Broome sweeps clean on grey nomad’s bucket list
Some people come to stay a short while, others for months at a time and some just never leave. And I know why.
June to August is the peak season so you may need to book ahead but they do accommodate for the masses with overflow camping areas opening up during peak time.
We visited in July and temperatures were in the high 30s so the summer months would be challenging and not the best time to visit. We stayed at an overflow campground run by the PYC which was in an excellent location close to town and with spotless amenities.
First port of call should be the Tourist Information Centre which displays on blackboards the parks and overflow areas that have vacancies and where to feast on the many, many attractions this region has to offer. Broome, the pearling capital of Australia, and close to the Kimberley wilderness, is a tropical oasis with contrasts of colour and culture that tantalise all senses. What awaits will stay in your memory forever.
The famous Cable Beach is a long and flat with gently rolling waves perfect for swimming, sunbathing (even a nude beach a short drive up the beach). Its 22km of white sandy beaches face the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. “Ships of the desert” carry tourists from all parts of the world just for the joy of a camel ride while the pink sunsets are a visual feast.
Historical sites around town have plaques sharing the past, such as the racial riots of 1920. Walk at very low tide at Gantheaume Point to see the lighthouse and dinosaur footprints. The Broome coastline boasts one of the most varied collections of dinosaur footprints in the world – very few sites have more than three different types of dinosaur footprints but here there are more than nine. The grandkids would be very impressed.
Photography buffs will revel in the spectacular frames capturing turquoise water, red cliffs and brilliant blue skies, which are truly iridescent on sunset. Roebuck Bay near the centre of town is spectacular. Here you can take a kayak or enjoy a sunset cruise on a restored pearling lugger or sit back and relax to witness Mother Nature’s illusion of “Staircase to the Moon”.
This can be seen at certain dates from March to October producing an illusion of steps to the moon; it really does conjure up a vision out of this world and puts the senses into overdrive. Back in 1669, William Dampier careened the good ship HMS Roebuck while exploring the coast of north-western Australia, hence the name Roebuck Bay, where it is said the fabulously valuable Dampier’s Chest is buried.
The “pearl of the north” as Broome is fondly known, is home to the South Sea pearls and one of the largest commercially harvested cultured pearl sites in the world. It was discovered in the 1800s and a mass migration similar to the gold rush, saw Japanese, Filipino and Malay pearl divers arrive to seek their fortune and make it the multicultural town it is today.
Chinatown, once a bustling hub of pearl sheds, billiard saloons, opium dens and brothels, now is home to fine pearly showrooms and an exotic blend of sidewalk cafes and restaurants serving east-meets-west cuisine.
A must is the Japanese Cemetery where hundreds of pearl divers who lost their lives to drowning or the bends, have been laid to rest.
The pearl farm at Willie Creek is a good day trip and you might be tempted to pick up a dazzling pearl to take home. But wait, there is more. Learn about one of the oldest cultures on Earth from the local Aboriginal community or, at very low tide, see the remains of World War II Dutch flying boats in the Bay.
In March 1942, 15 flying boats including Dutch, US Navy, RAAF and Qantas airlines were attacked by Japanese planes. Some 70 people died during this bombing. Bird watchers will appreciate the Broome Bird Observatory, home to more than 300 species of migratory birds.
There are fishing trips or simply throw in a line from the Broome Jetty. During November-March large numbers of barramundi congregate to spawn. You could catch a movie in the oldest operating outdoor cinema in the world, Sun Pictures or visit galleries and admire the works of some of the Kimberley’s most celebrated contemporary and Aboriginal artists.
There are many restaurants and takeaway establishments to choose from. One of my favourites was Matso’s Brewery, Kimberley’s award winning microbrewery where you wash down a meal with mango beer.
The Roebuck Bay Hotel, known as the Roey, was established in 1890. Broome does not have traffic lights and access around town is relaxed and traffic is stress free.
There are rock formations at Reddell Beach on the northern shore of Roebuck Bay and near the Port of Broome. The red cliffs, only 2-6m high, give the beaches their distinctive red colour. It overlies yellowish red Broome sandstone dating from the cretaceous age which, when exposed at the base of the cliff, shows occasional fossil footprints of dinosaurs that once roamed.
Meet up at the historic Cable House in the centre of town where on Saturday mornings (and Sundays from April to October) market days are held. Roam and enjoy quality local arts and crafts like stunning photography, paintings, ceramics, jewellery, hand-painted glass and local produce.
Perhaps enjoy a massage or simply relax on the grass to picnic on your choice of ethnic food while watching performers play didgeridoos. Look out for the whistling man, who is amazing. Further afield, not too far from Broome, is also worth exploring. Head out on the Cape Leveque Rd, although it’s best not to go in a 2WD or towing a caravan.
Places such as Willie Creek Pearl farm, Quondong Point, Beagle Bay established by Trappist monks around 1890, James Price Point and of course Cape Leveque are all well worth a visit. Take a flight from Broome to the Horizontal Falls or drive the Gibb River Rd to Kununurra.
Broome is certainly hot in summer, very hot, and has an average rainfall in January of above 400mm and yes it is crocodile country, but the friendships made on the way and relaxed layback feel is captivating.
Looking back at our six weeks’ stay I realise there was just not enough time to see it all. In the words of General Douglas MacArthur, I shall return.