Broome is a wild-west town with a difference – it was pearl shells, not gold, that caused the rush to this red dirt town on the most remote coast in the world. It is WA’s original melting pot and many of the locals today are a mix of European, Japanese, Chinese and local aboriginals who have worked and lived together since the 1800s.
The town centre is simple yet charismatic, its wide streets lined with huge, square weatherboard buildings with vast verandahs. Their steep corrugated iron roofs have no gutters so the enormous rainfalls of ‘the Wet’ flow into the streets rather than living rooms.
Wander through Chinatown to take in the pearl showrooms and retail outlets, before enjoying a break at the sidewalk cafes. Around town, you’ll see historical sites, notably commemorating the town’s ocean industry, from restored pearling luggers, and the old jetty and historic pearler’s quarters on Dampier Terrace, to four life-sized statues on Carnarvon Street. The Japanese Cemetery, meanwhile, provides ample evidence of the dangers of pearling in times past. You can also check out the wrecks of Dutch flying boats bombed in World War II, and the nostalgic open-air cinema Sun Pictures.
The mangroves in the former port of Roebuck Bay form a fertile wetland where so many fish are spawned that they travel the south-flowing Leeuwin Current to populate the seas as far off as Tasmania. Three times a month between March and October, at low (king) tide, people gather at Town Beach to look over Roebuck Bay and watch the tiny gold sliver of moonlight appear on the black horizon. As it rises across the exposed shallows, it creates the illusion of light known as the Staircase to the Moon. So simple, yet so uplifting, the phenomenon unifies the community and visitors alike.
Eat & drink
Broome is bustling with hotels and resorts – most have at least one restaurant. The Japanese restaurant at Cable Beach Club is excellent, and eateries dot both the beachfront and bay side, with tapas and seafood offerings. There’s a lovely Italian restaurant in town, as well as cafes and pubs, and burger joints. If you choose to dine out, book your table, and cab or pedicab in advance.
Old Broome is within easy reach of Chinatown – accommodation options include caravan parks, self-contained units and resorts. A room with a view over Roebuck Bay is a great way to enjoy the Staircase to the Moon, and accommodation is plentiful at Cable Beach – there are luxury resorts as well as caravan parks, B&Bs and motels.
The drive from Perth to Broome is 2240km along sealed roads. Direct flights are available from Perth and Melbourne and some flights are available direct from overseas, but may vary with the seasons and need to be checked in advance. From there, it’s all about private charters or driving.
Integrity Coach Lines departs from Perth for Broome on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and travels along Indian Ocean Drive and Coastal Highway. To return, you can catch the coach from Broome to Perth on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Yarawu people identify six seasons, but in a nutshell, Broome activity is defined by the dry season (May to October) and the wet season (November to April).
In the Dry, skies are blue and temperatures range from 20ºC to 30ºC, with low humidity. From mid-June to mid-August is peak season; all attractions are usually open but make sure you pre-book any tours.
The wet season brings heavy, short downpours in the afternoons or evenings, and high humidity. 4WD tracks close, and many businesses scale back. But there’s plenty to love, including cheaper accommodation. Watch the storms roll in from the clifftops at Gantheaume Point, and take a scenic flight or hovercraft tour to see rivers become inland seas.