Broome, located in the north of Western Australia has a population of 17,500, which doubles during the winter months of June and July. The word winter can be used lightly as it means it is not as hot and humid as the tropical summer months of December and January, meaning that it is ideal for travellers, with average highs of 32 degrees.
Until 20 years ago there was no tourism industry in Broome, having only been developed after the first hotel was built a couple of decades ago. Broome was once known for its pearls and oysters, and its industry is still based on that, but tourism is now growing as is the presence of the Oil & Gas companies. Hopefully these two latter developments will not jeopardise the town’s authenticity and beauty.
The Asian Communities
During Broome’s pearl industry boom the town was once home to a large Japanese and Chinese community, who worked there as oyster divers and workers. Though the industry has declined in recent years the Asian communities’ imprint on the town is still visible. For such a small town, there is a large Chinatown. Asian architecture dots the town such as bus stops, painted in red and with the design of a Pagoda. And the high school has painted their version of Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave of Kanagawa’ on the playground wall.
Several streets have Asian names, such as Sam Su Lane, and there is even a Sayonara Road; the latter of which is quite melancholic since ‘sayonara’ is Japanese for goodbye. Broome has a large Japanese and Chinese cemetery, as it was dangerous work being an oyster diver. Roughly one in four divers died due to their heavy metal uniforms or were swept away by strong currents.
The town’s beautiful azure waters and endless beaches of sand are misleading since the waters are tidal. Within a space of a few hours, sea level can rise dramatically. Twice annually the town experiences a king tide, where waters exceed 10 metres and cover not only beaches but also tall rocks and small hills along the beach. Many people park their cars on the beach and go fishing only to return to find the wide expanse of sand submerged in water and their cars taken away by currents.
Camels and Crocodiles
Camels are not indigenous to Australia. They were transported there to work since they were accustomed to the desert. When they were not needed they were released into the desert but being accustomed to it they thrived and multiplied. In Broome camels were used to transport pearls and oyster shells from the farms to the market. Today the camels are no longer beasts of burden but are used to carry tourists on a sunset journey stroll across Cable Beach. Crocodiles are also common in the area to the point that beaches are shut down if one is sighted. Oh… and don’t forget the jellyfish too…
Some say the sunset in Broome is the most beautiful in the world, rivalling that of Santorini. Visit both and then decide, but it cannot be denied that the Western Australian sunsets as seen from Broome are spectacular. The best place to see the sunset is with a cocktail from the Sunset Bar & Grill on Cable Beach.
What to see and do in Broome
Make sure you check out the Saturday market on the park next to the courthouse. Stroll through Chinatown. Try mango beer. If pearls exceed your budget then a large oyster shell is a great souvenir (roughly AU$20 or EUR12). Oyster shells are exotic, light and flat so easily fit in your luggage.
Sun Pictures is an outdoors cinema established over 100 years ago. Not to be missed is a pearl farm, approximately 30km north of Broome and a bird sanctuary with various nature trails roughly 30km south of Broome. Hey, Australia is a large country, so 30km is nothing!
If you want to take any trips further afield then the best sites are north of Broome along the Dampier Peninsula.
The Coral Church (Distance from Broome: 118km)
Located at Beagle Bay, the Coral Church is referred to as a piece of Germany in the Australian outback. It was established in 1918, exactly 100 years ago by German Lutherans. When World War I broke out in 1914, all Germans in the area were interned at Beagle Bay and so they decided to build a Church that would withstand the elements since the previous wooden ones were razed or destroyed by cyclones, fires and even white ants!
Modelled on a Church in Germany, once The Sacred Heart was completed, Aboriginal women decorated the interior with mother of pearl, olive snail shells and other natural elements. The Church is a marriage of German and Aboriginal architectural fusing Christian symbols with Aboriginal ones such as dingos, emus, spears and snakes.
Kooljaman (Distance from Broome: 188km)
The western side of Kooljaman, also known as Cape Leveque, is a beach of soft red-rock that creates what seems to be a red mountain of beautiful, pointed formations. Though it is interesting to the visitor it is also a place of historical and cultural importance to the Bardi people, so parts of it, quite rightly are off-limits, but can be enjoyed by walking along the white sands of the beach.
Accessible only after a 189km car ride from Broome to One Arm Point and then a 30-minute flight by sea plane, the Horizontal Falls have been described by David Attenborough as one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. Boatloads of tourists speed through it, as long as the gaps between the falls are not too deep, and from there, the waters lead into the inland sea of Talbot Bay.