For most Australians, Broome conjures up images of camels sashaying across the fine golden sands of Cable Beach as the sun drops like a bright copper coin into the turquoise Indian Ocean. Broome is certainly synonymous with beach camel rides at sunset, but it is also much, much more than that.
Built on a thriving pearl industry, Broome had a large number of Aboriginal residents and the town later also attracted migrants from Asia, particularly the Chinese and Japanese, the latter who were skilled divers. Today, the town is a melting pot of cultures and its many interesting sites tell fascinating tales of the diverse peoples who settled here over the last two centuries.
Broome is also gateway to Western Australia’s rugged and remote Kimberley region, an ancient landscape of sunburnt red soils, burnished sandstone cliffs, and mighty bronze rivers. Exceeding 400,000 square kilometres, the Kimberley is dotted with strange boab trees, lonely homesteads, and a huge number of interesting geological features including the striped domes of the Bungle Bungles.
While some sights in this town lend themselves to explorations on foot, you’ll be grateful that you organised Broome car hire once the day starts to heat up. It’s also worth noting that most hotels and resorts are located around Cable Beach, so it’s very handy to have a Broome car rental for attractions such as Chinatown and out-of-the-way pearl farms. Broome 4WD hire isn’t necessary at all, unless you’re planning to drive along unsealed tracks such as the legendary Gibb River Road or head down the coast via remote settlements such Karratha and Exmouth on an epic road trip to Perth.
Learn what you need to know to make the most of your travels to Broome. We share our favourite places to eat, the best places to stay, and the attractions you simply cannot afford to miss – with a car rental in Broome there is no limit to what you can get out of your trip.
Macpherson Road, Broome WA 6725
Telephone: +61 8 9194 0600
Broome Airport is located approximately 1km north of Broome
No. of Terminals: 1
Timezone: GMT/UTC +08:00
Award-winning Broome Airport (BME) is the most common entry point for visitors, and it’s practically walking distance to the middle of Broome. In fact, planes land so close to town that you might find commercial jets gliding in just a few hundred metres overhead.
The terminal receives regular direct Qantas and Virgin Australia flights from Perth and Darwin, with AirNorth also operating services between Broome and Kununurra. During peak travel months, there are usually direct flights from Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane; however, these tend to sell out fast so book early.
Given the small size of the terminal, the service desks for car hire at Broome Airport should be easy to find – all of Australia’s most trusted Broome car rental brands are represented here including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty.
Broome is around 1,800km from Darwin and 2,300km from Perth. To put things in perspective, a 30-minute drive out of Perth would take you to the rather genteel regional hub of Joondalup – yet half an hour out of Broome, you’d literally be out in the bush! Whilst isolated, the town nevertheless is well set up for travellers, with a wide selection of accommodation ranging from backpackers and basic tourist hotels to luxury beach resorts. These are some of our top places to stay, based on facilities, ambience, and location.
The brainchild of English politician and construction magnate, Lord Alistair McAlpine, Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa opened its doors in 1988. Brimming with priceless art and artefacts from McAlpine’s travels including a seven-tonne sitting Buddha carved from crystal and original works by Sidney Nolan, this luxurious colonial-style resort is the closest property to the celebrated sands of Cable Beach.
Minutes from Cable Beach, Broome’s newest 5-star resort is a literal oasis, with trickling water features, a massive swimming pool and a peaceful ‘Meditative Garden’. Tropical-chic public spaces and guestrooms have high-ceilings and are as open as possible to the outdoors to take advantage of natural airflow. Kimberley Sands Resort and Spa is as fancy as you’ll get in Broome, so pack your prettiest kaftans or smartest linen shirts.
You might forget you’re in Australia the moment you set foot in this Balinese-style resort about three clicks from Cable Beach. Set in frangipani and boab-studded gardens, Bali Hai Resort and Spa guest villas feature thatched roofs, outdoor showers, and private courtyards. A spa treatment here will have you floating away to the tranquil emerald rice terraces and monkey-filled forests of Ubud – therapies are inspired by traditional Balinese methods and utilise exotic natural ingredients such as mother-of-pearl shell and coconut.
Western Australian owned and operated, Blue Seas Resort welcomes guests as family. A stone’s throw from Cable Beach, this unpretentious resort offers spacious, self-contained apartments where you can stretch out with the kids, throw together a snack in the kitchen and sit out on the veranda which overlooks the pool.
Completely unique, the Ramada Eco Beach Resort is nestled in coastal bushland 130km south of Broome. Lying at the end of a dirt road passing through red-soil country known as ‘pindan’, this resort makes you feel like you’ve left the modern world behind. Choose from standalone villas tucked amongst scrub-covered dunes and luxe safari-style tented suites all linked to the main lodge by elevated timber boardwalks. Whichever option you choose, you’re assured of an authentic wilderness experience leaving behind little more than footprints in the sand.
If you’ve just arrived and want to dive straight into Broome’s fascinating history, head straight for Chinatown, the town’s main shopping district. This area has an eclectic mix of colonial and Asian architectural styles reflecting Broome’s multicultural origins.
Walk down Johnny Chi Lane and read the wall-hung placards that feature stories about Broome’s early years. In the dry season, market stalls set up here every Sunday. However, even on non-market days, there are plenty of interesting little souvenir shops and quality pearl showrooms that will keep you occupied. There is also an excellent collection of indigenous art to peruse in the outstanding Short Street Gallery a few minutes’ stroll away.
On Dampier Terrace, don’t miss the Pearl Luggers, where you can tour vessels once used in the pearling industry, watch rare archival footage of deep sea divers at work and even taste pearl meat, a local delicacy which retails for something like $120 per kilo.
A short walk from Chinatown is the Broome Courthouse, site of a large, vibrant market where you can pick up everything from handmade candles and tie-dyed sarongs to barbecued chicken wings. The building itself is worth a look for its distinctive architecture. Originally built as the official cable house for telegraphists, it was later converted into a courthouse when communication traffic began bypassing Broome for Perth.
Close to pretty Town Beach is The Broome Heritage Centre, housed in the Old Convent, featuring a beautifully curated collection of old photographs, short films, storyboards and heritage items that tell the story of the town, the Aboriginal and European pioneers who built it.
If you happen to be at Town Beach at very low tide, you can see the Flying Boat Wreck, tragically shot down in March 1942 during the Japanese air raid of Broome, which was responsible for many civilian casualties. This beach is also a fantastic place to see the “Staircase to the Moon” natural phenomenon, which occurs when the full moon rises over the mud flats of Roebuck Bay creating the illusion of “steps”.
Along Port Drive, which runs between Broome and Cable Beach, is the immaculately maintained Japanese and Chinese Cemetery – largest of its kind in Australia. A little solemn, but the hundreds of colourful headstones do impart a real sense of what divers were prepared to sacrifice for a handful of lustrous treasures from the sea.
In the evening, join the exodus as locals and visitors alike flock to the coast to watch the famous Broome sunset. 22km-long Cable Beach is the vantage point of choice for most, from a comfortable spot on the warm sands or on a camel’s back. Another popular place to see this daily spectacle is Gantheaume Point around 6km south. This photogenic red cliff has an old lighthouse and is home to dinosaur footprints thought to be 130 million years old that you can view when the tide goes out.
After dark, head over to the oldest operating outdoor cinema in the world – Sun Pictures – to catch a movie under the stars. Take a blanket with you and mosquito repellent. You should also be prepared to experience planes approaching quite closely above the trees as this charming cinema sits in the flight path of jets landing at Broome Airport.
While the pearl boom may have ended, Broome is still one of the world’s premier pearl producers, having perfected the process of culturing these priceless orbs. For a deeper understanding of the modern pearl industry, jump in your Broome hire car and head straight to the highly awarded Willie Creek Pearl Farm, approximately 40 minutes’ north of Broome. Learn about the process of seeding, view oyster panels in their natural environment and be taught how to care for pearls. You can also take in the wonderful scenery of Willie Creek on a cruise or from a helicopter.
For close encounters with native wildlife, visit the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park and Animal Refuge about 15 minutes’ out of town. Entry to this wonderful facility is via a giant fibreglass saltwater croc’s head – interesting to say the least! Feeding time is very popular, whilst there are plenty of other creatures such as wallabies, kangaroos, emus and dingoes to observe in this sanctuary.
If you just want to see what’s out there beyond Broome, the closest settlement resembling a town is Derby 200km away. The self-proclaimed “Home of the Boab Tree”, Derby is where you’ll find the storied Boab Prison Tree. It also has the highest tides of any port, with the wharf being the prime place to soak up sunset. Derby is also full of interesting historic sites from an old gaol to a School of The Air. This facility is one of five operating in Western Australia – the other four are scattered throughout this vast state in places as far away as Kalgoorlie – and offers an insight into how children in remote communities receive an education.
For a town so small and so far from anywhere, Broome’s dining scene punches way above its weight. Of course, it also has the benefit of supremely fresh seafood, tropical fruit, and a richly multicultural populace.
On Carnarvon Street in Chinatown, the Green Mango Café plates up hearty breakfasts with great vegetarian options including roasted mushroom on sourdough and smashed pea bruschetta. Coffees are strong and full-bodied, while 30 delicious gelato flavours including a crowd-pleasing creamy caramel espresso crunch are made on site - what more could you want?
Also on Carnarvon Street in the heart of town, Dragonfly Café offers freshly squeezed juices, healthy smoothies and delicious meals, all served with tall jugs of cold water. Sit outside to watch planes take off and land at Broome airport barely a block away.
Azuki Japanese Fusion on Napier Terrace in Chinatown has been going strong for years, with sushi, sashimi and other Japanese classics on the menu as well as a range of exciting fusion items such as tom yum soup with tempura prawns and red reef fish with soba and chilli. If you can’t find a seat at this tiny eatery, get a takeaway platter.
This atmospheric family-run restaurant and brewery on Hamersley Street offers tours, tastings as well as three generous pub-style meals a day with an airy veranda to sip a frosty mango or ginger beer under. Matso’s most popular brews are already distributed Australia-wide - why not try some of the newest flavours and tell the staff which ones you’d love to see bottled next?
The place to go for gourmet deli platters, fresh baked pastries and generous modern Australian fare with small batch coffees and homemade iced tea to boot! On Challenor Drive conveniently close to Cable Beach, The Zookeepers Store is the best place to fill up your picnic hamper before heading off to watch the sunset.
If you aren’t staying at the exquisite Kimberley Sands Resort & Spa, come see what the fuss is all about with a meal at The Deck Poolside Bar & Restaurant. Set by the gorgeous pool, this contemporary restaurant showcases the finest quality produce available in the Kimberley. Expect pearl meat, fresh prawns, prime beef and lots of mouth-watering salads.
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