As remote cities go, you can’t do much better than Broome, Western Australia. Tucked away in the far northwest, it sits half a continent of bush and desert away from the nearest major cities (1250 miles north of Perth and 1100 miles west of Darwin).
Visit during the dry season (May-October) and you’re practically guaranteed cloudless 30-plus degree sunshine for the whole trip. Months go by without rain. Alternatively, if tropical storms are your thing, there’s also the one other season: wet (November-April). Most businesses will be closed or at best operating limited hours this half of the year, but you can always grab a case of beer and hole up at a cyclone party (these actually exist).
In terms of getting around, I recommend renting or buying a bicycle – see Bicycle Recycle Broome for a no-nonsense man named Smicko who’ll provide you with a cheap bike, the price of which includes ongoing maintenance throughout the dry season.
It’s also imperative that you rent a 4wd, even for a day or two, since there are so many things to do in Broome that involve leaving settled areas. Part of the charm of the region is the bush in between the landmarks and pubs.
But anyway, you got to Broome. What do you do now? I lived in Broome for three months. Here are my recommendations:
1. Cable Beach
Cable Beach is a big name in Australia. Not only does it comprise 14 miles of unspoiled sandy shore but it also provides some of the best sunsets on the planet. Crowds of drinkers and diners at the Sunset Bar & Grill, groups of friends on the beach and lines of tourists on the hills all fall silent the moment the sun disappears into the ocean.
If kicking back with a beer ain’t your thing, you can ride bicycles and vehicles with specialised fat tyres for traversing the sand, or sign up for Red Sun Camels – literally a parade of camels – all against the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset.
2. Matso’s Brewery
A cultural staple of life in Broome – and with an ever-growing presence on the beer market in Western Australia and beyond – Matso’s Brewery is an Australian icon. With a view of the turquoise Roebuck Bay and its burgeoning mangroves, shrouded in palm trees, in a restored historical building, this place screams sub-tropical throwaway afternoon.
The beer selection includes unusual flavourings such as mango and chili, and the food and drink is punctuated by the aesthetic experience of visiting this beachside home site, plus they’re also famous for their truly delicious ginger beer – which has its commercial tendrils as far as shops in Sydney and Melbourne.
3. General cuisine
Eating out in Broome is an adventure in itself. There are lots of options, but personal favourites are Green Mango – with an eggs benny to kill for – and Good Cartel, for the perfect drive-thru coffee/juicer experience.
That’s another thing to mention: it is hot all the time here, so entering an air-conditioned establishment and purchasing a juice made from fresh fruit right in front of you is a “life in Broome” staple.
The Aarli is another favourite. Pan-Asian cuisine tucked away under a frangipani tree regularly visited by owls who are content to watch diners with indifference. Try the panko-crumbed poached eggs with bacon and bean-sprout salad if visiting for brunch, or a selection of the tapas-style Asian plates in the evening.
4. Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park
Not too far out of town, the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park is a refuge where you can get up close with crocs in their natural environment. One of the best things to do in Broome for kids, or for anyone with a penchant for Australian wildlife, this park rescues and releases crocodiles and provides a great guided tour across dozens of enclosures. These include aviaries and non-reptilian animals (tropical birds and marsupials are on everyone’s Australian checklist, let’s face it).
It should be mentioned that they will also let you hold a baby crocodile. The mouths are muzzled, don’t worry.
5. Pearling History
Broome, Australia has a rich history, steeped in colonialism and involvement in the Pacific theatre of World War II, owing to its airstrip and use of seaplanes to transport refugees. You can still see downed planes in Roebuck bay when the tide is out.
It also owes much of its wealth to the history of its abundant pearling industry. To see a working pearl farm is easy enough, as several in the region offer tours that leave from the centre of town. You can also travel, if you’ve rented your own vehicle, out of town to see the more remote off-tourist farms. If your budget allows, you can purchase some of the best pearls in the world at a range of outlets in town.
6. Outdoor Theatre
Another trademark of the things to do in Broome is watching a movie at the Sun Pictures historical outdoor theatre. This building was one of the first erected in the area, and it exudes charm and history. With regular screenings of movies both contemporary and classic, in a quaint and rustic setting, this attraction is a hit with cinema enthusiasts and general tourists alike – especially when you tack on the quirk that it is virtually 200ft from the end of the airport runway and so you’ll have planes landing and taking off so close overhead you can practically touch them. It’s worth having the occasional movie scene ruined for such a unique and strange open-air experience.
7. Johnny Chi Lane, Carnarvon Street & Dampier Terrace
The town area is rife with activity. There’s a cricket oval, pubs aplenty (see the Roey for a dirty yet charming Australian drinking experience), an infamous late-night Bakwan food truck, and even a free Wi-Fi laden McDonald’s. For walking and shopping in Broome, however, Johnny Chi Lane is the simplest part of Broome’s “downtown” lore. It offers an escape from the heat via its Shady Lane Café and both touristic and practical shopping opportunities in its strip of undercover shops.
The block is surrounded by a boardwalk and is in close proximity of the pearling retailers. You can also visit the historic pier, just yards away, now overgrown with mangroves and conquered by legions of crabs, and the Runway Bar & Restaurant (also good for drinking under the airport’s uncomfortably close takeoffs and landings).
8. Night markets and Staircase to the Moon
Broome has a vibrant market scene. In the dry season there are regular markets erected in the area surrounding the old courthouse and on the green next to Broome Town Beach. From boab nuts to hemp-clothing, massages and a wide variety of cuisine, they’re a hive of activity. From: £349 / 30-365 Days The Australia Work Abroad Visa gives you permission to work in Australia whilst you travel. A huge hit with backpackers the world over!
Combined with Staircase to the Moon Broome parties, you can forge yourself a night to remember here. At certain dates in the year (two to three days a month between March and October specifically), the moon turns orange due to something cool to do with the spreading of light through the atmosphere and the general colour spectrum. This moon, when it hangs above Roebuck Bay, creates an illusion on the ripples of water beneath it that Broome natives refer to as the Staircase to the Moon. Off the back of the experience, often enhanced by lines of silhouetted fruit bats, you’ll really feel far from home.
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From: £349 / 30-365 Days
The Australia Work Abroad Visa gives you permission to work in Australia whilst you travel. A huge hit with backpackers the world over!View Experience
9. Gantheaume Point
If modern history doesn’t float your boat, Gantheaume Point boasts plenty of prehistory. Dinosaur footprints dating back to at least 130 million years ago are pressed deep in the red rocks here. Hard to get to without a hardy bicycle or a car, the effort is well worth it. Climb the rocks next to the thrashing aquamarine waters, find yourself a cave to hide in with a good book and a sandwich, or just take photos of the northern view of Cable Beach.
10. 4WD to Cape Leveque
I saved the best for last. Renting a 4wd and driving through the bush to Cape Leveque was the highlight of my time in Broome. That moment when you leave the government-maintained highway and hit the uncertain, unsealed, pothole-punched, empty highway of red sand, your heart skips a beat. You’ll then remain on edge for the virtually dead-straight rest of the road to Beagle Bay.
Cape Leveque itself is six hours north of Broome, and worth the visit alone, but driving on those outback roads is its own joy. If your main driving experience has been negotiating the M25, M3 and M40, you’ll feel out of your element – in the best way. Clouds of dust and an ever-eroding crust of uneven terrain abound here.
Christopher Tunstall is a freelance travel writer and ex-copywriter. Contact him at his website.