5 Things To Do in Broome that Aren’t Cable Beach Camel Rides

5 Things To Do in Broome that Aren’t Cable Beach Camel Rides

5 THINGS TO DO IN BROOME

5 Things To Do in Broome that Aren’t Cable Beach Camel Rides. Whoever first decided to take their pet camel for a sunset saunter along Cable Beach hit on a good thing, whether they did so in the hope that some out-of-towner might offer money for a ride or whether (as I like to think) they just thought it a romantic thing to do, I know not. Whatever the case, though, their stroll was a lucrative one.

Perth to Broom tours

There are three camel operators.

Today, Cable Beach camel rides are to Broome what snorkelling outings are to Cairns. At least three separate operators run camel capers year-round at different times of the day.

I’ve never much understood the allure of gallivanting about on a camel. They smell, they drool, they’re toothy, and they spit. Their gait is bumpy, their demeanour grumpy, their seat humpy and the one in front of me always farts too much.

A man’s not a camel, but I imagine he’d be Sir Les Patterson if a camel were a man. So, these days, I tend only to burden the beasts when they’re the only transport option available, which is rare.

You do need a car.

Accordingly, I proclaimed the town’s definitive experience during a three-day stay in Broome. Other travellers seemed a bit nonplussed by my stance; some were even outright suspicious.

But… errr… what are you going to do?’ one French guy asked, regarding me as though we were in Cairo and I’d opted to snub the pyramids. The locals, though, got it. ‘There’s plenty to do in Broome that doesn’t involve camels,’ the helpful lady at the information centre reassured me. ‘You’ll just need a car.’

And so, sticking to my cars-over-camels guns and with one significantly highlighted Broome Visitors Guide in hand, out I went. Here’s where:

Broome Historical Museum

Are some museums boring?

Some are great, and the Broome Historical Museum is the latter. It sounds cliché, but paying a visit here will genuinely get you appreciating the town for where it comes from, which will, in turn, get you appreciating what it is now.

Housed in a humble weatherboard shack that was once the Customs House (meaning that it’s a bit of history in and of itself), this museum is deceptively stay-worthy. I usually rush through museums because I refer to the opening four words of this paragraph, but, were it not for a prior engagement, I reckon I’d have happily mooched about this museum for a good two hours.

Detailing the Pearling History

What’s so great about it isn’t so easy to quantify, though a disarming lack of pretension certainly goes some way. Everyday items from barely a century ago make up many of the displays, and the videos on rotate – one of which is simply interviews with women who worked the local telephone switchboard – are surprisingly absorbing. Chiefly, however, it’s the exhibits detailing the town’s pearling history that really shed light.

Open discrimination, systemic exploitation by White Australians

Like any gold mining town, Broome was a place built on open discrimination, systemic exploitation, relative autonomy from the government, the seeking of fortunes, indentured labour and outright slavery. Riots broke, brothels boomed, opium dens operated, and gambling houses flourished – the joint was basically Deadwood by the beach.

Australian Asians

It was also, funnily enough, Australia’s most cosmopolitan community. Chinese, Japanese, Javanese, Europeans, Malays, Filipinos, Koepangers and indigenous Australians coexisted here, if often on uneasy terms. Circa 1900, Broome’s 4,000-strong population was approximately 1,000 of European descent to 3,000 of Asian – a percentile known nowhere else on the continent.

When you’re cognizant of these, Broome’s various attractions suddenly gain some depth. Chinatown, which is now the community’s main shopping strand, came to be because that’s where the Chinese were assigned to live.

Australia Japanese

The local Catholic Church was built by Filipinos. The headstones in the Japanese Cemetery mark men who died diving, and the statue of a reaching woman along the Conti foreshore pays tribute to the many indigenous women who suffered through the era of blackbirding.

The Shinju Matsuri photography collection takes you on a journey back in time, depicting different decades in their most festive, colourful spirit.

Pearl Farms

Given the centrality of all things pearling to all things Broome, a visit to one of the area’s still-operating pearl farms is another worthy outing. Pinctada maxima, the world’s biggest type of pearl shell, was discovered in the area in 1861, and within three years, the industry was supplying 75% of the globe’s appetite for it. Business, you might say, was Brooming.

The demise of demand for Pearl shells.

Initially, it was the Mother of Pearl – that is, the pearl’s shell – that was sought after rather than the pearls themselves (which, if discovered, were merely considered a bonus). What changed this was, weirdly and radically, the invention of the plastic button. With folk now able to fasten their clothes with something other than pearl shell, Mother of Pearl became mighty worthless mighty quick.

Double the size compared to Japanese Pearls.

Fortunately for the future of Australia’s pearling industry, a few Broome characters in the game had been toying with ‘culturing’ pearls for a few years. And, in 1960, they hit pay dirt. The pearls produced by the Browns of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm were double the size of those cultivated in Japan; they matured in half the time, and the world wanted them.

Pearl Farm

Seventy years on, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm is still pearling hard. It’s one of only three pearl producers still operating around Broome, and one of the two that’s open to the public. Both Cygnet Bay and Willie Creek Pearl Farm offer tours around their operations.

You can learn about the pearling process, see it in action and buy pearls straight from the source. At Willie Creek, you can also take a scenic helicopter flight, head out on eco cruises in search of whales, turtles, dolphins and dugongs, enjoy some nosh and check out the onsite aquaculture display.

The Buccaneer Archipelago Horizontal Waterfalls.

At Cygnet Bay, you can stay the night in en-suited safari tents, dine at the licenced restaurant, take a Giant Tides Sea Safari or even venture out to Cape Leveque, the Buccaneer Archipelago or Horizontal Waterfalls. If you choose to stay at Diver’s Creek, you can spend the night in a modified original pearling shack, go fishing in tidal creeks and explore sandy beaches and bush tracks. You’ll even get to catch glimpses of birds and find secluded hideaways.

Sun Pictures

Movie Theatre

Unlike Broome’s Historical Museum and pearl farms, the Sun Pictures movie theatre is in central Broome and you don’t need much time to see it. It’s said to be the oldest outdoor theatre in the world, and, although I haven’t been to any others, certainly felt it to me.

The posters inside, which don’t look like they’ve been taken down since they were put up, are all of the movie stars who are heaps dead. The seats are beach chairs, and some of the old projectors look like something from Alien vs Predator.

You can still see movies here every night, all of which will, at some stage, be interrupted by a plane flying overhead to touch down at Broome airport two blocks yonder.

Watch the stary Sky

They have canvas deck chairs with seats. You can choose to sit on the verandah or under the starry Sky. They have a grassy patch in front of the screen if you wish to take a blanket to sit on and enjoy the movie. And, you can buy alcohol from their kiosk.

Apparently, the place used to suffer from tidal flooding and audiences were liable to suddenly find themselves shin-deep in seawater. On such occasions, it was said to be the only cinema in which you could catch a fish while watching a movie.

Matso’s Brewery

Another central Broome attraction that you don’t need long to see – though plenty find cause to think that they do – is Matso’s, the town’s brewery and beer garden. ‘A little bit different’ disclaims their by-line. And they’re not wrong. The Pale Ale, Session Ale and Dark Lager are all conventional enough; the Mango Beer, Hard Berry Beer and Hard Melon Beer are far from.

The Chilli Beer they claim to be ‘probably the hottest in the world’, and I’d not doubt it: the restaurant serves good Indian food and that was the only night I’ve ever role-reversed beer and Indian food to douse a tongue fire.

Whale Watching

Western Australia’s southern coastline

It is notorious for big sharks. Western Australia’s northern coastline is famous for big whales. Broome’s big fish story is its Humpback Whales.

Between July and September, the world’s biggest pod of Humpback Whales – the so-called ‘Group IV population’ – swims its way up to the Kimberley to give birth and nurse their calves.

More than 25000 on the coast.

Sometimes you can spot their spouts of spray from the shore at Entrance Point, but a far more memorable experience is heading out by boat to see them up close. With an estimated 25,000 of these leviathans chugging along the coastline each year (that’s double the number said to be on the East Coast), sightings are guaranteed by many operators on a money-back basis. You’ll also spot snubfin dolphins frolicking about in the salty waters.

On those kinds of terms, why would you not?

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