Explore the multicultural history of the exotic pearling town of Broome and enjoy dramatic scenery as the red rocks of the Kimberley meet the white sands and aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean.
By Sue Gough Henly
Immerse yourself in one of Australia's most fascinating towns. On the edge of the continent, where the red earth meets the translucent Coral Sea, Broome is rich in Aboriginal, Japanese, Chinese and Outback culture. Discover dinosaur footprints on ancient rocks. Buy some of the finest pearls on the planet and learn how they are created. And dip your toe in the vast Kimberley wilderness on Broome's doorstep.
Begin your Broome adventure by taking a town or mangrove tour with Bart Pigram of Narlijia Tours. He's a Yawuru Aboriginal man who does a superb job of telling the complete story of Broome. Then head to Pearl Luggers in atmospheric Chinatown to learn about the history of Broome’s pearling industry. Shop for pearls at the Cygnet Bay and Paspaley showrooms. Visit the historic Japanese cemetery to see 707 gravestones made from colourful rocks. Shop for handmade jewellery, clothing and other crafty creations at the Saturday and Sunday morning Broome Courthouse Markets. The Staircase to the Moon night markets are held over the two nights of the full moon from June to October at the Town Beach Reserve. Have lunch at the Green Mango Café, which also serves homemade gelato (try the local mango).
Drive 15 minutes to Gantheaume Point, where red cliffs plunge to the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. In the rocky reef at low tide you can see dinosaur footprints that are 130 million years old. If it’s high tide look for the plaster cast of the tracks in the clifftop. Take a Broome Adventure Company guided kayaking tour to paddle with turtles and discover remote beaches, or spend the afternoon exploring 22 kilometre (14 mile) long Cable Beach, where you can swim safely during the dry season, from May to October (in the wet season deadly stingers may be in the water). Whatever season you visit, finish the day with a sunset camel trek along Cable Beach. Watch the sun sink into the ocean over drinks and tapas at Zanders or the Sunset Bar and Grill of the Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa, where you’ll spend the night in a suite, villa or bungalow in its tropical gardens and have dinner at the serene Zensai Japanese restaurant.
Take a bus, rent a 4WD or go by helicopter to tour the Willie Creek Pearl Farm, 39 kilometres (24 miles), or a one hour drive, north of Broome. Watch how oyster seeding is done, take a boat cruise along Willie Creek to see the pearl racks in the water and, in the showroom, learn how pearls are graded and priced according to their shape, size and colour. In peak season (June to October) join an Eco Cruise to see whales, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs and turtles. Back in Broome, enjoy lunch of smoked barramundi fish and mango craft beer at Matso’s Broome Brewery.
Visit the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park and Animal Refuge, where some of Australia’s largest crocodiles are fed at 3pm. You’ll also see colourful birds, dingoes, kangaroos, emus and snakes. Visit the Broome Bird Observatory in Roebuck Bay, home to the world’s greatest diversity of shorebird species. Have dinner and tropical cocktails at 18 Degrees before settling into a deckchair to watch a movie under the stars at Sun Picture Garden, the world’s oldest picture gardens still in operation.
This morning, join Kimberley Wild's one day Cape Leveque Adventure to explore the remote Dampier Peninsula north of Broome by 4WD bus. Driving north on the red earth 4WD track through the woodland of the Dampier Peninsula, listen to the guide explain about the Aboriginal Bardi culture and its place in the Kimberley story. Stop for morning tea in the Beagle Bay Aboriginal Community and visit the Sacred Heart Church to see its glimmering pearl shell altar. Then board the bus to drive north to the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, where you learn about the history and cultivation of the world's finest pearls at Australia's only working pearl farm open to the public.
Visit an aquaculture hatchery at the Aboriginal community of One Arm Point before enjoying a picnic lunch overlooking the Buccaneer Archipelago, renowned for its king tides. At the nearby award-winning Aboriginal eco resort, Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, there is time to go snorkelling and beachcomb around the beaches dotted with red rocks. Along the boardwalk you'll discover the Aboriginal seasonal calendar and learn how local flora was used for bush tucker, tools and medicine. You can take an optional scenic flight back to Broome instead of returning by bus.