I’ve always wondered what the point of a stubby holder was. Okay, they’re a kitsch souvenir of a trip Down Under, a prop you can bring out at a rainy BBQ back home and impress your friends, but they’re not of any practical use, are they?
Then I arrived in Broome. Order a beer here and it’s lukewarm before you’ve got the top off with your teeth (bottle openers are for wimps in the outback, mate!).
Suddenly, it all made sense, and the simple stubby holder joined the pen that writes in space and the CD rack shaped like a guitar on my all-time most useful inventions list.
My first introduction to Broome’s weather came when I went bounding out of the plane in jeans and a hoody. I was greeted by a wall of all-encompassing heat and I spent the next five minutes on the tarmac looking for the Qantas employees hiding in the bushes with the industrial-sized hairdryers. It’s hot up here all year round, so the fleece and trousers can be packed right at the bottom of your pack without being missed.
With Darwin 1800km to the east and Perth more than 2000km south, Broome could be excused for being a little arrogant at its big boy status in the region, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sitting happily on a tiny peninsula, the township nestles on Roebuck Bay, with the Indian Ocean a mere 10-minute drive in the opposite direction. The locals are welcoming and always up for a chat, while the boab-lined streets and quaint tourist shops which line them, are worth a look for a few mementos.
Pearls At A Price
Established as a pearling settlement in the late 19th Century, Broome was once supplying 75 per cent of the world’s pearling requirements. It was hazardous work though, and hundreds of Asian immigrants who worked on the boats
lost their lives in diving accidents. There’s a poignant Japanese cemetery paying tribute to those who lost their lives that is well worth visiting. On Canarvon St, Paspaley Pearls play short videos outlining the history of pearling in the region, so you can find out how they’re produced, even if they’re slightly out of your budget.
Also worth a squizz is Sun Pictures, an open-air cinema dating back to 1916. Playing a host of new releases, there are few better places to watch a movie and
it’s a must if you have more than a couple of days spare. Nightlife of the liquid variety usually revolves around the Roebuck Bay Hotel – or simply the ‘Roey’ – with the backpacker-friendly Rattle & Hum bar and the rather more rough ‘n’ ready sports bar, where the waitresses wear nothing but their underwear when serving you beer. Classy touch.
The day I arrived, I was told to go and witness the Staircase to the Moon, a once-monthly phenomenon which takes place during a full moon and occurs from March until October. Not really being a big Led Zeppelin fan, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit around listening to a cover band, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it had nothing to do with guitar-based rock. The staircase is the reflective effect a full moon has on the mudflats at Town Beach, creating what looks like a series of steps leading up to the moon. It’s a great excuse for the whole of Broome to head out for the evening, with an open-air market selling food, didges and all sorts of alternative trinkets. One tip though – unless you know exactly what you’re doing with a camera, don’t try and take a picture of it. I have some lovely
pitch black photos to show for my efforts.
After watching an amazing moonrise, I decided to get a bit of yin and yang with a sunset over Cable Beach. It’s a place that has to be seen to be believed – no glossy, Ken Duncan-esque picture can do this place justice. Not only is this stretch of coast regarded by seasoned travellers as one of the best beaches in the world, but the sunsets are legendary – a deep gold sun shimmers on the horizon as it slowly makes its descent behind the Indian Ocean.
And as if this isn’t enough to create a unique west coast experience, you can also take a famous camel ride along the beach. The hairy humpsters take you along the beach and time your ride so
you get the best view in the house.
Well, almost the best view… I decided to leave the camels to the more adventurous and perch myself on a rock, to wait for that perfect sundown photo opportunity. Tipped off by a local who told me exactly where the camels would be when the sun hit the horizon, I sat looking out to sea waiting for nature to take its course. (Talking of nature, you might catch the odd naked swimmer coming back up the beach after a dip, as the area is known for its enthusiastic nudies).
The sun goes down pretty damn quickly, so you have to make sure you’re quick on the shutter. From sitting on my own, I was suddenly surrounded by dozens of other photographers eager to get the same shot, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and stand your ground for a good position. In the end, getting the camels at sunset picture is a lot like bad sex. There’s a lot of anticipation, a bit of jostling for position, a few humps and then it’s all over. But just like pervy sex, when you get the pictures back, it’s all worth it.
Broome is also the gateway to the Kimberley region, a rugged sun-scorched land, dotted with ancient gorges, weird looking boab trees and cattle stations the size of England. The flora and landscape of the region is very similar to that of Africa – the boab is only found in the Kimberley, Madagascar and east Africa – and it is believe the regions were attached to each other before Gondwanaland split into pieces. Most popular tours are 4WD safaris to Geikie, Windjana and Bell Gorges or the bumpy but rewarding drive up to Cape Leveque. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be sure to see things you won’t experience anywhere else in the world.
Just remember your stubby holder – drinking warm beer in Broome is a very bad look.
Where? Broome, Western Australia’s northern sandy oasis.
When to GO: WA’s wet season (Oct-April) makes most remote spots inaccessible, so plan trips carefully. Also, Roebuck Bay’s Staircase to the Moon is not to be missed (Mar-Oct).
Kimberley Klub YHA
62 Frederick St,
Freephone: 1800 004 345
Cable Beach Backpackers
Lot 12, Sanctuary Rd,
Ph: (08) 9193 5511
while you’re there:
Broome is pretty flat and perfect for cycling and for less than $20 a day, seeing Broome by bike is not just easy on the budget but easy on the feet too.
On Saturdays you can meander through the Courthouse Markets along with all the other boho-arty types in Broome.
Drive to Gantheaume Point where you can see the 130 million year-old dinosaur footprints, which are visible during very low tides. Make sure you take your camera because this place inspires beautiful photography, with the blue-green waves of the sea lapping on the rich, red ochre of the sandstone cliffs.
A small 4WD can comfortably take you 38km north of Broome to uncover the mysteries of cultured pearl farming at Willie Creek Pearl Farm. You can easily get to Manari Road along the Northern Beaches, Port Smith and even go for a spot of fishing on Eighty Mile Beach. The bigger 4WDs can take you as far as Cape Laveque Road, Gibb River Road and even Purnunululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park plus all other designated roads and tracks outside of Broome. So go on, get out there and explore the last frontier of the great Aussie outback