Growing up in Port Hedland, I always took Broome for granted. It was every Pilbarian’s (is that a word?) weekend getaway destination, and we always thought of it as just another small town to visit, albeit with better beaches and a pretty good ice-cream shop.
When Broome exploded on the tourism scene I thought it quite funny that everyone suddenly went gaga for what has always been to me another North West town ‘down the road’ (six hours drive from Port Hedland, but in the North West, nothing is too far away).
I recently visited Broome during the Easter long weekend, having not being back for a couple years and also wanting to visit one of my dearest friends who I also hadn’t seen in two years!
If you’re planning on visiting Broome and wanting a unique experience, here’s my top recommendations for 24 hours in Broome:
0600: Welcome a new day
There’s nothing more refreshing than a walk on the beach, and Cable Beach is one of the best beaches in the world. Start the day fresh and beat the crowds, taking a moment to meditate and simply live in the moment.
0700: Coffee at the Good Cartel
While it is instinctive to head to Zanders for breakfast (it is located on Cable Beach after all), I suggest going into town and grabbing your coffee from The Good Cartel. This is a funky little cafe located in the back of a carpark behind the Broome Cinema so can be a bit hard to find. But it is brightly painted with some gorgeous street art so you know what to look for. The coffee is fabulous, as are the almond croissants which my absolute Achilles Heel.
0800: Get dressed
After working up a sweat, it’s time to freshen up and get ready for a day of exploring! It’s eternal summer in Broome so dress comfortably and in cool clothing. Bring a hat, bottle of water and sunscreen, especially if you’re travelling there between the months of November and April.
0900: Explore Chinatown
Chinatown is one of the main icons of Broome and provides an insight into Broome’s past. For those not familiar with Broome’s history, the town was and still is famous for its pearling industry. When the industry started many Asians, mainly the Chinese emigrated to Broome to become pearl divers and they formed an important part of Broome’s culture, which is still evident today in the area of Chinatown.
It’s not like a Chinatown you’d expect in major cities, in fact it’s like any other normal main street in a small town. It has cafes, boutique shops, hairdressing salons and even a supermarket and bottle shop. Regardless, it’s a nice place to wander and get lost in its alleyways. I’d recommend booking a massage with Thai Touch – Massage Utopia for later in the day – they have a team of trained masseuses and it is one of the best massages I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot!
1030: Breakfast at The Zookeepers Store
This establishment is hipster to the core. It draws a crowd each day and is popular with locals so you know it’s good. The customer service is warm and friendly, and the coffees will really hit the spot. The menu changes with the season but is always fresh and relevant. And like it’s namesake, it’s also a store that sells a small but delicious selection of European-sourced groceries.
1130: Gantheaume Point
This is one of my favourite spots in Broome, mainly because of the magic in the air. Gantheaume Point is a ten minute drive from Cable Beach and is well-known for its dinosaur footprints which are easily visible during low tide. However if you have pretty good vision, you should be able to spot faint traces in the bright afternoon light.
There’s also Anastasia’s Pool, which I don’t know is still there or not, which was built by the lighthouse keeper for his wife who suffered from arthritis I think it was, and the natural spring provided relief for her aching joints. I thought it was beyond utterly romantic and the story still charms me to this day.
Gantheaume Point is also a beach and is a great spot to go to when you want to escape the tourists. The sunset isn’t quite as beautiful from here though so I wouldn’t recommend going here for that perfect Instagram shot.
1230: Lunch at Matso’s Brewery
No trip to Broome is complete without a visit to Matso’s Brewery, and sampling the local brew which the town is famous for. The place also serves a pretty good lunch including curry, with Roebuck Bay as your backdrop. It can get crowded with tourists, so if that’s not your thing you can head later in the day when it’s a bit quieter but the menu is not as extensive.
1400: Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park
The northern tip of Australia is infamous for its abundance of crocodiles and Broome is no different, with crocodile sightings on Cable Beach a common affair during summer. You can get up close and personal with them without risk to your life at this conservatory park set up by Malcolm Douglas and which has served as a tourist attraction for many, many years. I’ve visited this park on numerous occasions and I’m yet to be disappointed by the experience. My favourite part is holding baby crocs – totes adorbs! It opens at 2pm and the feeding tour runs at 3pm – no, you don’t get to feed the crocs unfortunately, but you will get treated to a feeding time show which is enough to send chills up your spine.
1600: Lazy Broome afternoons
If you’re visiting during summer, you’re probably feeling a bit pooped and I don’t blame you! Head back to your hotel and have a swim in the pool to cool off, or have a power nap. The sun doesn’t set till quite late in the day so you have some time to chill and enjoy the slow and easy vibe that makes Broome special.
If you’re visiting during winter, I would recommend heading back to your hotel to freshen up and either head to the supermarket and pick up some snacks for a picnic, or you can go straight to Zanders to nab yourself a good spot to view the sunset. No matter what you do, the sunset is best at Cable Beach and it’s worth getting there early.
Another option is to book a sunset camel ride which is a fun way to enjoy the sunset and Cable Beach, and make some new friends in the process! They are fairly pricey (approximately $90), it’s well worth it if this is going to be your only trip to Broome. If you find this too tacky, then by all means give it a miss.
1830: Dinner at The Aarli Bar
This popular hangout serves an Asian-inspired menu that is enough to rival any classy restaurant. From the outside it looks like a casual cafe/restaurant, but this little gem is anything but. There’s a wide selection of choices and I settled for chilli mussels, which were amazing! The service here isn’t too bad for Broome standards, and I like the fact that it is outdoors, especially when the weather is just right – eating under the stars is always a special experience. The desserts are to die for, you can’t leave without trying their creme brulee and black sesame ice-cream, divine!
2030: Sun Picture Garden, Chinatown
Broome’s famed outdoor cinema is an experience you shouldn’t miss. They have a selection of indie and blockbuster movies, but you don’t come here for that. You come here to experience history (this is the world’s oldest outdoor cinema!!) and squeal with delight should a plane fly over your head and I mean literally right over your head. Because the airport is located nearby, the planes fly low in anticipation for landing. It’s a strange feeling to look up and see a plane so close to you, but one you’ll be raving to your friends about when you get home.
2230: The Roey
A stone throw’s away from the cinema is The Roey, formally known as the Roebuck Bay Hotel but always affectionately referred to as The Roey. I guess you’d call it a dive bar, but it’s an institution in Broome. It’s infamous for its wet t-shirt competitions, but they also have hosted some great live acts, including The Waifs who were performing when I was there last. According to its website, it was built in 1890 to ‘…entertain the pearling crews and many of the pioneering workers’, which gives you an insight into what to expect. But in saying that, it’s a much-loved spot and a great place to meet locals and find out more about the town.
Other places to check out:
Broome Courthouse Markets: held every weekend from 8am to 1pm at the Broome Courthouse grounds, this is such a fun market to go to. Most, if not all the stallholders are regulars and there’s a great mix of food, homewares, jewelry, souvenirs and live music. It has such a great vibe and is frequented by an equal mix of visitors and locals. This is a must-do on your visit to Broome.
18 Degrees: No, that’s not a weather prediction. This cosy yet busy bar is the perfect after-dinner hangout, serving classic and modern cocktails, with tapas if you’re still hungry. There’s a small indoor area, but I think it’s best to sit outside, even in summer. It’s along Roebuck Bay and there’s nothing more seductive than a fresh salty breeze especially in Broome’s humid climate. It’s pretty pricey here so only come if you’re prepared to splash some cash.
Willie Creek Pearl Farm Tour: this is great if you have an interest in the pearling industry, or if you just like pearls really. You can drive there yourself (only 4WD recommended) or you can choose a shuttle bus, or if you’re feeling like you need to make an entrance, take a helicopter ride! I did this tour when I was younger so I’m not sure if it’s changed much since then, though I can’t imagine it has. It is on the pricier side ($105 per adult for a coach tour) so only do this if you really want to.
Ramada Eco Beach: a fave with celebrities, tourists and locals this is the most gorgeous hidden getaway. It doesn’t even feel like you’re in the Kimberley anymore! They do specials quite frequently especially in the low season so keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for deals. If you are in Broome for a longer period of time, I highly recommend booking a night or two here. It can get pricey once you factor in meals and extracurricular activities, so this is more for the high-budget travellers.
Dragonfly Cafe: this little cafe has featured on a number of TV shows and deservedly so. It produces good fare and at affordable prices, while giving you a great spot to people watch in Chinatown.
Divers Tavern: another great dive bar located on Cable Beach. It’s also popular with the locals and features some really great live music, with appearances by the Pigram Brothers and on the weekend I was last there, they had a blues band from the US. This is a place to go if you’re with friends who also like dive bards and love to have a boogie on the dancefloor.
Getting there: You can drive to Broome if you’re already located in the North-West. From Port Hedland it’s a six hour drive, which sounds torturous but there’s well-spaced rest stops so it never feels like you’re driving a great stretch. Otherwise, you can fly to Broome direct from Perth and Darwin.
Accommodation: like all tourist towns, accommodation is dirt cheap during the low season and extortionate during peak. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a gem. If you’re like me, and view accommodation simply as a place to sleep and shower then there are plenty of affordable hotels outside of the Cable Beach area. But if you want to stay near the beach, be prepared to shell out the dollars. There’s not much in the way of Airbnb but if you’re in luck, you may find a steal.
Getting around: There is a bus service available (Broome Town Bus), but other than that you’ll need a car. If you plan on just staying around Cable Beach, you’ll be fine on foot or bike, but if you want to explore all that Broome has to offer, invest in a car.