbourne, driving Great Ocean road and over to Adelaide. Would love to drive Adelaide to Alice Springs, but VERY expensive with one-way drop off fee. We may take a bus from Adelaide, stop at Coober Pedy, then onto Alice, rent a car and drive back to Uluru. Would rather drive Adelaide to Uluru, any way we can do this without mortgaging our home to pay for the car hire?
Thanks for this tip. Would you recommend the drive from Adelaide or from Darwin as the more scenic route?
It’s really up to you, George. I feel there is a lot more to stop and see from Adelaide to Ayers Rock (it’s also shorter). Have you seen our detailed driving itinerary for Adelaide to Uluru:
Maybe take a look at that – it could help you to decide
I’m hoping to drive to Uluru from Perth but not across the Nullabor – done that and don’t want to drive that way again, it’s boring, so it’d be through the middle – Leonora – Lasseter Highway. I have a Nissan Pulsar not a 4WD, is this a trip I can realistically do?
Thanks very much
Unfortunately, there is one section of the Great Central Road (the route from Kalgoorlie to Uluru) that’s awful and not suitable for an ordinary vehicle. It’s the 230km stretch from the WA/NT border to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). It is one of the NT’s most shameful, poorly maintained roads. The WA side of the GCR is generally fabulous. If you don’t mind your car being shaken to pieces, are prepared to push your Pulsar through sandy creek crossings and very sandy, uber-corrugated roads, then yes, by all means give it a go! A shame, because the rest of the road is well maintained!
Hope this helps, Amanda
Thanks for all the awesome information ?? we’re from Tassy & thinking of hiring a motor home & traveling to Uluru in June. Would you recommend driving from Melbourne or Adelaide?
TX for all the good advice. We are planning on renting a camper when we go back to Australia this jan/Feb. 2018. Im thinking of starting and ending rite from Sydney .with a few days in Manly beach. It will be our 3rd time ….Australia is so amazing ….varied and immense. There is no way you can truly do it in 2(or 4 )weeks.
Which route would you recommend? And can you take a ferry crossing to Tasmania?
Me and my husband ben on Uluru first week of April. We was driving from Sydney-Melbourne-Adelaide-Cober pedy-Uluru. Trip for forever 14 days 13 nights in van. Good luck you gonna like
We are planning a trip to Australia in March 2018. We are landing in Sydney on the 24th. We would like to visit Ayers rock, Alice springs and GREAT Barrier reef. Tunisia would be nice. What would be our best option in doing this? Sydney to Cairns to Ayers ir another way.
Thank you so much for this article.
We also want to do the road from Adelaide to Ayers.
But many people told us that it is too hot in December… Is that true?
Thanks for answering.
Have a beautiful day
My husband and I will be traveling to Australia in May. We plan to rent a car or campervan in Melbourne and drive to Uluru/Alice Springs. We have 9 days total. Any recommended itineraries?
Your content is great, but your images aren’t showing up. The ones I can see are magnificent, and I would love to see more, but only 2-3 images are coming up for each article ?
Coming from Sydney, what would be the best two stops for an over night stay? I leave on a Friday and hopefully arrive on the Sunday.
What is the difference between Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock)? Some tour stay both places, some tour only stay Uluru, If only stay at Uluru, is there anything missing to see? What is you suggestions. Many thanks!
Hi Lin, I suggest looking at both of our pages on Alice and Uluru respectively. This might help you make up your mind.
Hi. We live in Bathurst (central west NSW) and I have a graduation from Alice Springs (June 2019). We have a Nissan patrol and there will be 2 A and 3 kids. We really want to make the most of going from here to Alice and maybe back via QLD then on to NSW. Have a limit of 4 weeks max .. is this doable? Can you recommend sites, maps etc to look at? We’re so excited.
Thank you, mandy.
Hi Mandy, yes certainly doable but all about how long you want to take to drive there, stay in the area and then drive back. From Bathurst to Alice Springs it will take about 4 days of driving depending on whether you want to stick to the bitumen or have an adventure up the Oodnadatta Track. You can look on our website for info on the track. We also have an Adelaide to Alice guide too. Once in Alice there is also plenty of info on trips in and around Alice as well as a page on Alice itself. Heading home you you could take the Plenty Highway to Gemtree, Tobermorey and onto Boulia before heading SE in the direction of home. We don’t have much on our site of western Queensland or NSW yet. We do have a page on Birdsville if you went that way. However just google for info on places you may visit and you’ll find plenty of info.
I live in Sydney, hold a P1 licence (turning into P2 soon) and don’t own a car. I wish to rent a car and drive to Uluru, then fly back but not sure what the options are since not many car rental companies offer car rentals for P platers …
Thanks for the great article, you have definitely convinced me to do the drive. The only question is whether we will tow a caravan, or just camp.
HaHa you made me laugh mentioning hitch hiking, I hitchhiked from Melbourne to Darwin nearly 30 years ago, and got stuck in Alice Springs for 5 days waiting for a lift. 5 long days waiting by the road! And that was after being stuck for 2 days in Port Augusta.
Hi all. I live in Kilmore, Victoria and I’m thinking of loading up the Ute (2006 hilux dual cab, v6, 4.0,4×4 dual fuel,with a raptor supercharger, awesome for towing with this engine and actually saves fuel, got 580nm of torque now) with a 16ft caravan on the back. The lpg tank that I have holds 270L ( yes it’s a big tank) and I also have a 153 long range petrol tank. I know with both tanks full I will have a fair range but I want to know if there are service stations that sell lpg in the outback? I’m assuming unleaded is as common as diesel?
I don’t think there are direct flights from Perth anymore. I did this trip in 2010 but it is not offered anymore, pity
In the early stages of planning a trip to Alice Springs / Uluru. We have four couples in 4wd’s going with a couple of kids 5 and 3. We have approx 5 days out there to fit the most we can in. Question is, how many days do we spend at Uluru? And what are the must see spots?
Honestly, you can do just about EVERYTHING in two days/three nights at Uluru. I would spend more time in Alice Springs or in the West MacDonnell Ranges. There are enough things to see and do around Alice to easily fill in 5 days. Yes, Uluru is amazing – but unless you’re into photography and you seriously need to hang about to get the right shot, you really don’t need more than two days…and I am someone who goes there regularly for work, so I’ve done just about everything that can be done, several times.
Once you are already at Uluru Resort what do you recommend next? Can you walk out alone to walk around the Rock or to nice platforms for sunrises and sunsets? Or do you really need to book tours for everything?
Is it too much to drive from Sunshine Coast to Alice Springs look around at the sites then be back within 6 days? Want to drive but not sure if it’s too rushed
Thinking of doing a drive to the Rock from Newcastle this winter, two people in a suburu impreza (not a big tank). Maybe two weeks so we can fit in Alice as well. Is this doable? Also, where is nearest free camping to the Rock?
Any suggestions or your take on this very appreciated. Thank you kindly. Gav
Hi Gav, of course it’s doable. There are fuel stops all along the way to cater for normal cars. To Ben honest, I’d save some money along the way at free Camps and stay at Yulara somewhere. It will save a lot of driving as the free Camps are a bit out along the highway. I’d also get the Wikicamps app and that will help you pinpoint Camps along the way. Hope this helps, Gary
Hello all. I am grey haired nomad and going to the centre from Newcastle to Uluru, Olga’s etc in VW Passat AWD diesel station wagon. Leaving approx mid May 2019 and return approx end May. Part camp part cheap accommodation along the way. Looking for someone to share fuel costs. Cheers Herman
Can you tell me whether it is likely that we will see Ayers Rock from the air when flying from Adelaide to Ayers Rock on a Qantas flight. We are travelling to Darwin, there is direct flights but there is a flight that has a short stop at the Ayers Rock airport. It is not possible because of time restraints to visit there this time, but to view it from the air would be better than nothing. The direct flight would be better for us, but would think it unlikely to see the Rock on that, so considering the flight with one stop, but only if there is a chance to see the Rock from the air.
Can you help? Have to make the booking soon.
Thanks in anticipation,
Hi Amanda and Gary,
Thank you so much for making and sharing this very valuable info pack. We referred to it a lot on our road trip to Uluru and Alice Springs back in 2018 which made us falling in love with the Outback.
Will certainly be using your detail info and tips again the next time we go back – hopefully as soon as it is safe to travel.
Gaby and Budi – Jakarta, Indonesia
Hi Amanda and Gary,
I would like to be at Uluru on the 21st December. Have a small Skoda Rapid and wandering if driving alone from Sydney would be good for a 59 years old lady with diabetes and heart condition?
Many thanks for your reply,
0478837417 i am in coffs & want to be there for the 21st December myself
Anyone need a friend to the NT from NSW east coast? Let me know please
I want to travel from Melbourne to NT.
I want to visit Nitmiluk and Uluru badly.
I have been researching quite a lot n its a bit challenging to travel on a budget.. n i am planning to travel alone for the first time, so..
I want to travel Dec end n Jan due to my busy schedule from Feb..
Ty so much for the article though.. if you have the time, please email me your suggestions ?
Great article! In 1998 was lucky enough to have my flights to and from Uluru paid for as I scored a residency as a piano bar musician in the main resort. The resort subsidised flights for other workers back then, but I’m not sure if this is the case now. I never got tired of seeing the monolith every single day for the two months I was there. If you’d prefer not to fork out for petrol or airfares, there’s always the option of working at the resort. And if you’re lucky, you might even score accomodation with a view of the rock from your window.