Sails in the Desert at Ayers Rock Resort
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is the monolithic rock formation at the red center of Australia. It is a place sacred to the aboriginal people who own the land in the Northern Territory.
There is very little development any where near Uluru. The town nearby is known as Yulara. There you will find Ayers Rock Airport (only 4 flights in & out a day) and Ayers Rock Resort; the tourist village that is home base for exploring the natural parks.
Ayers Rock Resort is run by Voyages Hotels and Resorts but the land is owned by aboriginal people. In the 1980’s the area was tourist area was developed to protect the parks by moving all accommodations away from the base of the rock. Currently there are two major hotels at Ayers Rock Resort: Desert Gardens Hotel (former a Four Seasons) and Sails in the Desert (which opened as a Sheraton in 1984). Also in the resort town is a campground, dorm style housing, gas station, rental apartments, grocery store and shopping center. There is also a high end, exclusive yurt style resort.
Sails in the Desert at Ayers Rock Resort is the higher end of the traditional hotels. Prices are typically in the $350-$400 range per night (cheaper the longer you stay). The rates are this high because it is one of only a few games in town (all run by the same company). There is no competition. The website advertises it as a 5-star resort; I would say it is closer to a 3 or 3.5-star property.
Unless you plan on driving to Uluru, you are going to be flying in to Ayers Rock Airport. This one runway airport hosts 3 airlines (Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia) that operate a total of 4 flights in and 4 flights out a day. While a small airport, there is a gift shop and restaurant on site.
You can rent a car, but there is also a free bus to each hotel that meets every flight. The bus ride is only about 15 minutes.
There were probably about 20 people from our flight staying at Sails in the Desert so it took a while to get everyone checked in since we all arrived on the same bus. While waiting in line we were served a welcome drink and cold towel. The staff is mostly made up of international employees in Australia on a one year work visa. They are friendly but not always completely knowledgable.
The property is a long, snake like structure with three stories of rooms connected by outside walkways. The lobby and restaurants are in a separate building. Our room was on the third floor. All the rooms face into the interior courtyard/pool area.
We had a Two Queen Bed room. The rooms have recently been updated and they fell basic but comfortable.
There is a flat screen wall mounted TV against one wall along with an older table and chair set.
There is a mini fridge that has space for your own water bottles and snacks for sale. A safe and robes are in the adjacent closet.
Each room has a balcony and/or patio. Ours was small but enough space to sit and play Scrabble (which we did).
The bathroom at Sails in the Desert is in need of an update. It is clearly the original tub and (likely original) tile work. The vanity has been updated but that seems to be about it. It is clean but could be better maintained with a greater attention to detail (see rust around the faucet and grout color).
I would equate Sails in the Desert to a lodge in a US National Park. You know it is going to be fine but not luxurious. That’s not why you go there anyway.
Sails in the Desert has a large courtyard with plenty of grass, trees, and a large pool. Being there in winter, I wasn’t too tempted to try the pool. Which was lucky as the pool was closed due to safety concerns of broken glass.
However, the pool looks lovely. There is a main section as well as a smaller hot tub area, though it seems that the water is the same in both sections. Likely no one would want a hot tub in the summer anyway. There is also a shallow kid pool area.
Sails in the Desert has three dining options (besides room service). For breakfast, your only option is the Ilkari Buffet. At $40 AUD, it is pricy but matches most hotel buffets I have visited. Dinner is also served at Ilkari (closed for lunch).
There is also a bar in the lobby that is open for lunch and dinner. The menu is limited and over priced but if you don’t want a buffet, it is your other choice.
Finally there is the Pira Pool Bar. They serve lunch and dinner and the menu is identical to the lobby bar.
There are also dining options at the other hotels as well as the town center shopping area which is only a 5 minute walk from Sails in the Desert. I would suggest the Kulata Academy Cafe which serves coffee, breakfast and lunch. It is staffed by local aboriginal people training for jobs in the hospitality industry. Prices are a bit more reasonable. They also have an outlet of their cafe at the airport.
If you have the budget for it, I would check out the Sounds of Silence dinner one of your evenings.
You are not going to visit Uluru and the Ayers Rock Resort because you want a luxurious vacation. You are going for the outback experience visiting the Aboriginal spiritual center of Australia with it’s beautiful sites. If you keep that in mind, and forget the high prices, you will enjoy your stay.