Once upon a Broome time, the pearling industry put this remote coastal town on the map. Today, Broome’s multi-culturalism connects with its Asian neighbours, evident through its rich history and contemporary cuisine. Ruled by its tropical climate and tides, many of Broome’s attractions adhere to the gravitational pull drawing visitors far and wide, not to mention the short flight from Perth keeps it a local favourite. No matter what time of the year you visit, the landscape always thrills and here is our round-up of things to do in Broome, the iconic coastal town in the Kimberley.
Shinju Matsuri – Festival of the Pearl
2023 applauds the biggest Shinju Matsuri festival yet, with a fortnight of culinary and cultural events celebrating the exquisite pearls of the region. The Dahlia Designs Shinju Opening Ball held in the new Shinju Matsuri Festival Hub by Spinifex Brewing Co. sets the tone for festivities ahead. The Sunset Long Table Dinner is one of the most epic long table events in the state, where diners are treated to a specially curated menu designed by chef Khanh Ong beneath the stars on Cable Beach. Make sure you add the Chinatown Fest, Jetty Gala and Floating Lantern events to your dance card. Running from 26 August to 10 September, you’ll need to book your accommodation and flights soon for this incredible pearl festival unique to Western Australia.
Visit a pearl farm
As far back as the early 1900s, legends about Broome’s lustrous pearls spread to the Far East, attracting pearl farmers from as far away as Japan, even though they already had a thriving pearling industry. With annual temperatures and sheltered bays attributing to the quality of the precious South Sea Pearls of the region, visitors are welcome to delve into the industry with a visit to a pearl farm or jewellery showrooms glittering with precious keepsakes in Chinatown.
After a visit to a pearl farm, you’ll gain an insight into the workings of pearling industry and discover the five virtues of a pearl: size, shape, colour, surface and lastly, lustre, which many believe is the most important.
Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm is located on the Dampier Peninsula, approximately 200km from Broome. What sets Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm apart is its research and development into cutting-edge science at a genetic level. Owned and run by the Brown Family, with over 70 years of pearling experience, they’re considered the pioneers of pearling. While here, take a pearl farm tour, sea safari, cultural tour, sample pearl meat at the restaurant, stay overnight and indulge at their showroom. To reach Cygnet Bay, take the sealed Cape Leveque Road or a flight with Air Kimberley.
Willie Creek Pearl Farm is 38km from Broome and well worth a visit to delve into the pearling industry with a tour of the farm, pearl experiences (such as harvesting your own pearl) or a scenic helicopter tour. Their showroom has a wide range of pearls and jewellery for sale.
Cygnet Bay and Willie Creek also have showrooms in Broome and Perth, and you can purchase their pearls in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
Visit Broome’s markets
Every weekend from April until October, the Broome Courthouse Markets offer over 100 stalls selling locally-produced art, fashion, jewellery and food. With stalls interspersed between boab trees, the markets have been operating for over 25 years and have grown into a major tourist attraction during Broome’s dry season. The Staircase to the Moon Night Markets are rapidly becoming just as famous and run from April to November on full moon nights and Thursday nights at the Town Beach precinct from June to September showcasing local products, crafts and food.
Take a sunset cruise
For a spectacular perspective of Broome, a cruise at sunset bathes the coast in gold and captures all the romance of a bygone era aboard a pearl lugger with Willie Pearl Cruises. Sea West has partnered with Cygnet Bay Pearls, where you’ll experience a first-hand pearl harvest and sea-to-plate epicurean feast. Broome Cruises also offers a Sunset, Seafood and Pearling Cruise with a seven-course menu showcasing the region’s seafood and produce, compliments of the executive chef Tony Howell.
Broome is famous for its beaches; you can’t miss Cable Beach at sunset. It’s one of the few beaches patrolled by surf lifesavers and is safe for swimming – unless the beach is closed due to a rare crocodile sighting. While here, partake in one of the most iconic Broome experiences with a camel ride, ideally at sunset. Town Beach is also safe for swimming in the vibrant turquoise water that pops against the pink sand in true Kimberley fashion. If you’re wondering where much of that drone footage with the orange sand is shot, it’s probably over Roebuck Bay, where you’ll see turtles, dolphins and dinosaur footprints, especially if you take a boat tour with Dinosaur Adventures. The unusual rock formations at Entrance Point have created one of the most spectacular beaches, and it’s easy to see why this spot is so famous for photography and weddings.
Turquoise and red pindan hues are ever present in the Kimberley, often inspiring works of art depicting the landscape. Gantheaume Point is a prime example of this colour palette and is also the site of Broome’s first spa named Anastasia’s Pool, where the high tides create a whirlpool effect in the carved-out rock. If you visit during low tide, check out the ancient dinosaur footprint, one of the many scattered along Broome’s 80 km coastline visible from Gantheaume Point’s red cliffs, including the iconic Cable Beach.
Located within 1000 islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago in Talbot Bay, the Horizontal Falls are best viewed from above on a scenic flight. But then you’d miss feeling the wild spray on your face as you speed through the twin peaks on a cruise between the McLarty Ranges, where two ridges run parallel about 300 metres apart, with the most seaward gap about 20 metres wide and the even more spectacular 10 metre-wide gap revs up the thrill factor. This natural wonder causes seawater to build up faster on one side of the channel, and as it becomes trapped, it’s pushed out horizontally into a waterfall. As the tide changes, so does the direction causing a whirlpool effect, and it’s another example of Broome living by its tides and the 10-metre differences between low and high tide. There are several tour operators offering a range of ways to enjoy the Hairy Horries, the affectionate nickname for this natural phenomenon, including Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures and Kimberley Boat Cruises.
Remnants of Broome’s colourful past are still evident in Chinatown, particularly with its original tin buildings, a material favoured for its availability, cyclone rating and ease of transportation in the late 1880s. One prime example is the iconic Sun Pictures building on Carnarvon Street, constructed at the turn of the century. Originally owned by the Yamasaki family, it was a Japanese emporium and then a playhouse before it was sold and converted into an outdoor theatre. In keeping with its heritage, the red carpet on opening nights is often replaced with the red soil of Kimberley. Today, Chinatown’s streets are lined with pearl and jewellery showrooms, boutiques, galleries and cafes. While in town, stroll along the revamped Streeter’s Jetty, once lined with wooden pearling luggers bobbing among the mangroves for two kilometres to Town Beach.
Staircase to the Moon
Witnessing the Staircase to the Moon is an unforgettable natural marvel worth making the journey to Broome alone. The full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay two to three days a month between March and October and is best witnessed from Town Beach or the Mangrove Hotel Resort, where you can enjoy the spectacle over dinner and a bevy or two. For Staircase to the Moon dates, please click here.
For more destination guides and local travel inspiration, head to Sitchu.