Things to Do in Broome
Just south of Derby in the Kimberly region is a large, hollow boab tree known as the Boab Prison Tree. A popular tourist attraction, the tree is believed to have been used as a prison for indigenous Australian prisoners in the late 1800s, though some contest this.
Regardless of whether it was used as a prison or not, the boab is impressive. Believed to be about 1,500 years old, the tree has a huge diameter of 48 feet (14.7 meters) and has been declared a registered Aboriginal site. Local legend has it that early police patrols used the tree as an overnight lockup as a natural cell. The hole cut into the side of the tree is manmade, supporting the idea that it was used as such.
The interpretative centre nearby to the tree gives a history of interactions between early white pastoralists and the Aboriginal people, giving insights into local tensions and times the tree was used. The centre details the events of the droving days and World War II upon the town of Derby, as well as explaining the biology of this ancient tree. A short trail at the prison tree leads to a picnic area and a view of the longest cattle trough in the southern hemisphere: Myall’s Bore.
The largest cemetery in Australia, Broome Japanese Cemetery was established at the beginning of Broome’s pearling industry.
In the early days of the pearling industry at Broome, many Japanese men worked as divers. Most of the headstones in the Japanese Cemetery pay tribute to the hundreds of individual divers who died whilst pearling – either from drowning or from the bends (decompression sickness). There are also monuments to catastrophic events, such as a large stone obelisk for those who drowned at sea during a cyclone in 1908. Such cyclones were relatively common in the area, and cyclones in 1887 and 1935 claimed the lives of around 250 Japanese divers between them.
There are 919 Japanese are buried in the cemetery. Many of the headstones are simply marked by colored rocks carried from Broome’s beaches. Before the Japanese became divers, the industry survived by kidnapping local Aboriginal people and training them to dive for pearls. Only 50 metres south of the main Japanese Cemetery lies the Aboriginal section of the cemetery. Unlike the Japanese section, the Aboriginal graves are largely unmarked and unattributed.
Town Beach is one of many sandy spots in Broome, and its main attraction is its water playground that dominates the foreshore. Built for kids of all ages, the playground is designed to be all-inclusive, enabling children of all abilities to play. A range of sprayers including a whale tail sprayer, mistry twisty, sneaky soakers and froggy-o-sprayer are set up to provide a fun play environment. The playground operates on a cycle that randomly repeats and is activated when a start button is pressed.
Safety is paramount here. Soft-fall ground covering ensures a non-slip environment, and the water is UV filtered and chlorinated. A designated area for disabled children includes a self-propelling, custom built, water submersible wheelchair that is available for free hire.
While the playground is a huge part of the attractions of Town Beach, the beach itself is also popular. Besides the bay being a calm swimming spot, the grassy foreshore also offers a great place for picnics. Just beside the playground sits the Town Beach Café, serving coffee, pastries and more.
Three times larger than England, the red desert Kimberley region takes up the northwestern corner of Australia. It’s one of the longest-settled areas on the continent, yet fewer than 40,000 people call it home. The beach town of Broome serves as the gateway to the Kimberley’s numerous cultural and natural attractions.
One of Australia's most stunning stretches of coastline, Cape Leveque, located on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, has been home to Aboriginal communities for some 7,000 years. Visit to see the area’s brick-red cliffs, pearl-white sand, and clear blue water, explore the remote landscape, and learn about the local Aboriginal communities.
Located just outside of Broome, Gantheaume Point is one of the region’s most impressive natural landmarks and serves as an important paleontological site. The red-rock cliffs contrast with the waters of the Indian Ocean below and offer spectacular photo opportunities.
The Broome Courthouse Markets offer an exciting array of local arts and crafts. There are clothes by local designers and many jewelry stores selling unique wares fashioned from local metal and local stones.
The food stalls are great and offer treats from freshly brewed coffee to Thai fish cakes, to frozen mangoes which are a perfect morning tea in the tropics.
Local animal preservation groups also have stalls here so you might have a chance to cuddle a baby koala or nurse a joey (a baby kangaroo).
The market is held in the grounds of the old courthouse which was built to house staff who worked for the telecommunications companies that owned the cable connecting Australia to Indonesia, which came ashore at Cable Beach and ran across town to the Courthouse.
Located to the north of Broome, the Dampier Peninsula is a huge, largely uninhabited stretch of land running from the northern edge of Coulomb Point Nature Reserve to Cape Leveque.
The Dampier Peninsula is one of the last true wildernesses in Australia. Residents in the area include tiny communities, pearling camps, the occasional tourist resort and the communities of the Bardi, Njulnjul and Djaberadjabera people – the traditional owners of the peninsula and the region surrounding it.
Dampier Peninsula is known by the Aboriginal people as Ardi, which means "heading north." The landscapes of the Dampier Peninsula are stunning. Turquoise blue waters shelter coral reefs and abundant tropical fish life, turtles and dugongs, whilst deeper waters are home to dolphins and, seasonally, migrating whales. Inland, the rich red earth dominates the landscape.
One of the best ways to explore the Dampier Peninsula is with the local Aboriginal people. Sample bush foods, learn to make spears, catch mud crabs, and be introduced to a way of life that existed for thousands of years before European settlement.
A colorful history accompanies Broome's Chinatown. During the heyday of Broome's pearling industry, the pearlers (many from China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Europe) would arrive back on shore cashed up and head to the opium dens and billiard halls of Chinatown.
Things have changed. You won’t find opium dens; however, you will still find corrugated sheds alongside some fascinating Chinese architecture and delicious food. The area is filled with pearl shops selling pearls and mother-of-pearl products many of which come from local waters.
Stroll around, soak up the atmosphere and learn about Broome's exciting history from the great storyboards on the shops along Johnny Chi Lane.
The Horizontal Falls were once described by David Attenborough as one of the “greatest wonders of the natural world.” Located in Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago, the waterfalls are caused by the shifting of ocean tides through the rocks, and are one of Western Australia’s most spectacular sights.
More Things to Do in Broome
Cable Beach encompasses 14 miles (22 kilometers) of unspoiled white sand and turquoise waters. The beach is almost perfectly flat and therefore its calm waters are ideal for swimming. From the shore, you can see the occasional pearling boat—an industry that supported Broome before it was discovered by travelers.
From the moment you walk through the giant fiberglass replica of a crocodile's head, you know that the staff at Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park is wild about crocs. Located on the outskirts of Broome, this adventurous park is home to native saltwater crocodiles deemed too aggressive to remain in their outback communities. Though the park is only open for three hours, visitors are able to see handler-led feedings in the afternoon, when crocodiles the size of cars enjoy their daily meal. You’ll also find four other crocodile species in the park, as well as American alligators, dingoes, cassowaries, wallabies, and hundreds of kangaroos. The park serves as an active breeding center for rare wallabies and kangaroos, so feel free to ask the staff about any of the animals in the park.
A rare and intriguing insight into the remote Aboriginal communities of the north, Beagle Bay was a Catholic mission started by French monks in the late 1800s.
The mission was used as a home for Aboriginal kids separated from their families and is now run by those kids. It offers an insight into a troubled time in Australia's past but also a chance to learn about the Nyul Nyul people who have inhabited this beautiful and unforgiving landscape for thousands of years.
One of the highlights is the Sacred Heart Church which was built by hand by the monks and Aboriginal people and has an altar made out of local mother of pearl.
Windjana Gorge sits within the Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberly region of Western Australia. Formed by the Lennard River, Windjana Gorge runs for 3.5 kilometres through the Napier Range – of which Tunnel Creek is also a part. Windjana Gorge is over 100m wide in parts, and the walls range between 10 and 30 metres high.
The Lennard River runs through Windjana Gorge during the wet season, and forms into pools in the dry season. Like much of the Kimberly, Windjana Gorge is home to many species of Australian wildlife – including some which aren’t found anywhere else – and is steeped in Aboriginal culture. Windjana Gorge is a significant spiritual site for the Bunuba people, who believe that there are powerful creation spirits that reside in the Gorge.
A path runs the length of the gorge (3.5km), following the path of monsoonal vegetation alongside the permanent pools of water in the dry season. A ruined homestead, Lillimooloora, was built in 1884 from local limestone, and sits within the park.
The Windjana Gorge Campground is the only place to stay in the park, and is well maintained. Bathrooms with showers are situated on site, and the campground is suitable for caravans – though there are no powered sites. Camping does incur a fee, and park rangers collect it in the evenings.
Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm is Australia’s oldest operating pearl farm. Located ‘just’ out of Broome (a 2.5 hour drive!) the pearl farm is one of the very few operating pearl farms open to the public.
Sitting on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome, Cygnet Bay is surrounded by natural beauty. Turquoise blue water and white sand beaches are largely untouched by human interference, making the region around Cygnet Bay one of the most beautiful locations in all of Australia.
Touring the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm gives visitors insights into the evolution of pearl farming in Australia, as the owners of the family-run business explain the timeline from 1946, when the farm was opened, to the present day. The pearl farm also runs scenic flights and water tours to the nearby natural attractions of the Buccaneer Archipelago (known locally as the Thousand Islands) – a very uncrowded tourist destination. Visitors are also able to see the original site of the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm on Sunday Island.
The Fitzroy River runs for 733 km through the Kimberly region of Western Australia and isof large importance to the local Aboriginal people. Known to the traditional inhabitants as Mardoowarra, the river and its floodplains have spiritual, cultural and medicinal significance to the Nyikina, Walmadjari and Konejandi peoples, as well as ecological significance.
Many of the Kimberly’s tourist attractions lie on the Fitzroy River. Geikie, Diamond and Sir John Gorges, and the Fitzroy Crossing are the most famous. The Fitzroy River is home to many native species including acacia trees, bream and fresh and saltwater crocodiles, as well as being one of the last places the endangered freshwater sawfish is found.
The Fitzroy River is a popular fishing and camping spot near both Broome and Derby. Fitzroy Crossing is the gateway to attractions such as Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge National Parks, and as such is a place many visitors to the Kimberly pass through, and Geikie Gorge National Park is one of the most visited attractions in the area. The Fitzroy River meets the ocean in King Sound, which lies midway between Broome and Derby.
Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park is one of the most accessible parks in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.Named by colonial settlers for Sir Archibald Geikie in 1883, it's known as Danggu or Darngku to the local Aboriginal Bunaba people. The gorge has been carved out by the Fitzroy River, which flows between the massive ancient limestone walls, over 98 feet (30 meters) of which have been exposed by the river.
One of the most stunning sights in Danggu Geikie Gorge is the coloring of said cliffs. During dry season when the water level is low, the lower half of the walls is visible and bleached white due to the opposite season's floods. As the rain comes in, the Fitzroy River rises up to 52 feet (16 meters) up the gorge walls, cleaning them in a continuous cycle.
Visitors to Danggu Geikie Gorge can get out on the water on a boat tour or even a Darngku heritage cruise, guided by the traditional landowners of the park. Hiking is another popular activity, with the popular Reef Walk track taking about 1.5 hours to complete. River Walk is shorter, taking only about 20 minutes, and leads to the banks of the Fitzroy.
Reddell Beach is one of Perth’s more beautiful beaches, characterized by soaring cliffs and rocky outcrops. It was named for an unfortunate captain who was murdered when his crew mutinied near the beach. Today, the beach is much more peaceful than its namesake. A long stretch of golden sand, Reddell Beach is a great place to get away from the town without having to actually travel too far.
The area is dotted with rusty orange rocks that contrast with the perfectly turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. Reddell Beach is an unpatrolled beach, but its relatively calm waters do make for great swimming provided swimmers have safety in mind. The beach itself is up to 300 meters wide at low tide, and covered in sandstone rocks.
Reddell Beach is incredibly popular with photographers and walkers. It’s also great for searching the rock pools that form when the tide goes out. Reddell Beach is a more interesting, and much less crowded version of Cable Beach.
Located within Windjana Gorge National Park, the Lillimooloora ruins are all that are left of the Lillimooloora Homestead and Police Station.
Built in 1884, the sandstone ruins are all that remains of the Lillimooloora Homestead. Lillimooloora became famous in the 1890s as a battle erupted in the Kimberly over the rights to the Bunuba lands. As white settlers took over land for farming purposes, the local Aboriginal people were forced into labour as their hunting grounds and sacred sites were destroyed.
In 1894, an Aboriginal tracked named Jandamarra "Pigeon" shot and killed a white policeman, stole arms, and freed 17 Aboriginal prisoners, becoming an outlaw who fought against the European settlers for three years before he was killed at Tunnel Creek.
Today, the police station remains only as four ruined sandstone walls and a floor of uneven flagstones. Sitting on a plain with cliffs rising behind them, the ruins seem out of place in the wild surroundings, giving visitors a sense of the struggle felt by settlers as they tried to conquer the land, and the local Aboriginal people as they tried to save it.
Sun Picture Gardens Cinema is the oldest picture garden still in operation in the world.
Sun Picture Gardens Cinema began between 1903 and 1913, when the Yamsaki family operated a theatre in their Asian goods store. The building was sold in 1913 and the new owner then converted the building into a cinema. Sun Pictures itself opened on December 9, 1916, playing silent films. In 1933, the cinema began to play films with sound. During World War II, when the town was evacuated, the cinema was vandalised, and due to a series of floods – and a boycott over segregation – didn’t truly recover until 1974. In 1989, the cinema became protected, and in 2004 was certified in the Guinness World Book of Records as the oldest open air cinema in operation.
Sun Picture Gardens Cinema is now accompanied by Sun Cinemas – an indoor cinema opened in 2002. Seating in the cinema remains true to the original layout. Six padded bench seats line the front rows, in front of deckchair style seating that takes up the rest of the cinema.
The Broome Historical Museum lauds itself as the north-west’s most interesting and informative museum.
The Broome Historical Museum aims to give a sweeping overview of the realities of life in Broome from Aboriginal times to World War II and beyond. Exhibits include information on the town’s pearling industry, a history of domestic life in the extreme isolation of Broome, and the impact and effects of cyclones in the region. Further exhibits detail the lesser known meat works industry and the Norwest Echo printing press. Aboriginal artefacts are the focus of another exhibit, and display cases show the story of Broome’s single day of War, and the advance of telecommunications in the town.
The Broome Historical Museum is governed by the Broome Historical Society Inc. The museum is run by volunteers, and a ‘Friends of the Museum’ program, as well as entry fees, help the museum to continue promoting and enhancing its exhibits. The photographs, visual displays and subject albums of the museum tell the story of Australia’s first truly multi-cultural town.
Tunnel Creek National Park is one of the Kimberly region’s most famous attractions. Though small in size compared to the other national parks that cover the Kimberly region, at just 91 hectares, Tunnel Creek has a huge attraction – being home to Australia’s oldest cave system.
Tunnel Creek is located in the Napier Range, the same range as the nearby Geikie Gorge. The remains of an ancient reef system formed 350 million years ago, the limestone that forms Tunnel Creek is what makes this region so ancient. The tunnel of tunnel creek runs for 750 meters. It reaches a maximum height of 12 meters, and a maximum width of 15 meters. There are a number of animals making their home in the caverns, including at least five species of bat, which led to the cave’s nickname of The Cave of Bats. Freshwater crocodiles occasionally take up residence in the large pools of water that dot the floor of the cave.
Tunnel Creek became famous in the late 1800s as the hideout of the Aboriginal outlaw and leader Jandamarra. The cave has been used by the Aboriginal people for hundreds of years, and the walls are covered in their artworks.