In a previous blog post about our visit to the Granite Belt region of Queensland we identified that we love camping and five star resorts, it’s the bit inbetween we’re not so sure about. If you can combine the two then you’re on to a winner in our eyes. It would be fair to say that Baillie Lodges have hit the ball out of the park when it comes to Longitude 131.
First off, a disclaimer, we do aim to travel to a reasonable budget – one of the reasons why we camp and house sit. However, we make no bones about the fact that we are willing to splurge on luxury every now and again. We consider that just because something is expensive doesn’t necessarily make it poor value, and we came away thinking that Longitude 131 was very good value – more on that at the end. Nonetheless, it is expensive and we recognise that we are fortunate to be able to treat ourselves like this. If splurging on luxury is not for you then you might want to stop reading now.
We knew things were looking good when Adrian, the manager met us at the entrance to Longitude 131. He escorted us inside to be met by Denise who whisked us away for a gourmet three course lunch, starting with, of course, a glass of bubbles. Once we’d ordered, Amy came over to discuss our itinerary for our stay. The resort rotate a number of tours day by day and by staying for 3 days as we were, you get to experience all of them. You could also book a number of additional experiences including helicopter rides, skydiving and Segway tours but we decided that we were here to relax not get an adrenaline high. We had booked one addition previously – a Dune Top Dinner – more of that later.
After a fabulous lunch, we were walked over to our tent. You’ll be aware from many of our other posts that we camp a lot. We know what tents are like. To call our accommodation a tent would be similar to calling the Sydney Opera House a hall. It was magnificent. A huge bed with doors opening out onto a deck with a stunning view of Uluru. Luxury bathroom, and a mini-bar with all items included in the price we’d paid for the package. Our tent was the furthest from the Dune House which suited us as it felt really secluded.
We were back in the Dune House in good time for our evening tour and managed to sneak in a cheeky beer. There is a really well stocked bar and we had open access as part of the cost of staying there, just like the mini-bars in the tent. They even had one of Andy’s favourite beers – Balter – which is brewed on the Gold Coast. Our evening tour was a walk around part of the base of Uluru so we got our first up close look at the rock. During the evening, our fabulous guides, Caroline and Amy, told us some of the stories of the hair-wallaby people – the Mala. You can read some more about how much we enjoyed connecting to the stories of the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory in our post, ‘Connecting to Country’.
The tour finished at the site of the largest waterfall on the side of Uluru. As it was dry season, there was no water but it was still a fabulous location to watch the rock change colour as the sun set. To top it off, Rachel from Longitude 131 had magically appeared with drinks and canapes – so more bubbles it was. We got back from the tour straight into a four course dinner in the Dune House with matched wines. The food and drink really are of a superb quality at the resort. As you can see from some of other posts we enjoy our food and are happy to splash out on good restaurants. The food at Longitude was as high a quality as some of our favourite restaurants including; Urbane, Gerard’s Bistro and Vue de Monde. You can read about a visit we made to Gerard’s Bistro here.
We were up early the next morning – Uluru is all about the sunrises and sunsets. There was an impressive self service breakfast bar waiting for us and you could also order hot items such as porridge and eggs if you wanted. We were then out at 6.30 to drive past Uluru in the early morning sun on the way to a walk in Walpa Gorge at Kata Tjuta. Walpa means windy and it certainly lived up to its name, but Amy our guide was on hand with warm ponchos and hot chocolate to keep the chills off. Kata Tjuta is not as well known as Uluru but it is just as spectacular. After the walk we were taken to a viewing spot to look at the rocks from a distance. Just in case we hadn’t had enough to eat, we were also treated to fruit and cake for morning tea. We could see that this few days wasn’t going to do anything for our waistlines.
The morning tour finished with a very interesting tour of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre which we’ve talked about a little more in our post, ‘Connecting to Country’. It was then back to the Dune House for lunch. We decided to start with a little aperitif and were impressed that the bar stocks included Green Ant Gin. You can read about our previous encounter with Green Ants in ‘Ants Bums, A Sexchange Hotel and The Sisters of Mercy’. Although you can help yourself, the staff are always on hand to help you if you want and Thomas offered to whip us up a G&T with a twist. The additions included cucumber and a grind of black pepper which really pepped it up – we’ll be stealing that for future use. Another superb lunch followed during which we met a young waiter, Charles. It turned out that he was on placement from his school in New Zealand and was learning the ropes of luxury hospitality.
In the afternoon we thought we should at least pretend to do some exercise so set out to explore the resort’s pools. The main pool has plenty of seating either in the sun or the shade and yet another open bar. We had a swim (and a beer) the headed up to the Dune Top where there is a plunge pool and guess what, another bar. The views from here were amazing to Uluru on one side and Kata Tjuta on the other. This was where we would be coming for our Dune Top dinner so we had a little peek at the dining pods that were up there. All too soon it was time to get ready for our evening activities.
We were ready at 5 p.m. to head out to a spot to watch the sunset over Uluru. A number of other tour groups were also there so it looked a little bit busy, but our guides knew where to take us to get away from the throngs. Who’d have thought it, at the spot they took us to were more Longitude staff waiting with canapes and drinks. We could get used to this. After sunset we continued on to an exclusive look at Bruce Munro’s installation Field of Lights. Guests of Longitude 131 have the opportunity to walk through the field. It was pretty magical but next to the awesomeness of Uluru it almost paled into insignificance.
The evening continued when we pulled up to a desert location for a 4 course dinner under the stars followed by an astronomy talk. At this point we’re beginning to run out of superlatives to describe our stay but it didn’t end there. The dining venue was a short walk back to our tent for the final treat of the evening. The fire had been lit on our deck, swags were laid out on the day bed and we’d been left carafes of port, baileys and cognac so that we could continue to enjoy the incredible night sky.
In the morning, we at last had an opportunity to work off some of the extra calories we’d consumed. We joined a group of another 8 visitors for a walk around part of Uluru and a telling of the story of the Woma and Liru snakes. You can read more about the stories of Uluru if you’re interested here. We were then the only ones who opted to continue the 11km walk right around the base of Uluru so had a personal tour with Amy our guide and got to see the entirety of the rock.
We were feeling fairly virtuous until we got back for lunch and couldn’t resist another Green Ant Gin special before more delicious food and wine. Another afternoon by the pool was followed by our final dinner. This was the one addition we did opt to undertake and that was to have dinner on the Dune Top. There are a number of private dining pods set up but on this occasion we were the only couple dining, so had another exclusive experience. It began with being served canapes and drinks by our waiter Denis with beautiful views as the sun set over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It turned out that Denis was also in training. Originally from Russia, he was on placement from the Blue Mountains hospitality school. We can’t praise the Longitude staff enough, from the more senior members to the juniors in training they were all superb. A final fabulous dinner followed and we’d asked if we could repeat the previous nights experience so returned to our swag under the stars.
We had a bit of a lie in on our final morning so by the time we got to the Dune House the tours had all left. We were surprised to find that the pre-tour breakfast was a mini version of the full breakfast menu which we were now able to enjoy. After packing up, we said a sad farewell and were transferred back to our car with goody bags in hand.
We started this post by saying that although expensive, we considered this 3 day break to be good value. It is possible to see Uluru on a budget, the natural environment is, after all, the most important part of this experience. You can stay in the campground and guide yourself around using the excellent resources of the Cultural Centre. However, many people do see this as a once in a lifetime experience and want to incorporate a bit of luxury. If you were to stay at one of the high end hotels in the main Yulara resort and treat yourself to experiences such as guided tours, drinks at sunset and dinner under the stars the cost would soon add up to being fairly similar to a break at Longitude 131. We have no hesitation in recommending the resort as that way you get a seamless experience, you are looked after by fantastic staff who want to make sure you have the best time of your life and you are treated to exceptionally high quality food and drink. We haven’t even mentioned many of the little touches like meeting you when you return from tours with hot towels. On top of this you have the best views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from your accommodation. What more can we say – save up – go here – you won’t regret it.