Life is so different in Broome. It’s like being in another country.
There’s Broome time, and there’s everywhere else time.
It’s remote. It’s scenically beautiful. It’s unique, and it’s miles from anywhere.
In fact it’s 212 kms from its nearest neighbor Derby, and if you’re driving up from Perth it’s around 2,200 kms and will take you several days.
It’s so far from anywhere that when you get to Broome you feel as if you’re on a desert island, surrounded not only by thousands of acres of dusty outback, but also a tidal reach of turquoise sea with long white stretches of sand.
And if that doesn’t get you thinking that Broome is amazing then there’s the pearling industry, camel trains, oh and the country’s most remote micro brewery which serves up, among other delights, Mango beer and Ginger Beer.
Your most difficult choices are likely to be narrowed down to the basics: Beach, beer, barbie or maybe camel ride? Perhaps all four?
Now wouldn’t that be nice?
The town itself is quaint and colourful, with architecture that is distinctly Broome-style. It’s not shy of its multicultural heritage, it’s proud of its pearl industry and its beaches, and eager to show that it has a history, though not all of it happy.
Broome was bombed in the Second World War, and the pearling industry all but destroyed when the Japanese pearl luggers were interned as prisoners of war around 1942.
If you visit the little pioneer cemetery on the hillock at town beach, you get the feeling of a seafaring past and feel that ghosts with sad stories could walk around the tall trees at night.
How to get to Broome
Flying is obviously the quickest way of getting to Broome, and the flight is about 2.5 hours from Perth. I flew courtesy of Qantas and had a really comfortable flight in Business Class (don’t hate me, it doesn’t happen very often) which was bliss, and I did feel a little bit rock star. Lots of leg room, wide comfy seats and a friendly steward catering to our every whim completed the picture along with a couple of G & T’s and some salmon.
The airport is cute, and it feels tropical. It’s so small that you walk from the tarmac straight into the little arrivals hall and then out into blinding sunshine – no long faceless corridors, no customs or security checks, straight out into the heat.
There are people in thongs and shorts and colorful t-shirts – there’s not a tie or suit in sight. When we arrive it’s hot, must be 30 in the shade, a far cry from the cold rain and squalls we’ve been having down south.
The tiny airport sits in amongst a whole lot of burnt sienna, and frangipanis are ubiquitous, in fact they’re blooming everywhere I look … along with gorgeous, brash tropical plants in crimson, green and gold.
Broome’s water source
But these tropical plants aren’t natives I later learn because they were originally brought in by the original pearl masters from Singapore, while others have been sourced from nurseries, and this tropical ambiance is not due to Broome’s climate but rather to the large underground aquifers situated on a nearby cattle station; Water Bank Cattle Station which has been acquired by the government due to its abundance of water.
Is this a park or an airport?
The departures hall has a corrugated iron rooftop, open sides, palms everywhere and a central open to the elements atrium. It’s hot and steamy with whirring overhead fans, and wooden park benches sit side by side tables and chairs, and you get the feeling that people might have come for a picnic, rather than to catch a plane.
Two days later, when we leave and pass through the security check at departures there is a sign: “Neat Casual Attire – No Effort, No Entry,” and “Footwear must be worn at all times,” which are indications of how laid back this little airport really is underneath it’s façade of gentility.
And it echoes the aura of Broome.
The Broome adventure begins
We are whisked away from the airport along roads with few cars, where Mr Jasper says he expects a koala might jump out at us wearing a wide brimmed hat and holding a VB Beer.
It’s mid September.
“The town is entering its low season, and while during high season the population might be 50, 000 it drops down to around 15,000 in summer (November to February) when the weather is hot and steamy with monsoon rain,” Michelle Spinks, Manager of the Mantra Frangipani Hotel tells us.
Note to self: Good time to book a cut-price, lazy holiday and go lie by the Mantra Frangipani swimming pools.
Apart from lazing at tropical resorts like the Mantra Frangipani, there are some amazing things to do in Broome both in and around the town.
Top 15 things to do in Broome, Western Australia
Without further ado, I think these 15 things are pretty amazing. I haven’t done all of them, but the ones I’ve yet to experience are on my wishlist.
Beach camel rides
Long trains of camels with colourful saddle blankets walk up and down the long stretch of beach in the early morning and at sunset. They are a fabulous spectacle as the sun sets, and it’s a relaxing way to while away half an hour if you’d like to book a ride.
Don’t forget to come back to ZigaZag for a future post about “The Camels of Cable Beach.”
This beach features in all the tourist brochures and is probably one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world offering 22 kms of white sand below pindan cliffs and a duck egg blue sea that has to be seen to be believed. Locals bring their 4 x 4’s down to the beach at sunset, and sit out with picnics and beers to enjoy the early evening.
It is reasonably safe to swim here, although the tides are massive, and can change by about 9 metres. November to April box jellyfish may be present. If you like parasailing and surfcats, then this is the place.
A visit to Chinatown is a must … well actually, you can’t miss it as it’s the main part of town. This is the original commercial centre of Broome where once upon a time you would have found a bustling scene of pearl sheds, billiard saloons, entertainment houses and Chinese restaurants.
Now you’ll find some of the world’s best pearl showrooms along with cafes and shops. Every girl needs a pearl, and I’ll be writing about the fascinating world of pearling in a future post.
Willie Creek Pearl Farm
A tour of a pearl farm, an interesting talk about the pearling industry, a ride on a boat into the creek hunting for crocs and fresh Damper bread with coffee – Now that’s what I call a good morning.
Minyirr Park is a place of cultural significance to the Aboriginal people who believe the park is situated where Aboriginals were created. It’s tucked behind sand dunes and here you’ll find several walking trails that take you through bush land and dunes.
Even if you’re not going to the cinema to see a movie it’s well worth stopping off at Sun Pictures to have a look-see. The picture house was opened in 1916 and allegedly it’s the oldest operating picture garden in the world. Here you’ll sit outside on deck chairs under the light of the moon to watch a movie.
In the entrance area you’ll find a little museum area displaying movie memorabilia, which along with the cinema has withstood cyclones, floods from king tides and bombing during the Second World War.
The most remote micro brewery in the world.
It’s situated close to the beach and shady wind sails keep you protected from the blistering sun. The building itself is old and of historic value, but the food and the beer are as modern as you can get. I enjoyed the Mango Beer and the Ginger Cooler, but the Chango (mango and chilli) was really different. It had one enormous kick, like a mule, and certainly gave me an appetite.
This is a little way out of town, about 6km. Here you’ll find rust red cliffs and petrified dinosaur footprints that are over 130 million years old. If you can’t get down to the tide line then you can see the replica casts of the same footprints on the cliff top which has stunning views of Cable Beach.
Thoroughbred racing seems a little incongruous with red earth and dust but you can watch expensive horse flesh thundering around the track while enjoying a day out with a picnic at the Broome Turf Cub in season. Count me in.
Staircase to the moon
This is a natural phenomenon that takes place for 3 nights each month from March to October. The full moon rises over the exposed mudflats of Roebuck Bay when the tide is very low creating an optical illusion of a staircase rising up to the moon. I didn’t get a good picture … note for next time: A tripod is imperative.
What amazed me was that the moon rose over the horizon as a big fiery red ball, turning white only when it was high in the inky sky.
You’ll find night markets with foods, crafts, jewellery, fast food and clothes for sale if you watch this phenomena at Town Beach. The other place to watch is at The Mangrove Hotel. I bought a large, lovely shell hanging for just $50 at the night markets (Pics of this in a later post: My Bali style garden).
This is the place for picnics and paddling. It’s situated close to mangroves, where crocodiles have been sighted, so when I visited the beach it had been closed for swimming for a couple of days. It’s one of the two best spots to watch Staircase to The Moon.
This little museum has interesting displays on the pearling industry along with a collection of photographs and information detailing the history of Broome.
Fancy something different? I’m putting this in my top 15 because I’d love to try it. The Spirit of Broome hovercraft flights, sunset and sunrise on Roebuck Bay. Sounds like fun to me.
A sad reminder of the 900 Japanese pearl divers who died during the World War 2 air raids.
Trike Limousine – Broome Trike Tours
It’s the only trike limousine in the world and was built in 2000 – on the back of a Harley Davidson, and we all shriek with joy when we get closer. The hatch door opens up to four seats in faux leather, surrounded by real wood fittings, a perfect wooden mini bar complete with lollies, strip lighting for night-time revellers, music, and two open air seats high on the back – what a view!
I haven’t had so much fun in ages! I’ll be writing more about Broome Trike Bushtucker and Liqueur tours in a future post.
(To change the subject just a little … for other interesting stories from around the world why not visit: Budget Travelers Sandbox?)
Where to stay
I stayed (free of charge on a media famil) at the reasonably priced Mantra Frangipani (follow the link for a review of the resort) and my spacious self catering apartment, with a wonderful outdoor shower had its own tropical courtyard with a barbecue area. Two swimming pools and landscaped gardens with lily ponds complete the very Balinese picture at this resort.
At the end of a busy morning, I sit in the shade under a Bali style hut at the Mantra Frangipani on a huge day bed just before I’m whisked off to Cable Beach.
The beach stretches away from and around us like a big yellow picnic blanket. The air is soft, sultry, infused with tropical calm although there’s a burn still to the sun, which even at 3.30pm is high in the sky and shows no sign yet of setting.
Although when it does set later on it’s stunning.
Never mind. We are going on a camel safari …and I can’t wait.
And you can join me when you read ZigaZag’s next post: “The Camels of Cable Beach”
Now, hands up, who’d like to visit Broome?