We’re being urged to holiday at home this year, so no better time to visit Broome – an intriguing destination so many Aussies wonder about, but comparatively few take the plunge to enjoy.
Remote in the far north-west of our country, these days it’s easy to reach, just hours by air from the eastern seaboard via Adelaide, Darwin or Alice Springs. Located in such an improbably difficult spot for survival, Broome has been innovative through its history and its tourism folk have been as dogged as its early inhabitants in optimising its transport links and visitor attractions. Broome’s drawcards – camels on a beach at dusk, amazing pearl farms, rustic open air cinema, spectacular fiery landscapes, stimulating ethnic diversity and, further afield, great gorge cruising among them – are as good as the travel brochures suggest.
My favourite affordable treat is a pearl farm visit. After a fascinating tutorial on the farming process, hop on a boat and follow the oyster bed lines where your guide shows you massive shells – as big as a man’s hand – bound in black twine cages that host Broome’s highly-prized cultured pearl specimens, the craft perfected over more than a century.
Your can visit Paspaley’s glittering showroom and several other elite stores in Chinatown and marvel at sensational pearls in breathtaking jewellery pieces, the necklaces worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But there are pearls for every pocket: pearl farms and other outlets have earrings, rings, pendants, bracelets and brooches at bargain prices for women and girls and pearl-based items for men as well. My favourite souvenir is a black velvet case holding tiny caviar spoons made of glistening pearl shell. Absent caviar, they emerge at my place for serving olives and condiments, always admired and catching the light beautifully, a reminder of a wonderful holiday.
Cable Beach Club resort is a fantastic spot to stay. A vast manicured compound on the Indian Ocean shoreline, its design and décor are striking, its villas surrounded by glorious tropical gardens punctuated by artefact-dotted walkways, alfresco restaurants and two cool swimming pools. Linger over evening cocktails in the Sunset Bar for a dramatic daily display as the huge red solar orb sinks down fast to the horizon. Middle distance, camel trains lope by, riders silhouetted against the sky – an unforgettable experience. Nearby, Bali Hai Resort & Spa is a more bijou stunner, its deluxe studios featuring open-air palm-decked shower gardens and private barbecue courtyards.
Cable Beach is a short taxi ride from the centre of Broome; there are many more modestly priced places to stay in town. Wherever you choose you’ll be awed and enervated by the incredible, vibrant, ochre landscape all around. Depending on your budget, there are superb fishing, scenic, historical, 4WD, indigenous culture and eco tours to be taken in the Kimberley region, but simply enjoying the uniquely charming architecture of the town, its exotic charisma, museums, galleries, markets, hovercraft tours on Roebuck Bay, balmy nights and sensational seafood and Chinese cuisine makes for a captivating winter escape. As their slogan says, when southern temperatures dive, why not “Let Yourself Go” and get swept up in the warm, welcoming atmosphere of Broome.
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