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Broome

Thursday, March 26, 2009
Dermott Brereton visited the isolated outback town of Broome in Western Australia. It's a wonderfully exciting place, reflecting the influences of the many cultures that helped build the town. Founded as a pearling port more than a hundred years ago, many nationalities were lured there by the promise of finding their fortunes. Koepangers, Chinese, Filipinos, Amborese, Makassans, Europeans and Indigenous Australians all left an indelible mark on what Broome is today.

It's remoteness makes it a place that stirs up a lot of curiosity, and until the mid-1980s Broome was accessible only by dirt road. Easy flight access into the area was only recently set up. Despite all of that, or maybe because of all that, it reflects influences of many cultures and is now Australia's fastest growing town and its multicultural vibe is evident in the 58 languages spoken in the shire.

On a narrow peninsula between the Indian Ocean and Roebuck Bay, Broome is a visually stunning town. The red desert dirt and cliffs provide a great contrast to the blue waters and white sandy beaches.

Often referred to as "the gateway to the Kimberley", Broome has a resident population of almost 15,000 and in the peak tourist season between June and August, the number swells to more than 45,000 a month.

Pearling

Broome was established as a pearling port in 1880 and people from many Asian countries headed there in the hope of making their fortunes. Once the port was chock full of pearling luggers and the industry remains a vital part of Broome. Some of the world's finest and most coveted pearls are produced there. Not just magnificent pearls, but the area also produces the rare pink Argyle diamond.

Cable Beach

With 22km of pristine white sand and the warm, clear waters of the Indian Ocean, Cable Beach is a favourite with locals and tourists. Sunsets are spectacular and each day a 10m tide washes the beach, sometimes exposing the remains of flying boats sunk in World War II.

Cable Beach Club Resort

Broome's most well-known resort offers five-star everything and is just five minutes from the town's centre. Twenty years ago it opened with a collection of Broome-style bungalows, and has grown to 263 rooms, three restaurants and two pools. The area's early architectural style has been adhered to and corrugated iron walls and large timber beams give great ambience.

It was all the vision of British entrepreneur Lord Alistair McAlpine and what vision he had! A patron of the arts, Lord McAlpine left behind a legacy of artist-themed suites, artworks, statues and sculptures throughout the resort inside and out.

There are restaurants for all budgets and occasions and there are two lagoon pools. One is for adults only ensuring a quiet and relaxing day. The family pool has a waterfall and spa and there is a playground nearby.

Matso's Broome Brewery

What a place! At Matso's award-winning microbrewery you can enjoy tasting their 10 signature beers (including ginger, mango and chilli beer), feast on a great meal and stay the night. Sipping a cold brew in the courtyard you have uninterrupted views over Roebuck Bay and knowledgeable staff who can tell you all about your brew.

There is quite a history behind Matso's. Its 1900 building was the Union Bank of Australia in Sheba Lane, notorious as the red-light district of Chinatown while also the centre of the Japanese community. Other buildings were opium dens and mahjong palaces. A 1940s arson attack devastated Sheba Lane and while few buildings remained, Matso's Store remained unharmed. It has also survived cyclones and world wars.

Outdoor cinema

If you fancy seeing one of the latest movies or maybe an old favourite, a visit to Sun Pictures Outdoor Cinema is a novel outing. It opened in 1916 making it the world's oldest outdoor theatre. It has National Trust Heritage listing and is a Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest open-air cinema in operation.

A horse-drawn tramway ran between the Town Beach jetty and Chinatown carried people from kilometres around, so launching the silent movie era for Broome. If you would prefer to be entertained in air-conditioning, they also have an indoor cinema.

Land of the Pharaohs

For the taste of Egypt, Romani and Inge Tadros run the first and only kebab/souvlaki restaurant in northern Western Australia. Quite apart from making the most delicious Middle Eastern food, it has very interesting decor. Romani made the furniture from recycled timber and there are Egyptian artefacts, wall-hangings and pictures on large canvases made by Inge. They're for sale. So pop in for an authentic Egyptian meal or one of their special coffees.

Cultural tour

Micklo Corpus is a cultural advisor for the Kimberley Land Council. He knows the area inside out and will take you to a time when his people were the only inhabitants in the area, right up to day's goings on and everything in between.

Location

Broome on Western Australia's north coast, 2500km north of Perth.

Cost

Matso's Broome Brewery is open from 7am until late every day. Tours can be booked through Australian Pinnacle Tours and Kimberley Wild Tours.

Land of the Pharaohs is open from 10am to 8.30pm between Monday to Saturday. In holiday season it is open between 11am and 3pm.

Sun Pictures entry is $16 for adults and $10.50 for children. It is open every night except December 25.

Cable Beach Club Resort garden view studios start at $319 a night. Return Broome airport transfers and buffet breakfast are included. There is a minimum four-night stay and this rate is available between April 1 and May 31, 2009.

Prices correct at March 26, 2009.

For further information

Cable Beach Club Resort
Cable Beach Road
Broome 6725
Ph: (08) 9192 0400
Fax: (08) 9192 2249
www.cablebeachclub.com
info@cablebeachclub.com

Matso's Broome Brewery
60 Hamersley Street
Broome 6725
Ph: (08) 9193 5811
Fax: (08) 9192 1995
www.matsos.com.au
eat@matsosbroomebrewery.com.au

Sun Pictures Outdoor Cinema
Carnarvon Street
Broome 6725
Ph: (08) 9192 1077
Fax: (08) 9192 1947
www.sunpictures.com.au
ross@sunpictures.com.au

Land of the Pharaohs
Paspaley Plaza
Carnarvon Street
Broome 6725
Ph: (08) 9192 6469
pharaohs@westnet.com.au

Michael Corpus
Kimberley Land Council
Cultural Advisor
Mob: 0488 188 525

Check out our new celebrity Getaway blog

Check out ninemsn Travel's Insider's Guide to Broome and the Kimberley

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