More than a place to unwind in the sun, Broome offers a feast of activities such as birdwatching, fishing and dinosaur hunting all centred on magnificent Roebuck Bay.
It may be Cable Beach that has made Broome famous, but it’s Roebuck Bay that’s one of the wetland wonders of the world. The turquoise sea that stretches out from Town Beach and the unspoilt dark horizon that reveals the beautiful Staircase to the Moon combine to make Roebuck the real feature of this Kimberley town.
Roebuck Bay is found on the south-east side of the Broome Peninsul. Considered one of the most biodiverse marine provinces of the world, it remained virtually undiscovered by naturalists and bird lovers until around 20 years ago.
Today, you can experience a host of activities, from taking in the panoramic views from the grounds of the Mangrove Hotel to fishing for barramundi or searching for evidence of prehistoric occupation.
About 120 million years ago dinosaurs – including the massive Megalosauropus broomensis, a theropod that was about 10m long – roamed the area and left fossilised footprints. Other prints, measuring 80cm in length, also suggest enormous sauropods inhabited the area.
One of the best ways to see these footprints is with Broome Hovercraft, which offers three different “flights” that encompass a large portion of the bay and stop at footprint sites. All tours are dependent on the tides and you will need to check times when booking. The ultimate tour is the 1¾-hour Staircase to the Sun tour, where you make an unlikely, yet spectacular, stop on the compacted mudflats to watch the sunset accompanied by hors d'oeuvres and your own BYO bottle of plonk. This tour is $110 adult.
You could also try the one-hour Scenic and Historic tour for $72 or the Flying Boat Special for $100. This tour operates on extremely low tides only and features the wrecks of several flying boats that were bombed in the bay during WWII.
The intertidal mudflats of Roebuck Bay are among the richest in the world. Tens of thousands of trans-equatorial migrant birds feed on the food it provides. The return of migrant birds from the north begins in August, with the latest arrivals flying in during November. It is a spectacular sight in March and April when they begin their northward migration and take to the skies in the thousands.
To learn more, visit the Broome Bird Observatory, 25km east of Broome. If you don’t have your own car, return transfers are available for $35 per person. A variety of tours are available starting with the one-hour introductory walk for $15 per person.
More in-depth tours such as the Roebuck Bay Shorebird Tour, the Mangrove Tour or the Bush and Plains Tours are all around 2½ hours and include morning or afternoon tea and the use of binoculars. The cost of these tours is $50 per person ($75 with transfer).
You can stay overnight at the bird observatory with unpowered camping for $11pp. Double rooms are $52 or the chalet, which can sleep six, is $140 per night. All accommodation uses shared facilities and kitchen. If you have your own boat there are four boat ramps that provide access to the bay and Dampier Creek, a popular recreational fishing and mud crabbing area. Make sure you always check tidal movement, as Broome’s 10m tide movement has claimed many vehicles in the past.
Snag-a-Barra and Sportsfishing Charters offers full day fishing tours in Roebuck Bay for $200 per person. Guide Dave Wilson says the tours alway operate around the tides, with around six hours of fishing guaranteed aboard his custom-built boats.
Perhaps the bay’s most famous natural feature is the “Staircase to the Moon” phenomenon that occurs between April and October when the moon rises over the drained tidal mudflats. The staircase effect occurs when the giant orb rises in clear skies and reflects off the remaining puddles and rivulets of water, creating what looks like a staircase to the moon.
What to do:
View the Staircase to the Moon
April through to October. Dates can be found at broomevisitorcentre.com.au or (08) 9192 2222. Top public viewing spots are the Mangrove Hotel and Town Beach.
Take a Flight
Broome Hovercraft, (08) 9193 5025, broomehovercraft.com.au.
Broome Helicopter Services, (08) 9192 7488, broomehelicopters.com.
Broome Bird Observatory (08) 9193 5600 broomebirdobservatory.com.
Kimberley Birdwatching, (08) 9192 1246 kimberleybirdwatching.com.au.
For local fishing information contact:
Workline Dive and Tackle, (08) 9192 2233.
Norwest Tackle, (08) 9192 1669
Snag-a-Barra and Sportsfishing Charters, (08) 9193 707 snagabarra.com.au.