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Known as the town ‘where the red dirt meets the sea’, the unofficial capital of the Kimberley region, Broome, is a relaxed beach town with a unique history. A fascinating travel destination in its own right, Broome is also the perfect launching point for a tour of the Kimberley, Australia‘s quintessential outback region.
Though the Yawuru People have lived in the area (known as Rubibi) for thousands of years, the European settlement of Broome was established in the 1880s as a pearling port. At the turn of the century, Broome’s pearls – particularly the Pinctada Maxima mother of pearl – was known around the world, used to make buttons and fine cutlery found in the houses of the rich in New York, London and Paris.
Yet, the prosperity of the pearl industry belied the brutal labour conditions. In the 1880s, indigenous Australians – particularly pregnant women believed to have better lung capacity for diving – were forced by European settlers to dive for pearls. The numerous deaths that resulted outraged public opinion; so the industry switched to using the indentured labour of Japanese, Chinese, Malay, and Filipino men for diving.
The history of pearling continues to shape Broome today. Visitors can learn about this history at the Broome Historical Society Museum, or take a day tour of a working pearl farm at Willie Creek Farm, north of Broome. Look for jewellers in the centre of the town to buy beautiful pearl and diamond (which are mined in the surrounding Kimberley) creations. The multicultural heritage of Broome is celebrated at the annual Shinju Matsuri, Japanese for ‘festival of the pearl’.
Broome’s city centre, or China Town, reflects this history. Once a rugged frontier strip of saloons, brothels, pearling houses and gambling houses, the area is today home to a collection of smart restaurants and boutiques. The distinctive corrugated iron buildings retain a frontier vibe, however. The area is also home to the world’s oldest outdoor cinema, Sun Pictures, which opened in 1916.
Broome’s other major draw is its stunning beaches. Located on a peninsula between Roebuck Bay and the Indian Ocean, Broome is surrounded by beaches in all directions. By far the most famous is Cable Beach. A 22-kilometre stretch of white sand, Cable Beach earned is name thanks to the telegraph cable between Broome and Java that connected north-west Australia with the world. Make sure to join one of the iconic sunrise or sunset camel rides for stunning views of white sands, turquoise waters, and the red dirt of the cliffs behind.
At the southern end of Cable Beach is Gantheaume Point, where you can see one of the world’s best paleontological sites, a collection of 130-million year old dinosaur footprints.
Though less famous, Roebuck Bay can rival the Indian Ocean coast for nature. Bird lovers will revel in the mudflats, which are a magnet for migratory birds coming from as far away as Siberia. 25 km from the centre of Broome, the Broome Bird Observatory offers quiet trails in a pretty seaside setting. Roebuck Bay also sees the striking ‘Staircase to the Moon’ phenomenon, in which the reflection of the moon over rippled mudflats creates the optical illusion of a golden staircase leading to the moon.
The Kimberley Region, Western Australia:
Broome is also the gateway to the beautiful Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Spanning from Broome to Darwin in the Northern Territory, the Kimberley constitutes an area of over 400, 000 square kilometres. Three times the size of England with only 40, 000 people, the Kimberley is Australia‘s last wilderness frontier, a stunning landscape of red dirt, river gorges, rock formations, and looming mountains, virtually untouched by humans. The towns here in Australia‘s north west – Halls Creek, Kununurra, and Fitzroy Crossing on the Fitzroy River, are among some of the most remote in the world.
To the north of Broome, Cape Leveque and the Dampier Peninsula on the beautiful Kimberley Coast boast pristine beaches and turquoise waters. The dark side of the region’s history is visible at the Boab Prison Tree near Darby, one of the region’s distinctive boab trees, the hollow inside of which is rumoured to have been used as a prison for local Aboriginal people in the 1890s.
On the Gibb River Road, a 660 km 4WD-only road winding through the heart of the Kimberley, the outback begins. Following the Gibb River, smaller roads branch off the main path, leading to beautiful river gorges including Bell Gorge, Tunnel Creek, Galvans Gorge, Manning Gorge, and Windjana Gorge National Park, home (like Lake Argyle near Kununurra) to a significant population of freshwater crocodiles.
Another highlight is El Questro wilderness park in the East Kimberley. A former cattle station, El Questro is now devoted to tourism, boasting the striking scenery of Emma Gorge, Chamberlain Gorge, and the Pentecost River. Accommodation ranges from tented cabins to luxury rooms in the old El Questro station.
Purnululu National Park, close to the Northern Territory border, is home to one of the most iconic sights of the Kimberley, the beehive-shaped rock formations of the Bungle Bungle Range, along with pretty Piccaninny Creek, eerie Echinda Chasm and the unique Cathedral Gorge. To the south, the remote Mitchell Plateau boasts Mitchell Falls, one of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls.
If you’re keen to visit the Kimberley, why not join one of our outback tours? Odyssey Traveller’s tour of the Kimberley begins and ends in Broome. We take you to Windjana Gorge, Purnululu National Park, El Questro, and along the Gibb River Road. Designed for active mature and senior travellers, our Kimberley outback tours aim to give you an authentic and in-depth experience of the region, delving into the region’s fascinating and fraught settler and Aboriginal histories. Our tour of the Kimberley is all-inclusive, encompassing travel by four wheel drive and scenic flight, thirteen-nights accommodation, and the prices of major attractions.
Articles about the Kimberley and Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to the Kimberley:
The Kimberley is explored on a small group tour for mature and senior travelers, couples or singles. Both Aboriginal community is studied and an appreciation of the wet and dry seasons. This guide on the Kimberley assists the traveler as you start from Broome and travel round via Halls creek and Purnunulu national park over some 17 days in a group of up to 12 people.
Understand why Lake Argyle exists before joining a small group package tour for mature and senior travellers of Western Australia's Kimberley region in the preferred dry season. Limited to 12 travellers for your peace of mind we learn about the landscapes and the aboriginal stories often via the rock art in far North.
Read about one of the most remote World heritage sites on Earth. Odyssey takes you to visit as part of a small group package tour for mature and senior travellers in the Kimberley for couple and single travelers We travel in the dry season from Broome via Lake Argyle to this National park.
Explore learn and consider what is the outback in this article. For mature and senior travelers considering joining a small group package tours into the outback to see, learn and explore about this unique place, not only the landscape but the Aboriginal approach to living. On each of the tours for couples and the single traveler you learn something different but fascinating, from Outback Queensland, the Flinders, Broken Hill and the Kimberley and the wildflowers all contribute to this question, what is the outback?
This article supports the small group package tours for mature and senior travellers, couples and solo travellers to Western Australia's Kimberley region. Learn about the wet and dry seasons and the fascinating Aboriginal history as well as the Bungle Bungles, Lake Argyle, Halls creek and resort of Broome.
Learn about the wet and dry season in the Kimberley to support your understanding of the Aboriginal communities lifestyle as you explore on a small group package tour for mature and senior travelers exploring as a couple or solo traveller. Read our peace of mind statement for post covid-19 travel.