Swept off my feet by Broome!

Swept off my feet by Broome!

I’ve wanted to visit Broome for a number of years.  I finally got there this year and it was certainly worth the wait!  It’s remote, it’s dusty, and it is expensive, but Broome delivered on every level. It proved to be everything I’d hoped for, and more than I expected. And it was truly a photographic paradise for this ‘enthusiastic amateur’.

I timed our visit to coincide with a moon/tide event, the Staircase to the Moon, which also just happened to be the biggest super moon of 2014 [this phenomenon occurs when the full moon rises on a low tide over the mudflats of Roebuck Bay … more further on]. And the fact that Broome is Australia’s pearling capital only further enhanced it’s appeal!

We arrived 4 days before the full moon, so we had time to explore the area.

One of the first things that struck me about Broome and surrounds was the vibrancy of the colours. Have you ever heard the expression ‘the colours of the Kimberley?’ Until I saw them with my own eyes, I never really appreciated the meaning of it!  From the azure sky, to the russet red earth, aquamarine (and often milky) water, and every shade of green you can imagine, the colours of the Kimberley need to be seen to be believed! Even the pearls get in on the act with natural colours of silver, rose, white and gold (and a few combinations of these).

 If you like birds (of the avian variety!), you’ll love the Broome Bird Observatory , www.broomebirdobservatory.com , a short drive out of town on Roebuck Bay.  Visitors will share the amazing story of Broome’s migratory shorebirds from Siberia. The North West is regarded as the most significant site in Australia for shorebirds (over 800,000 use the area annually)!

Entry is by donation and visitors can wander the designated paths by themselves, or, if you prefer, join one of their many tours. They even offer several (basic) accommodation options if you want to stay longer.

Take plenty of water – it was hot and dry the day we went.

Sunsets are absolutely spectacular, especially for an East Coaster. It was a nice change to see the sun set over the ocean. By far the best place to take in the sunset is Cable Beach.

Every day, hundreds gather to witness (and photograph) the spectacular end to another beautiful Broome day. If you prefer, you can book a sunset cruise, or the more adventurous might prefer to take a sunset camel ride along the beach! Well worth it according to those who took the ride (I chose to photograph it instead).

One highlight of our trip was a visit to The Horizontal Falls.  Mother nature at its very best.  There are two horizontal falls in the world – and they’re both right here in our own back yard: Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago of north western Australia.      

While not strictly ‘waterfalls’, these are a result of intense tidal currents which resemble waterfalls as millions of tonnes of water plunge through two narrow gorges each and every day, sometimes rising and falling by 10m in a single tidal movement.

Looking down over the mudflats on the flight out to the Falls was like seeing something from out of this world!

And the geology!  This area has undergone some significant upheaval in the past.

Have I mentioned the pearls yet? Gentlemen, jump ahead, you DO NOT want to read this! Ladies, prepare to be transported to pearl heaven! It feels like every second shop in Broome is a pearl retailer and each of them offers something different to the others (so it’s only fair you check them all out!).  You’ll find everything from loose pearls to pearl jewellery resembling works of art. Visit the Cygnet Bay Pearls store to see the world’s largest fine quality round pearl, harvested at Cygnet Bay in 2004! Like me, I’m sure you’ll picture the perfect setting for it if you could just get your hands on it!

Take the time to visit one of the pearl farms in the area too. We visited Willie Creek Pearl Farm, which is less than an hour’s drive out of town. I guarantee you’ll learn a few things about pearls that you never knew – including how to tell the difference between a real pearl and a fake!  Some husbands got a little nervous at this stage of the presentation, let me tell you!

So the day of the Staircase to the Moon finally arrived!  We headed off to one of the prime vantage spots (Town Beach) about an hour before the expected moonrise and were absolutely stunned by the number of people who’d come to witness this lunar phenomenon.

The moon is one of my favourite photographic subjects.  I’ve taken many, many photos of the moon at each of its phases, but this was something completely different. I’ve never seen the sky glow such a deep, deep red. There was certainly a buzz as the first, faint glow was seen on the horizon. Then the upper edge of the moon appeared.  Before we knew it, it was a bright ball sitting just above the horizon. It truly was a sight to behold.

Oh, and by the way ladies, I bought some pearls!!

This was my Broome experience – I can’t wait to read about yours!

 

Some helpful hints and tips….

Visitor’s Centre

Get there as soon as you can after you arrive. As you’d expect, you’ll find a raft of information about the area, places to see and things to do in and out of Broome, the Dampier Peninsula and the Kimberley.  The friendly staff have a wealth of knowledge about the area, and are happy to make your bookings for you too!  Pick up a copy of ‘Broome. The Visitor Guide’ (free) and ‘Uniquely Broome’ ($2) to keep as ready references for tides, sunrise/sunset times, local attractions, festivals and events, general information, special offers and more.

Getting Around

While generally a regular car will suit your needs much of the time, we strongly recommend hiring an off-road vehicle.  Once you drive out of Broome, many attractions or points of interest are accessible by unsealed road, some of which are quite corrugated and uneven.

 Pre-book

And I really mean, pre-book – check out which are the most popular places or attractions to visit, and book them as early as you can after you’ve booked your  flights so you don’t miss out. You don’t want to go all that way and be disappointed.

Horizontal Falls

If your budget allows, we strongly suggest you book the tour which lands in Talbot Bay and takes you out to experience the falls and the gorges first hand in speed boats.  One piece of advice – book this early (and by that I mean before you leave home)!  This tour books out very, very quickly and we were lucky to find availability, but we had to drive 2 hours to and from Derby to join this tour because there were no flights out of Broome left.

Overnight at the Horizontal Falls

We seriously wish we’d done this.  The visitors who flew into Derby as we waited for our flight out to the falls said what a fantastic experience it was and that it was well worth it.

Capture it

The internet can be a bit hit and miss once you leave town, so it’s a good idea if you’re researching something to do or somewhere to go that you take screen captures with your tablet or smartphone. That way, when you’re out on the road, you have the information required in your photos for easy reference without the need for internet access.

History

Broome is, surprisingly, so full of history.

Dinosaur Footprints

You can’t get any more historic than this!! We made the hazardous climb down to the shore but didn’t see them. Warning, this is not for the frail or faint hearted! Getting down was difficult enough, getting back up proved another matter! And this is definitely a low tide event. Be careful being down there on the turn to the incoming tide – it comes in quickly!

Cemetries

What is a cemetery but a slice of history? There are three cemeteries of interest in Broome: the Pioneer Cemetry on the rise at Town Beach (pictured below), the Japanese Cemetry and the Chinese Cemetry.

 

Broome Historical Society

Hamersley Street, Town Beach

Streeters Jetty

The historic Streeters Jetty, in the centre of Broome, was once the hub of the pearling industry. Dozens and dozens of luggers would unload sacks of valuable pearl shell at the jetty, overseen by the wealthy pearling masters.

 Pearl Luggers Museum

Immerse yourself in a tale of hardship, adventure and intrigue! ‘The Sea, The Men, The Legend!’ Experience more than 140 years of Broome’s unique maritime heritage. Take an historical journey through the life and times of the pearl divers on two of the last surviving perfectly restored pearl luggers.

 ‘Blackbirding’

This statue commemorates the Aboriginal women’s contribution to the pearling industry through the horrendous 19th century practice of ‘blackbirding’ – the kidnapping of pregnant Aboriginal women to dive for pearl shells in deep water, often without breathing apparatus.

It was found the women had the lung capacity to stay underwater longer. Sometimes the women were cruelly put in respirators with stones tied to their legs to keep them down.  Thankfully, the practice died out in the 1890s.

 Cable Beach

So named after the telegraph cable to Java was relocated from Darwin to Broome in 1889 due to volcanic activity in the Arafura Sea. Today, Cable Beach is most famous for stunning sunsets, camel rides, great restaurants and bars, and is one of the most beautiful swimming beaches in the area.

 Flying Boat Wrecks

These wrecks remain as evidence of the flying boats sunk by the Japanese air raid on Broome during WWII.

 

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