As Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate head for a whistle-stop tour of Ayers Rock in Australia's Northern Territory, HELLO! Online discovers there's more to the country’s Outback than sizzling sun and miles of sand...
Think of Australia and, after kangaroos, koalas and the Opera House, it’s likely an image of Ayers Rock will pop into your head. The Rock – or Uluru as its known by the country's indigenous Aboriginal people – is one of the world's most iconic landmarks, so it's no surprise that Kate and Wills chose to visit this ancient wonder on the Northern Territory leg of their Royal Tour.
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Kate and Wills will have a night without baby George at Longitude 131°, a luxe tented resort with 15 exclusive pavilions, each with a stunning view of Uluru. Super stylish, yet welcoming and relaxed, guests are invited to help themselves to drinks in Longitude's explorer lounge, or sip cocktails around the oasis pool, visited by a friendly lizard or two. Gourmet dining is either in the restaurant, or in the desert under a blanket of stars, accompanied by the hypnotic sound of a didgeridoo.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected within a National Park, Uluru has a special meaning for Aboriginal people, the traditional guardians of the land. William and Kate will meet some of the members of the local Mutitjulu community at the Park’s Cultural Centre, take a tour around Uluru to learn more about its significance and visit the National Indigenous Training Academy at Ayers Rock Resort, which is the base for most visitors.
With a broad range of accommodation, from the budget Outback Pioneer to luxury suites at the Sails In The Desert Hotel, the Resort has activities to suit everyone, whether you're into Harleys or helicopters. Guests can even ride a camel to dinner across the dunes to a unique Sounds of Silence experience.
Kate and William’s tight schedule will take the couple south to Adelaide after their night ‘glamping’, but for those with more time on their hands, the Red Centre has plenty of other attractions to explore.
North-east from the Rock is the awe-inspiring Kings Canyon and the legendary Alice Springs. The Outback's original pioneer town, ‘The Alice’ is home to fantastic art galleries, a unique Desert Park and the marvelously mad Henley-on-Todd Regatta, a boat race along the dry bed of the Todd River.
This was the first Australian town that a nine-month-old Prince William visited 31 years ago, during his mother and father’s 1983 Royal Tour. Charles and Diana famously spent the night at the Gap Motor Hotel, after a cyclone closed the upmarket casino resort where they were scheduled to stay. Should any Royals decide to drop by again, the town’s swish Lasseters Hotel Casino offers four restaurants, three bars and a nightclub, plus a pool to cool off during those hot desert days.
The Alice is also the mid-point of the 3,000km-long Adelaide to Darwin railway. One of the world’s iconic rail journeys, a trip on The Ghan train transports guests through the heart of the Australian Outback in Royal style, with cosy private cabins, all-inclusive wining and dining in the Queen Adelaide restaurant and tours en-route, including a boat trip along the breathtaking Katherine Gorge.
The Ghan’s final stop heading north is the tropical town of Darwin, gateway to the vast, beautiful wilderness of Kakadu National Park. Covering 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu offers the chance to spot crocodiles, incredible birdlife and ancient Aboriginal rock art, and is the perfect place to escape for adventure, space, or some much-needed R & R, with a stay at the boutique Wildman Wilderness Lodge.
After a whirlwind tour covering two countries in just three weeks, it could have been just what the Royal family needed. But with so much still to explore in this exciting and diverse region, we’re sure William, Kate and George will be back...
Henley-on-Todd Regatta, a boat race along the dry bed of the Todd River
Audley Travel can tailor-make a seven-day trip to the Red Centre from £4,560 per person, including domestic flights from Sydney, three nights at Longitude 131°, a romantic dinner under the stars, luxury spa treatment, scenic helicopter flight and sunrise camel trek at Uluru, followed by a self-drive itinerary with a 4wd vehicle, two nights at Kings Canyon Resort and two nights in Alice Springs. International flights (with Qantas) to Sydney cost from £1,050 per person including taxes.
For further information, or to make a booking, call 01993 838 800 or visit www.audleytravel.com
For more on the Northern Territory’s Outback, go to www.australiasoutback.co.uk