A Weekender's Guide to the Red Centre During Field of Light

Where to stay, eat, drink and sightsee on the arid plains of the Australian outback.
Jasmine Crittenden
Published on June 21, 2017

in partnership with

If you haven't already visited Uluru, it's probably on your bucket list. Getting as close to the rock as possible is bound to be your main goal, but you may as well do some top-notch eating, drinking, sleeping and adventuring while you're at it. Being so popular with, well, everyone, Uluru and its surrounds have options for every budget and travelling style. A main attraction in the area, other than the rock itself, is the Field of Light festival. Running until March 2018, this huge exhibition features a mind-blowing installation by internationally-acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, made of 50,000 lights that collectively appear as a massive, magical, multi-coloured carpet around the base of the rock.

Some events (like this one) are worthy of a big trip, and aside from casual laziness and a little lack of inspiration, there's really nothing stopping you from squeezing Field of Light into your schedule. We've teamed up with Mazda3 to help you plan your out-of-the-city trips ahead of time, so you can detour from your regular routine and inject a little adventure into your life. Here's our Weekender's Guide to the Red Centre of the Northern Territory during Field of Light — what to do, what to eat and drink for a weekend and where to stay  — whether you want to sleep under the stars, or splurge on five-star luxury.

Tali Wiru.


Uluru is protected by Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which means most of the eating and drinking has to happen outside of the park. However, there is one way you can feast in the park and under the stars, and that's on a sunset tour with AAT Kings. As you watch the sun disappear into the horizon, you'll be treated to a classic Aussie barbecue, packed with garlic prawns, lamb sausages, chicken skewers and kangaroo. There's also the Sounds of Silence dinner at Ayers Rock Resort with Uluru as your backdrop. This is a fancier affair, beginning with canapes and sparkling wine, then moving through three courses inspired by bush tucker — all to the sounds of a live didgeridoo performance. You'll also get a guided tour of the stars and return rides to and from your hotel with this experience. We should also mention, the resort's even more extraordinary experience, Tali Wiru, where atop a sand dune, you'll work your way through four courses matched with top-shelf Aussie wines. Dishes include Paroo kangaroo, wagyu fillet from Darling Downs, Glacier 51' Toothfish and twice-baked soufflé made with Heidi Farm gruyere.

Outback Pioneer Hotel.

Don't have cash to splash for fine dining? Fear not, there are a bunch of tasty morsels around that are much more wallet-friendly. It's hard to imagine a more outback experience than the Outback Pioneer Hotel's DIY barbecue, where you can grab a slab of kangaroo, barramundi fillet and an emu sausage or two, and cook up an true blue Aussie feast. If that sounds like too much work, though, head to the Pioneer Kitchen for an affordable a la carte menu which features a crocodile hot dog.

Meanwhile, at Desert Gardens Hotel, there's Arnguli Grill and Restaurant. Surrounded by ghost gums and overlooking the hotel pool, you'll tuck into dishes laced with Indigenous ingredients. Gear up to try seeds, spices and grains you've never heard of before.

Field of Light: Bruce Munro. Photo by Mark Pickthall.


Of course, your first priority is going to be wandering through Field of Light. The exhibition features more than 50,000 slender stems topped with frosted-glass spheres, over an area the size of seven football fields. At night, under a sky full of stars, the exhibition is absolutely breathtaking, and an amazing way to see Uluru. The artwork itself is aptly named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku, which translates to 'looking at lots of beautiful lights' in the local Pitjantjatjara language.

There are several ways to see Field of Lights — on foot, on the back of a camel, by helicopter, at sunrise, at sunset or in the middle of the night, all of which involve jumping aboard a Field of Light tour. The cheapest is the Field of Light Pass, which includes a hotel pick-up and self-guided walk, and the most deluxe is the helicopter tour (obviously), which includes 30 minutes in the air, as well as a guided stroll, three-course bush tucker dinner, didgeridoo performance, canapés, sparkling wine, chocolates and port.

Image: Edmono Gnerre via Flickr.

After the festival, next on your agenda should be getting as close as possible to Uluru. The rock's traditional custodians ask that you don't climb it, but you can take an loop-walk around the base. Along its 10.6-kilometre rocky circumference, you'll see many colours and textures, and, chances are, meet some local wildlife. If you'd like the company of a ranger, get to the Mala Walk car park at 10am (from May to September) for a free guided journey. If you're feeling adventurous, there are many more walking routes to take. An unusual perspective, and particularly spectacular view at sunrise and sunset, can be found via the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku track, translating to 'place to look from the sand dune'. The crowds are thinner here than in other spots, and picnic shelters provide shady places to relax. Deepen your understanding of what you're seeing and experiencing at the Cultural Centre, where there are regular Indigenous storytelling sessions. The centre also hires out bicycles, so you can grab one and check out Uluru from two wheels.

Desert Basecamp at Longitude 131.


To make sure Uluru never slips out of your sight, check into Longitude 131, an architect-designed glamping-style accommodation option with panoramic views. You can sleep under the stars, or on your own private verandah, in a snuggly, handmade swag beside a stone-and-rosewood fire. Or head inside for a signature "Baillie Bed". Either way, you'll be surrounded by designer furnishings, Indigenous artworks and ceramics in a spectacular setting. Alternatively, take your pick of the huge array of accommodation options at Ayers Rock Resort. It's a bit of a mini village, 15 kilometres away from Uluru. If you're travelling lo-fi, then be sure to pack your tent and claim a camp site in Ayers Rock Campground. The grass is lush and dotted with she-oaks and there are some handy facilities on hand, including a swimming pool, an outdoor kitchen, barbecues and a laundry.


Sails in the Desert.

Otherwise, book at the Outback Pioneer Lodge for air-conditioned rooms and a laidback, Aussie pub experience or the posher Desert Gardens Hotel for rooms with beautiful views of the rock. Meanwhile, the Resort's most luxurious option is Sails in the Desert, a five-star hotel with its own gallery dedicated to Indigenous art. Should you be travelling with a bunch of mates, your best bet is a two-bedroom cabin in the campground or, for a bit more comfort, an Emu Walk Apartment.

Field of Light runs until March 2018.

Top image: Field of Light: Bruce Munro. Photo by Mark Pickthall.

Personalise your next adventure via The Playmaker, driven by Mazda3.

Published on June 21, 2017 by Jasmine Crittenden
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x