Broome, WA – Travel Log 3
Copyright © Robert L J Borg 2012
Located 222 kilometres southwest of Derby and 612 kilometres north east of Port Headland in Western Australia, Broome really is in the middle of nowhere.
Regardless of its remoteness Broome is famous for several things, the most important of which occurred in 1889. The telegraph undersea cable linking Australia to Singapore and from there to England was laid; the site where it came ashore being aptly named “Cable Beach”. Today Cable Beach is famous for its exotic resorts, camel rides and fantastic sunsets over the Indian Ocean.
Sunset at Cable Beach
Broome was discovered by Europeans in the late 17th century by the explorer William Dampier, but was so named in honour of Sir Frederick Napier Broome (1842–1896) who had been appointed Governor of Western Australia on 14 December 1882.
Also in the 1880’s Broome became popular with the commencement of harvesting oysters for mother of pearl and developed into the cultivation of pearls. Today this has become a multi-million dollar industry. These riches did not come cheap. The cost to human life was astronomical. There were many ethnic groups of peoples who dived for the pearls, but the principle divers were the Japanese. Broome’s Japanese cemetery is the resting place of 919 divers. How many more were lost at sea is unknown. In the south of the town is a bronze statue which, although unmarked, is dedicated to pregnant aboriginal women who were some of the best divers.
Aboriginal Pearl Divers
To fully appreciate the extent of the Pearling Industry it is recommended that you book up with one of the many tours on offer. We attended the one arranged through Willie Creek Pearl Farm and thoroughly enjoyed the day, including a five minute helicopter flight over the farm.
Aerial View of Willie Creek Pearl Farm
The Aboriginal Pearl Divers’ statue faces Roebuck Bay which is highly important as a resting place for millions of waders and shorebirds that use it seasonally on migration from their breeding grounds in northern Asia. They feed on the extensive intertidal mudflats and also roost at high tide on the red sand beaches of the Bay. In 1988, in woodland located on the northern shore of Roebuck Bay the Broome Bird Observatory was established.
Roebuck Bay was named after HMS Roebuck which was captained by William Dampier. It has a very large tidal range which exposes some 160 sq. km of mudflats. During full moons the mudflats become famous for a phenomenon known as the “Staircase to the Moon”. This can be viewed from Town Beach or from the highly recommended restaurant (booking is essential) the Black Pearl [from personal experience the food is superb whether, breakfast or dinner]:
Facing the restaurant is the town museum which is certainly worth a visit. The town itself has a variety of restaurants and shops and is a stone’s throw from the airport. Although only a small place I would certainly recommend hiring a car, especially if based in the town as we were. The car gives you the freedom of getting to the outskirts of the town, as well as to Cable Beach, the race course, and the deep water wharf and jetty. The latter is incredible and I can’t believe I walked its entire length. On the landfall side there is a small seafood restaurant which is definitely worth having a meal at.
Deep Water Jetty
Getting to Broome is probably best by air. We flew in from Darwin using Air North Airways – most impressive: The service was second to none and the crew were really helpful and friendly. We hired a car through budget and were pleasantly surprised with a free upgrade to a Hyundai ix35 SUV which stumped me for a minute when I couldn’t see how to start it – until I found the push button start!
We stayed at the Mercure hotel in Weld Street. The room was adequate, but found some of the other guests a bit too noisy for our liking. The restaurant was a bit expensive for its location and ambiance. However on a positive note parking was secure and plentiful and it boasted two swimming pools – both clean and refreshingly uncrowded.
If we ever do go back to Broome, which I doubt as once seen there’s no real point going back, we shall spend the extra money and stay at the Cable Beach Resort.