Travel Report Australia: from Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock) (June 2019)
What could a 5 day phototrip from Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock) look like?
Sydney to Uluru is a special tour connecting our Australia I and II phototrips. In this Travel Report we outline the highlights of the tour. Due to the huge distances, we took planes from and to Uluru and used a rental car at Uluru itself to get around. In Sydney, we used the public transport system, being highly efficient.
What you should definitely think about when traveling to Australia:
Currency: AUD. Exact rates you can find under “Exchange Rate” on this page. For payments or cash withdrawals, you can use your credit card anywhere in the country, without any problems. For small amounts you should keep a little cash. We had planned 400 AUD for a week, which was more than enough.
Vaccinations: Coming from Germany, no vaccinations are required. However, the standard vaccinations are recommended, see suggestions Foreign Office.
Luggage: If you travel by plane within Australia, then you should look very closely at the airline conditions. Jetstar (a daughter of Qantas) has strict regulations and controls them very much. Especially “carry on” luggage. Jetstar only allows 7kg (!) and you can pay extra for additional + 3kg. Especially with photographic equipment, things get tight and Jetstar really checks every piece of luggage for weight and dimensions. So check carefully beforehand. Flights with Qantas, on the other hand, are a bit less critical because they are not controlled as accurately.
Visa: As a German citizen you need a visa (!), Which has to be applied for online in advance.
Driver’s license: In addition to the European driver’s license, the international driver’s license is required for Australia. We were not asked about this at the car hire counter, but if you should be checked (for example by the police), it will apply.
In the European summer, the Northern Territory (Uluru) can already be “very cold”. For this reason, you should choose the clothes according to the onion principle and thus for warm and cold. Also a rain jacket, ideally also windproof, should be in the luggage! We also added the following: a “hat”, as it is better suited than a baseball cap to keep mosquito / fly nets away from the head. The flynets should already be bought in Germany. You will be happy to have them – because of the many flies! In addition, we bought long and short-sleeved stingproof shirts. Since many hotels in Australia have washing and drying facilities, you do not have to take too much clothes, for a week at most. Sydney on the other hand enjoys much milder temperatures
Details Australia Tour II: from Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock)
In 5 days from Adelaide via Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Day 11: From Adelaide to Sydney (we continue the day count for the entire tour, see Tour Australia I):
Our plane leaves in the morning and after about 3h flight and half an hour time difference, we land in Sydney. Already at the airport, the city makes a friendly impression on us. It is Saturday and everywhere is something going on. The quickest way into the city center is the subway, which costs about 15, – Euro per person (one way). You can go straight from the airport to Circular Quay, which is the hotspot in the city. Our hotel is the Marriott. If you want to reach everything by foot, especially the opera and the bridge, as well as all ferries, this is the best located hotel. Another alternative would be the Hyatt (the only hotel with a direct view of the Opera and the Four Seasons, which is next to the Marriott). From the subway to the hotel is just a 5 minute walk.
After a quick stroll through the city, we go for lunch to “Chart Thai”, a Thai, just around the corner from the hotel. In the same building there is a food court with food from all continents. The food is original Thai and to the question “spicy” we recommend to answer “no” . If someone goes for “yes”, we recommend the ice cream store on the ground floor.
Vivid - Festival of Light in Sydney
In the evening the “Vivid-Festival of light” starts in Sydney. We did not know this before, but are glad that we are here at exactly this time. It takes place every year between mid-May and early June. A large number of buildings are illuminated or lit, and food stalls and restaurants are open everywhere. There is a lot going on and a great mood.
The perfect place is a small tower at the end of the cruise terminal. Coming from the ferry terminals, you walk towards the terminal. Take the escalator to the first floor and turn left, walk past the taxi stands. Shortly before the end, there is a small staircase on the right. Go up this one and then turn left, take the stairs up to the top. From here you have a 270 degree view of the city, the opera and the bridge. Absolutely unique, not just during the Vivid Festival.
At least once walk across the harbor bridge in Sydney
Day 12: Sydney
We take the ferry to Wilsons Point / Luna Park. From there you can walk across the bridge and back to the harbor. The view from the bridge is very nice, but we are also happy as we leave it and go to the harbor district, as it is very loud from the cars and trucks passing you.
In the docklands, we stop at a brewery (Endeavor Brew Bar), where you can try out some excellent home-brewed beers and eat a little something. Perfect and absolutely recommendable. Then we walk through the park and watch the cormorants building their nests.
The festival and the lightshow on a Sunday night are nice again, but a little “quieter” then the day before.
Jetstar, the real nightmare for photographers
Day 13: From Sydney to Uluru (Ayers Rock)
After reading the regulations of the airline again, I decided to pay for additional carry-on luggage. I’m seriously worried if my camera equipment will make it into the cabin and arrive undamaged in Ayers Rock.
There are 2 airlines flying from Adelaide to Ayers Rock (Yulara Airport). These are Jetstar (low-cost Qantas) and Virgin. We chose Jetstar, because then you can book all flights, including those with Qantas, as a Multistop-Ticket. For photographers, Jetstar is the nightmare that has come alive. Hand luggage is limited to 7kg and 2 items. For 40 euros additional payment you can buy 3kg extra. With 2 persons this makes 20kg. Should be enough, but is scarce. The Trolley weighs almost 5kg, the backpack 1.5kg, both empty. There is not much weight left for lenses, cameras and laptops etc.
Who thinks “oh I’ll come through” is unfortunately wrong. Jetstar uses so-called “Marshalls”, which weigh the luggage before boarding. Together we were still over 20kg, and so I put several lenses and accessories in my jacket and the laptop under the arm, ending up with exactly 19.5kg. So think twive before your trip what to take with you. No one wants to have his camera loaded in the airplane balley. Jetstar is also tough on checked luggage, the limits are 1 suitcase with max 20kg per person. Another 5kg can be bought for 60 Euro.
But the best comes last. On a 3.5h flight there are no drinks or food. Warm drinks, such as coffee, can not be taken on board. But you can buy anything on board. So, if you’ve been looking forward to a cheap ticket, you’ll quickly learn that the additional costs will make it expensive again. I would not like to use this airline again, even if the flight itself was OK.
In Uluru we take over our AVIS rental car, which is limited to 100km per day, definitely not being enough. We drove about 250km and had to pay extra in the end.
The Ayers Rock Resort, the only resort in the area is about 5km from the airport and accommodates everything from the campsite to the 5 star resort. If you book late, do not be surprised if only the most expensive option is available and “late” means here – in our case – 3 months in advance.
Overview Ayers Rock Resort and National Park
Field of Lights - Ayers Rock (Uluru)
For the evening we booked the tour to the Field of Lights. Luckily we were fast enough and got the “Starpass”. This is the expensive option (just under 90, – € per person) but worth every penny for photographers. First, on top of the hill, they served very tasty snacks and drinks and you are allowed to use a tripod (forbidden in the field itself, even if it is not properly controlled). And second, you have a great view of the Field of lights and the Ayers Rock at sunset. So whoever has this possibility should use it.
Bruce Munros internationally celebrated Art Installation Field of Light at the foot of Uluru can still be seen until December 31, 2020. The exhibition allows more than 50,000 solar powered glass balls to shine from sunset all night long. The glass balls cover an area the size of four football fields. For the Field of Light Tour, there are only a limited number of tickets that sell out quickly.
The “Field of Lights” continuously changes the light colors. After about 2h, at about 7:30pm the tour is over and we head back by bus to the hotel.
Sunrise at Ayers Rock (Uluru)
Day 14: Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Of course, we want to experience the sunrise at Ayers Rock live, like most people. So we get up at 5:50am and get ready, hoping to be one of the first in the park. The tickets for the park are best bought online and uploaded to your smartphone. At the parking barrier is a scanner. At 06:30 am we sit in the car and leave the hotel car park. Unfortunately, it does not get much further than that. We’re stuck in traffic! Yes traffic jam at the entrance of the park. It opens at 06:30am and all coaches and tour operators are already queuing up. So get up even earlier, even if the sun does not rise until 7:30. One should try to stand as far in front as possible in the queue. Why? Because there is only one street in the park and out and otherwise you have all the traffic, especially the buses, in front of you.
In the park the sunrise and sunset viewpoints are signposted, but we were glad to have Google Maps too. As we arrive at the parking lot it is packed already. But since you still have to walk a few meters from there, it spreads out and the tour operators anyway send all their guests directly to the first platform.
We continue walking to the second shelter stand (turn right after the first). This offers by far the best view in the morning and as a highlight for photographers also a dead tree that can be wonderfully integrated into the composition.
From this location one can also see Kata Tjuta in the morning light. No less impressive than Ayers Rock.
The opportunity to walk around Ayers Rock (Uluru)
Around 8 o’clock the magic is over and all buses are gone. We drive back to the hotel for breakfast. A little tip, the hotels are all part of the Accor group and if you are an Advantage Club member (registration is enough), you get 30% off the breakfast price. The breakfast at the Sails in the Desert leaves nothing to be desired.
At 10:30am we drive back to Ayers Rock again. We have decided to walk around it. The so-called Base Walk can be started from either of the two parking lots (no matter which one) and is about 10.5km long. It is easy to walk and in June tolerable from the temperatures. You also get a completely different view of this huge monolith.
Flies everywhere, despite being "Winter"
What is extremely annoying are the flies. They are not harmful but very annoying. We can only recommend to anyone to take a mosquito net for your head. As we were there in the winter, I do not even want to imagine the number of flies in summer!
After a little over 2h we are completely done, arriving back at the car. The walk is – thanks to the flies and the fact that you lock all jackets etc. because of them – more exciting than you think.
We drive to Kata Tjuta. At just under 50km one way, this is a decent route, but scenic, and so the time passes quickly. The closer you get to the rocks, the more you realize how big and impressive they are. In the afternoon light they shine bright red and let the heart of photographers and tourists beat faster.
In the afternoon, the light is really great. The sky is deep blue and the rocks are bright red. In addition, there is hardly anyone except the flies and you have all the time in the world to take pictures.
Sunset is just after 6 pm and we want to be there at least an hour in advance, as obviously most others too. When we arrive at the parking lot, we catch the penultimate free space and see how people carry around camping chairs and tripods. Even in the off-season one can speak of “overcrowding”.
But we are lucky and catch a great place where we observe the sunset with all its colors. This is – apart from great photos – certainly the best moment during our time in Ayers Rock. Importantly, temperatures go up to zero degrees at this time. Wrap up warm!
Day 15: From Ayers Rock to Brisbane
As on the inbound flight, I again bought + 3kg hand luggage for each of us for the return flight and put several lenses in my coat again. That’s really annoying at Jetstar. The flight to Brisbane takes just under 3 hours and we have taken precautions this time and bought drinks and food before boarding the planw. By the way, water and other cold drinks do not have to be handed in at the security! Off to Brisbane, where we start the third part of our journey.
Conclusion: Sydney was a surprise for us in every way. We had expected nothing and discovered a city that is worth living in. 2 nights are short, but sufficient for an impression and to see the most important things. Also photographically Sydney is very attractive.
Compared to Sydney, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is hopelessly overcrowded with tourists traveling on busses from one event to the next, making sure that hotel prices are astronomical. On the grounds of the resort there is a good supermarket, so you can stock up on at least some snacks, water etc.
Despite the fact that Uluru (as Ayers Rock is now called) and Kata Tjuta are overrun by tourist crowds, we recommend a visit. Skipping it would not be right. In retrospect, the hike around Ayers Rock is a memorable experience.
Which photographic equipment for Australia?
The photographic equipment that we brought to Australia can be found below. In addition, you have the opportunity to order the used photographic equipment directly through our photo shop and to request further technical details. There are also a lot of extras.
- Nikon D850
- Nikon D500
- Apple Iphone X
- Nikon 70-200mm f/4
- Nikon 20mm f/1.8
- Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VRII
- Nikon 105mm f/2.8
- Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2
- Sirui Carbon
- Sirui Kugelkopf
Backpack / Trolley:
- Tenba Roadie Roller 21*
*The Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is really a great “camera trolley” to fit even the big telephoto lenses. As far as the flexibility of the interior layout is concerned, this is outstanding. Also the accommodation of a professional DSLR with more than 11cm height and attached lens is possible. The trolley has many storage options. The “21er” is almost perfect, if you want to have the greatest possible flexibility and the ability to take this in the plane still on board.