Arriving in Broome, Western Australia, May 2016

Day 8 of the “Ultimate Australian Rail Holiday” Wednesday 25th May 2016 

Today we use the Flying Kangaroo (aka Qantas) to move on to Broome. Here is a simple map to help with orientation:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Even though Broome is a popular tourist destination, this is our first visit, so I need to bone up on a few fast facts:

  • Broome is part of the Kimberley Region of Western Australia,
  • By road, Broome is 2,240 km (1,390 mi) from Perth,
  • By air, Broome is 1,676 km (approx 1000 mi) from Perth,
  • Flying time is about two and a half hours (wow! 700 kph / 400 mph!),-
  • Indigenous occupation dates back at least 30,000 years,
  • The first recorded European landing was English explorer/ navigator/ buccaneer William Dampier in 1668,
  • Early sheep pastoralists (mid 1800s) discovered beds of the giant silver-lip pearl oyster, Pinctada maxima  – mother of pearl – which was so much in demand . . .
  • that by the late 1880s Broome was best known as a pearling port . . .
  • which led to a multicultural population of Malaysians, Filipinos, Koepangers (Indonesians), Japanese, Chinese, Europeans and so on, whom* – added to the existing Aboriginal population – has created a multicultural population . . .
  • of around 15,000 permanent residents,
  • Which can grow to 45,000 per month in the tourist season,
  • Who often come to experience Cable Beach, so named because In 1889, a telegraph undersea cable was laid from Broome to Singapore, connecting to England.
  • Climate-wise, Broome is semi-arid, with only two seasons: wet and dry, and is susceptible to tropical cyclones.

* Important to note that not all of the population were there willingly, and racial segregation was still common until the 1970s – I’ll touch more on that in another post.

So that little flashback to my corporate days of speaking in dot-points is cleverly designed to deflect attention away from the fact that transfer days are more about “travelling” than “experiencing“. All the same, after we had settled into our resort-style accommodation and changed into our hot weather outfits, we went off on an exploration walk, and before too long we were in “Chinatown“. We were to learn that this was once the wild-west-style commercial centre and subject to swampy flooding. Now it is a haven for pearl showrooms, retail outlets and cafes, but the architecture is still mostly original: shanty-style and corrugated iron. In fact, no building in Broome is higher than two stories.

I had a chat with one of the shopkeepers, who recounted how he came to make Broome his home, and his hopes and aspirations for his children. This brought to my attention that there are a number of schools and residential areas in Broome, so it is actually larger than the tourist would think at first. After a while he noticed I was doing the “Broome Dance“. I knew I would need repellent, but had not lathered up before the walk, thinking it was more a beach day thing. The sand flies were especially aggressive on our visit – especially in this low-lying land close to mangrove swamps – and I have the pherenomes and blood type which mosquitoes and midgies luuurv. The shopkeeper came to my rescue with his preferred spray. I appreciated that! So please be warned if you are visiting and are also vulnerable 🙂

Before too long we realised that what we really wanted to do was chill out back out our hotel – The Mangrove Resort – which has a luxurious outdoor bar overlooking Roebuck Bay. I had already twigged that Broome is a peninsular, so if you are planning a visit it is useful to realise that Roebuck Bay and Cable Beach are on opposite sides of the land mass, and you would need to allow an hour to walk from one side to the other. So instead, back at the hotel, we contented ourselves with a cool drink, relaxing, and admiring this view:

Early evening on Roebuck Bay, Broome, WA, May 2016

Early evening on Roebuck Bay, Broome, WA, May 2016

This part of the coastline features a natural phenomenon called the “Staircase to the Moon“, which is caused by the full moon rising over exposed mud flats as the tide recedes. Roebuck Bay is one of the best places to see it in Broome. The intensity is subject to weather, tide and moon phases and is usually visible for three consecutive nights each month, a little later each time. Here is one example (source: Wikimedia Commons).

Even though we were at least one night late, we were delighted with the tail end effect. Again, very hard to capture on the iPad camera without using time-lapse. I tried cropping and enlarging one of the better photos, and have ended up with something that looks like a Rothko painting.

Staircase to the Moon, Broome, WA, 25 May 2016, iPad image, cropped and enlarged

Staircase to the Moon, Broome, WA, 25 May 2016, iPad image, cropped and enlarged

I thought I might start to keep a distance log, ignoring “running around / city tour” figures, and I came up with: Sydney – Perth Indian Pacific 4352; Perth – Cape Leeuwin and return 650; Perth – Broome by air 1676 = 6680 klm (rounded) or 4150 miles. No wonder we were ready for a relaxing drink 🙂

For Reference: We booked our tour through the Australian Holiday Centre.

9 thoughts on “Arriving in Broome, Western Australia, May 2016

  1. Back in the late 60s early 70’s not sure exactly I was on my way to a job in Broome and I had the misfortune to run into a ‘roo late one night a couple of hundred hundred k’s or so from ‘Hedland., and was stranded at a roadhouse/garage for more than a fortnight. There was no phone to ring up to get parts to fix my car, just one radio contact each day. Of course Perth sent up th wrong parts I was living and sleeping in the car, and eating the roadhouse fare.
    Naturally when I did get going the job in Broome was gone. I’d been unable to contact them whilst at the r/house. Never did get to Broome! 😦

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  2. Love the photo of the Moon Over the Water. I have to say, geography must not have been my best subject. Of course I know that Australia is a continent but I guess somehow I still think of it more in terms of an island. Silly me. Watching your recent journeys has made me realize that Australia is huge! When you started talking about flying and included a map I really was getting a sense of how large a continent Australia actually is. Thanks for the geography lesson! 😄

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    • I was always taught that Australia was the largest island and smallest continent – so I guess it’s simply a case of picking which world view you prefer. Don’t be too hard on yourself – at least you don’t get us mixed up with Austria. And it is thanks to an earlier comment of yours that I have been inspired to include a map, so am glad you are finding it useful!

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