Founded over 100 years ago Broome is a 2 ½ hour flight from Perth but don’t let this put you off visiting as this town is one of the jewels of Western Australia and the gateway to the awe inspiring Kimberley region.
Broome was founded due to an abundance of the oyster variety Pinctada maxima which can reach giant sizes and was used for mother of pearl which prior to the invention of plastic was the source of the worlds buttons. During its peak over 300 Pearl Luggers operated in Roebuck Bay and surrounding areas in what was, quite frankly, one of the most dangerous and potentially short lived careers you could enter. The Pearl Luggers museum offers a fascinating look into an industry that has a dark past and their guides do not shy away from this fact. The collection of items and knowledge of their guides makes this a must see activity in Broome.
The mother of pearl was discovered by early Aboriginal tribes who used the shell to tell their stories in a similar way to the rock art of other Aboriginal tribes. Early European explorers saw these shells and realised the resource available in the area.
Broome is also known for it’s camel trains and this is a fun way to experience the sunset on Cable Beach. The rolling motion of the camels becomes quite hypnotic after a while but do not be afraid, while curious they do not bite or spit.
There are 3 operators on Cable Beach but we went with Red Sun Camels who were a very slick operation and at $95 for the sunset ride were good value for money.
No Visit to Broome is complete without a visit to Matso’s brewery, the most remote brewery in Australia. Their offering changes seasonally but their Ginger Beer (definitely not for the kids) and Mango wheat Ale are available year round and what the brewery is best known for. I should add their seasonal Mango IPA is not a bad drop either.
If you notice a Mango theme with their beers this is not by accident, Mango trees line the streets of Broome and the seasonal harvest is, in the words of one local, something crazy to behold. I guess for the Broome locals Mango is their Feijoa, when in season it is a feast you have to make the most of.
While small this brewery produces some fantastic beer in small batches, most of which is consumed locally although the Ginger Beer is now brewed under contract in Perth such is its popularity.
An absolute must do is a cultural tour with Bart Pigram, well any tour he takes actually. Bart is a well known local character who fuses his heritage with a pragmatic view on how Broome needs to grow and attract tourists while keeping its unique culture and heritage intact. Like most local aboriginal people his ancestry is a mix of Aboriginal, Japanese, Philippine and Indonesian. The men who were attracted to Broome as pearl divers settled down with local women creating a unique mix their descendants are, rightly, proud of.
Bart’s tours as well as showing off the local culture, myths and legends also highlight Broome’s ancient history as what can only be described as a dinosaur highway. 100 million years ago the area that is now Broome was located, geographically, in the space now occupied by New Zealand and home to what is now thought to be over 20 species of dinosaur. Bart takes you on a walk of a local beach and effortlessly points out the tracks of at least 6 species while telling you the local legends associated with these creatures.
A Soropod track you would just walk past without realising the giants that have trod the earth before you.
Broome is the home to a local species, The Sub Fin Dolphin, these shy slow moving creatures make their home in Roebuck Bay and can be best viewed from onboard the catamaran operated by Broome Whale Watching Cameron’s passion for the local environment is evident as he pilots the catamaran into the bay as you seek out this shy creature plus its less shy bottle nosed cousins who also make their homes in this area. In season you can also take afternoon tours off Cable Beach to spot the humpbacks on their seasonal migration here for winter.
The highlight of our trip was Staircase to the Moon, a natural phenomenon which occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay. The Staircase to the Moon happens 2 – 3 days a month between March and October. A popular spot to view the event is The Mangrove Hotel Resort, with live entertainment every Staircase night. The view from the front lawn is spectacular as you watch the moon rise forming the optical illusion of a staircase leading to the moon, something that is best experienced and not photographed as no photo will do this justice.
For a town so remote Broome has much to offer and should be on your bucket list.