As the temperature rises, we head back to the resort to rinse off the dust and congratulate ourselves with champagne in the Dune Top pool. Such is a stay at Longitude 131°: soul-touching experiences bookended by luxury indulgences.
First opened in 2003, the resort was taken over by Baillie Lodges in 2013 and has since undergone a number of gentle upgrades, but in August last year, the most ambitious remodel was unveiled. After a spend of more than $8 million, the resort now boasts a number of structural changes, including the Dune Top. Situated on the highest spot of the property, it features a round pool offering panoramic views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. All the artworks here are sourced from nearby art centres. “Engaging with local Indigenous communities through their art centres is a way for our guests to learn about their culture,” explains Baillie Lodges co-founder Hayley Baillie. “The financial contribution to this local economy is often the only way income is brought into the community. It also ensures the culture is maintained across generations.”
At reception, a large piece by the Wynne Prize-winning collaboration, the Ken sisters, reflects the colours of an outback sunset; ceramic vases created during a residency at the Big Pot Factory in Jingdezhen, China are scattered through common areas, while the lobby doubles as a small art gallery.
These structures join the 16 famous white tented rooms that mimic the pitched tents of the early settlers of Australia. Each room features design details that are inspired by one of these pioneers. There’s the Kidman room that celebrates cattle rancher Sidney Kidman, and one named for William John Wills of Burke and Wills fame. During the recent renovation, the Baillies made the decision to include more Indigenous culture into the rooms as well, celebrating the first Australians. Artworks adorn the walls, wooden sculptures sit on table tops and there are traditional baskets from the Tjanpi Desert Weavers. Outside, each ‘tent’ is a deck from which you can gaze over this wide expanse of land. Enjoy a cup of tea from the daybed or spend a night under the stars in a swag, warmed by the gas fireplace.
Here, you’re encouraged to be an explorer yourself — days are structured safari-like, making the most of early morning and late afternoon, and leaving the hot middle of the day to lounge by the pool. On arrival at the lodge guests are taken through suggested itineraries, giving them a chance to explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta in different ways — but always in luxury.