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  • Writer's pictureAlison Fenton

the mystery of Broome

Updated: May 25, 2020

28 June 2018

Every advertisement or article I'd ever seen about Broome enticed the would-be holiday maker with beautiful beaches, camel rides, wonderful sights and of course, pearls.

With all the hype, I thought we'd be heading to another Noosa. I was really looking forward to wandering slowly along the coast, stopping for coffee at a cafe overlooking the water and enjoying icecreams at the beach.

I was surprised when we received a text from friends, saying they had cut their visit to Broome short, but I soon worked out why.

Broome delivered great weather in spades and every day was 28-29 degrees. People who enjoy staying in resorts, without the compulsion to leave too often, will probably love the place. Families on long trips travelling in caravans may be a bit disappointed.

We found that there wasn't a great deal to do in Broome and had a fairly quiet time. This was partly brought about by the worst bout of gastro that I’d experienced for many years.

Tip #1: If you are wondering whether a toilet in a caravan is good value or not, I'm here to tell you that it's a great investment. Not only does it mean you can stay in a whole lot of places without facilities, no body wants to be stuck in a public or caravan park toilet when they are sick. Just saying that I was extremely grateful for the ensuite in our van.

Our caravan park in Cable Beach was grey nomad heaven and there was fierce competition for the laundry. Despite this, it was quite nice and we talked to some very helpful travellers, but there was absolutely nothing for kids to do. Not even a cruddy old playground.

Broome itself was a bit of an enigma. We drove around the township and popular areas several times, looking for the beach culture we'd been expecting, but we just couldn't find it. We were bamboozled, still sure that we were missing something!

There wasn't too much open over the weekends and not all of the “top ten things to see” were accessible.

Cable Beach was lovely for sunsets and swimming. A professional lifeguard service made us feel safe, as did the daily stinger drags we'd read about.

The boys were shocked (and possibly delighted) to discover the many nudists sun baking along the beach. This practice was more popular for men than women and as we drove along the beach, we had to be ready to look away at a moment's notice.

We were lucky to be in Broome for the staircase to the moon, where we lined up with a couple of thousand other people to watch the full moon rising over the mudflats of Roebuck Bay.

Tip #2: People come here early and take up the prime positions. If you have children it is difficult for them to see the staircase, because of the number of heads in the way. Of course, if you arrive really early, the kids are going to get bored. Not sure what to do about this dilemma!

Visitors will enjoy the staircase markets. There were some great food trucks selling a variety of food, showcasing Broome's multicultural element, along with the normal jewellery, trinket, clothing, natural remedies and homewares stalls. The markets had a family-friendly atmosphere.

Tip #3: Try to avoid driving to the markets. The parking is crazy! There are extra bus services to get you there.

We visited Streeter’s Jetty which was the original jetty for the pearling luggers based in Broome. While we were there we chanced upon Sand Sculpture WA, creating a marine sculpture out of the very red Broome sand.

The sculptors, Shani and Tim, showed our kids how to make their own works of art and even lent them some tools to chisel in the details. The boys spent an hour and a half in the red sand and only finished as the midges moved in.

Chase proved that he was as attractive to midges as to mosquitoes, and was soon covered in bites.

Tip #4: By late afternoon you should cover yourself in either clothing or insect repellent, or risk being eaten alive. I bought some mozzie and midge mousse and it worked a treat.

We walked along the Broome jetty and I wondered how many salt water crocodiles cruised by in the beautiful turquoise coloured waters.

Gantheaume Point gave us another opportunity to admire the coastline. The tides didn't cooperate with us, so we didn't get to see the 130 million year old petrified dinosaur footprints at the water's edge.

Instead we visited the plaster cast of the tracks the top of the cliff. This was particularly difficult to find and we weren't the only ones wandering around looking lost. In the end, the kids enjoyed running around the rocks and cliffs more than the seeing the casting, which we accidentally stumbled across on our way back to the car.

Tip #5: Apparently one bus per day services Gantheaume Point, arriving in the dry season just before 8am. The idea is for travellers to walk along the coast to Cable Beach. We didn't know about this walk, but I wish we had. I'm sure it would have been lovely.

Some travellers told us about the Willie Creek camping area, about 40km outside of Broome, so we took off and had a look. It was a fun drive out along Cape Leveque Road and we saw some brumbies. When we arrived, no one else was camping here and it felt very secluded. The crocodile warning signs along the banks made us feel uneasy too, so we decided to leave it off the camping itinerary.

Tip #6: Reviews on wiki camps are a bit mixed, but consistently mention the mosquitoes. Take heavy duty insect repellent with you if you are staying after sunset.

We visited the Willie Creek Pearl Farm shop at Cable Beach. I bought a pearl ring, one of the few mementos from our trip. The staff gave the kids some kibble to feed to the coy carp in the ponds outside of the shop, which kept them entertained while I shopped.

The kids loved the hermit crab races held at the Broome RSL, along with the race caller's crazy crab hat. The races were a fun way to raise money for the community. Drew and I enjoyed a couple of drinks while the kids were ringside, taking in all of the action!

Tip #7: Vegetarians and vegans shouldn't expect a meal at the RSL. It's a roasts-only affair!

We found a group of Aboriginal artists gathered together on the grassed area at the top of the main street painting canvases. The groups of mainly women were happy for us to watch their progress and some quite fabulous paintings were available for purchase. I was amazed at how quickly the women could complete a quite complex dot painting.

We couldn't leave Broome without doing a sunset camel ride along Cable Beach. This was a completely touristy thing to do, but one of my few requests for this trip. Chase and I got the lead camel which gave us great views, with Oliver and Drew behind us. They said our camel had a very bad case of wind! Chase and I thought that this was almost as funny as the nude men on the beach.

Tip #8: The camel ride was a novel way to enjoy the sunset and the handlers took some great pictures for us. Make sure you book a tour where the staff are happy to use your cameras/phones - you don't want to get charged extra for photographs.

We spotted lots of backpackers and couples relaxing in the funky bars/eateries around the town, but being travellers with young children, our budget and inclination didn't allow a lot of this. Perhaps we were just the wrong demographic for Broome.

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