When you arrive, head to Chinatown, in the town center on Carnarvon Street and Dampier Terrace, to get a feel for the town. The wide streets, the tropical-style buildings with their broad verandas and Chinese influences, the corrugated iron frontages, and the Sun Pictures outdoor cinema are typical Broome. The main shops and cafes are here, with every corner featuring a pearl shop, which reflects the growth of both the pearling and the tourist industries.
Probably the most popular pastime is lazing on the 22km (14 miles) of glorious, white sandy Cable Beach. The beach is 6km (3 3/4 miles) out of town; the bus runs there regularly. In the Wet, about November through April or May, the water is off-limits due to nasty marine stingers. Crocodiles, on the other hand, seem not to like surf, so you should be safe swimming here. Go to the beach for at least one of the magnificent sunsets, when the sun sinks into the sea behind the romantic outlines of a pearling lugger, while strings of camels sway along the edge of the water. The sand is very firm so don't be surprised to find you're sharing the sunset with dozens of four-wheel-drives -- and their owners, who have set up tables and chairs for drinks (this is Broome after all).
A novel way to experience the beach is on a camel ride. Several outfits offer rides, with sunset the most popular time. A 1-hour sunset ride with Red Sun Camels (tel. 08/9193 7423; www.redsuncamels.com.au) costs A$60 adults (maximum 100kg/220 lbs.), A$40 children 6 to16, and A$10 kids under 6 (they must sit in an adult's lap).
Don't miss the Pearl Luggers exhibition at 31 Dampier Terrace (tel. 08/9192 0000; www.pearlluggers.com.au). A 1-hour tour includes a look over two beautifully restored Broome pearling luggers, a browse through a small pearling museum, a riveting talk about pearl diving and its history, and a taste of pearl shell meat. Admission is A$20 adults, A$16.50 students, A$10 children under 16. Tours run daily except Sundays Nov-March.
A dinosaur footprint 120 million years old is on show at very low tide on the cliff at Gantheaume Point, 6km (3 3/4 miles) from town, and there's a plaster cast of it higher up so you can see it anytime. Bring your camera to snap the point's breathtaking palette of glowing scarlet cliffs, white beach, and jade-turquoise water.
You should also take a walk through the haunting Japanese pearl divers' cemetery on Port Drive. Entry is free.
During a tour of the Willie Creek Pearl Farm, 38km (24 miles) north of Broome (tel. 08/9192 0000; www.williecreekpearls.com.au), you will learn about pearl farming, and discover what to look for when buying a pearl. The tour includes a cruise along Willie Creek and morning or afternoon tea. Tides can limit access to the farm (four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended), so it could be wise to take a coach tour, which costs A$90 adults, A$45 children 6 to 16, and A$225 families of four, including pickup and drop-off at your hotel. Self-drive prices are A$50 adults, A$25 children 6 to 16, and A$125 for families. Bookings are essential. Willie Creek has won WA tourism awards from 2006 to 2010. Tours run daily except Saturdays October to March
The famous Broome Crocodile Park seems likely to close late 2011, but its reptiles will be relocated to the superb Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park, 16km (10 miles) out of town on the Highway (tel. 08/9193 6580; www.malcolmdouglas.com.au). This has 30 hectares (74 acres) of billabongs, bush, and enclosures featuring an array of Australia's wildlife. Two huge billabongs hold about 200 crocs, there are beautiful dingoes, and the most "macho" big red 'roo that you're ever likely to see lives here. It's open April to November, 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 2 to 5pm weekends, with croc feeding tours at 3pm; December to March 3:30 to 5:30pm, with croc feeding at 4pm; Prices are A$35 adults, A$20 children 5 to 15, or A$90 families.
Several art galleries sell vivid oil and watercolor Kimberley landscapes and a range of Aboriginal art. Monsoon Gallery (tel. 08/9193 5379), in a historic pearling master's house at 48 Carnarvon St., stocks a large range of European and Aboriginal paintings, sculpture, pottery, carvings, and books, and has regular exhibitions by noted artists. Matso's, next door, has a lovely veranda cafe and a boutique brewery that turns out unusual recipes, such as alcoholic ginger beer. The brewery displays many of the Monsoon pictures. The gallery is open daily 10am to 5pm May to October (shorter hours out of season), while the cafe is open 7am to late.
On Saturdays from 8am to 1pm, browse the town markets in the gardens of the colonial courthouse at the corner of Frederick and Hamersley streets. It used to be the official station for the telegraph cable from Broome to Java (thus Cable Beach).
A number of boats, including a restored pearling lugger, run sunset cruises off Cable Beach. Fishing for trevally, barracuda, barramundi, queenfish, tuna, shark, sailfish, marlin, salmon (in the May-Aug run), and reef fish is excellent around Broome; fly- and sport-fishing are also worth a go. Rent tackle and try your luck from the deepwater jetty beyond Town Beach 2km (1 1/4 miles) south of town, or join one of several charter boats, such as Sentosa Charters (tel. 08/9192 8163; www.sentosacharters.com), for a day, or longer, trip. Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises runs live-aboard fishing safaris up the coast. Cyclones, rain, and strong tides restrict fishing from December to April. Whale-watching has recently become a major attraction, with dozens of migrating humpbacks passing through from May to October. Sentosa Charters runs 3-hour cruises.
More than a third of Australia's bird species live in the Kimberley, and Roebuck Bay has the greatest diversity of shorebird species anywhere, with over 800,000 birds visiting every year. The Broome Bird Observatory research station, 25km (16 miles) out of town on Roebuck Bay (tel. 08/9193 5600; www.broomebirdobservatory.com), monitors the thousands of migratory wetlands birds that gather here from Siberia. Entry is by donation (A$5 suggested), while a 2-hour tour costs A$70 if you drive yourself or A$115 with pick up from Broome. Tour timings depend on the tides; check the excellent website. The all-day Lakes Tour is A$150 per person, or A$190 from Broome. Children 8 to 12 are half-price, and under 8 go free (except on the Lakes Tour). There are basic accommodations and camping facilities at the observatory.
Australia's "first family of pearling," the Paspaleys, sell their wonderfully elegant jewelry at Paspaley Pearls, Carnarvon Street at Short Street (tel. 08/9192 2203). Linneys (tel. 08/9192 2430) is another reputable jeweler nearby.
Don't leave without taking in a movie at the Heritage-listed Sun Pictures outdoor cinema, 8 Carnarvon St. (tel. 08/9192 1077; www.sunpictures.com.au). Built in 1916, these are the oldest "picture gardens" in the world. The occasionally vocal audience sits in canvas deck chairs, and the show may be disrupted by the evening flight roaring just overhead. Tickets are A$16.50 adults, A$11.50 children, A$50 families (two adults and two kids). It's open nightly except December 25 -- even through the Wet.
Staircase to the Moon
On the happy coincidence of a full moon and low tide (which happens on about 3 consecutive nights a month Mar-Oct), nature treats the town to a show. The light of the rising moon falls on the remnant channels between the exposed mudflats in Roebuck Bay, with the reflections creating a "staircase to the moon." The best places to see it are from the cliff-top gardens at the Mangrove Resort Hotel or the food and crafts markets at Town Beach. Live music plays at the Mangrove most staircase nights, including a didgeridoo player to accompany the rising moon.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.