Broome – Photographers’ Heaven in Western Australia

Broome - Photographers' Heaven Australia

This exploratory trip to the laidback resort town with Alvin Foo (Principal, Canon Imaging Academy) and Cindy Loo (Jetabout Holidays) convinced me that Broome is certainly a photographers’ heaven in Western Australia.

For cityfolks with a penchant for non-touristy, serene and unhurried pace of life or photography enthusiasts looking for spectacular nature, wildlife and landscape or couples planning pre-wedding bridal photography in non-mainstream destination, Broome IS IT ! But sadly, current direct flights are only limited to three annual special chartered SilkAir flights from Changi Airport in June. For flights during normal period, a domestic transfer via Perth is the way to go.

Although just a short 4 days trip, what we have experienced leaves us with no doubt that this lovely town will get more visitors from this part of Asia when more get to know this hidden treasure better. Come join me on my pixels journey to check her out . 

Some Cool Facts on Broome

Credit – Kimberly Cruise Centre
  • The houses in Broome do not have letterboxes. Residents collect their mail from banks of post boxes at five locations around the town.
  • Sun Pictures is the world’s oldest open-air outdoor cinema where you can watch a film on deck chairs under the stars.
  • The world’s largest, finest quality, round pearl was harvested by Cygnet Bay Pearls and it is on display in Broome. The pearl measures 22.24 millimetres.  More than $1million was offered for the gem but they say they will never sell it.
  • Broome Time is a term regularly used by locals to describe the unhurried atmosphere of the town.  Visitors relax, unwind and “slip into Broome Time”.
  • The famed Cable Beach is 22km long and is named after the telegraph cable laid between Broome and Java in 1889.
  • There are no traffic lights in Broome. The junctions are essentially self-governing roundabouts.
  • The Broome region is home to more than 300 species of birds.  That is more than one third of Australia’s total species and includes 50 species of shorebirds which is nearly a quarter of the world’s total.
  • The population of Broome is 16,222 on land size of 55,796 sq.km (excerpts from Tourism North West Tourism)

Day #1

Camel Train @ Cable Beach

Upon arrival on the mid-afternoon flight, we pick up our rental car, a Toyota 4WD Prado from Avis and quickly get to Cable Beach to photograph the famous Camel Train, an activity that places Broome on the international tourism market.

Locals love to drive their 4WDs right onto Cable Beach. But rental cars are prohibited from driving onto the beach.

We were lucky to have a receding low tide that allowed us to capture the Camel Train reflection on the beach, expanding the variety of compositions.

This is one of my favourite angles, with the setting sun at the tail end of the event, with the subjects in silhouette reflected on the mirror-like beach.

This iconic event is a must-do for photographers as it’s the signature of Broome. To ride on the camel, you will have plan to return on a 2nd day which also allows fresh angles and first-person-view from atop the camels.

Lovely nature’s artwork on the beach, changed daily with the tides.

Fusion Cuisine Dinner @ The Aarli

Our dinner spot for the 1st evening at The Aarli . A cosy restaurant that serves imaginative quality fusion-food.

The town has many dining choices and this laid-back casual restaurant is a highly recommended option that will make a nice introduction of what Broome has to offer.

Day #2

Amazing rockscape @ Entrance Point

Day 2 morning saw us making our way to the Entrance Point. The beach at Entrance Point near Broome Port is a popular locals spot for fishing, sunset and exploring the unusual rock formations. 

This shot of the moon with the defocused ladies in the foreground looks like the moon been photoshopped in but is actually due to the usage of 300mm lens which compressed perspective and depth of field. It’s an interesting moment to get such angle with the sun rising at the same time. In Broome, due to its location on the southern hemisphere, the moon looks like super moon.

I just had to make my way up this sandstone structure to add a human element to an otherwise barren landscape. The climb was pretty scary and hazardous, as there are no proper footpath and the edges of the rocks are sharp and pointy at some section.

This beautiful rocky outcrop would be a fabulous backdrop for wedding or fashion photography.

We walked extra “taller” that morning, thanks to the morning sun.

Aussie Breakkie @ The ZooKeeper Store

Our breakfast at the lovely Zookeepers Store, offers a range of gourmet and local produce and fresh house-made delicacies that are perfect jump-starts to the day. While this diner may not offer gorgeous sea-side view, it more than compensate with brisk service and really good food.

The meals served are certainly “instagrammable-grade” with some of the menu items served on boards, with gourmet meats and cheeses or small and large plates based on modern Australian cuisine.

Dinosaur Footprints @ Gantheaume Point

The turquoise Indian Ocean contrasted so beautifully with the red sandstone. The venue was named on 24 July 1801 after Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume, a French Navy officer and Vice-admiral for his role in the Baudin expedition which was a French expedition to map the coast of Australia.

There are outcrops of Broome sandstone, deposited in shallow water in this area in the Early Cretaceous period about 130 million years ago. Footprints from dinosaurs and plant fossils of that time, are preserved in the sandstone. At very low tide, dinosaur footprints can be seen about 30 metres out to sea. Red soil indicates deposits of iron in the area. At Gantheaume Point, and on the surrounding headland, there is some of the richest red soil in the country which locals called “pindan“.

Shot this angle as part of a drone video angle that will be appearing in a video for the trip.

A resident Osprey, also called sea hawk, river hawk or fish hawk, nesting at the lighthouse by the sandstone outcrop. The lighthouse keeper leaves them alone and it has become a ‘landmark’ of sort. 

World’s Oldest Cinema@ Sun Pictures Cinema

The Sun Picture Gardens (also known as Sun Pictures) is the world’s oldest picture gardens that is still in operation. Unlike most outdoor cinemas, it screens multiple films per night.

In 1995, the cinema was added to the State Register of Heritage Places due to its cultural and historical significance. 

Broometime @ Broome Town

Broome’s rich and varied history has created a multicultural vibe that is reflected in the town’s welcoming and laid-back ambience. There is no tall building and the town does not have traffic light as it’s all self-regulating roundabout junctions.

The Chinatown has been the multicultural heart and soul of Broome since the pearling crews set up their first camps and corrugated tin sheds in the 1880s. You can find at least eleven Asian eateries currently.

The Japanese community in Broome was relatively small in the nineteenth century. This statue of a diver pays tribute to the days of Japanese pearl divers in hard-hat. Many died doing this perilous job.

The town has a deep history centered around the workings of the men and women who developed the pearling industry, starting with the harvesting of oysters for mother of pearl in the 1880s to the large present-day cultured pearl farming enterprises.

A newly constructed sheltered rest-point along the town road being spruced up, with interesting shadows when viewed at noon.

A flash of red in the hot fiery afternoon before we settled for lunch. We chose to photograph this bus-stop for its instagrammable feel, ambience and location. As Broome vehicles are generally silver or white, I had to wait patiently for almost 30min for a red car to pass by for punchier colour.

A Walk Down History @ Streeter’s Jetty

This jetty was built in the late 1880s and was used to moor pearling luggers. It was named after Edwin William Streeter, the owner of the adjacent land and operator of the business that used the jetty.

The jetty was thought to have been rebuilt in 1946 and reconstructed in 1966, but deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. Following extensive lobbying in 1998 the Shire of Broome purchased it. It owes its historic significance to pearling luggers who offload their pearl shells and load supplies here. It was still being used as recently as 1991. The huge tides at Broome mean that jetty appears to go nowhere during very low tides and yet it is completely submerged during King (highest) tides. 

The 67.1m jetty ends abruptly with no barrier, so visitors are reminded to be alert. I can imagine those walking and engrossed with their hand-phone falling off this spot.

Awesome Beers and Bites @ Matso Brewery

Matso’s Brewery, located at 60 Hamersley Street is Australia’s most remote microbrewery. It is a cafe, restaurant, microbrewery and bar which is renowned for its unique beers including its famous Mango Cider, Chilli Beer, alcoholic Ginger Beer and Lychee Beer.

Before eating and drinking, its picture first of the photogenic beers taster.

The most delicious chicken drumlets we have tasted in a long time.

The diner’s signature beef burger is splendidly tasty and may discourage you from eating anymore fast food joints version.

Staircase to the Moon @ Town Beach

Town Beach is the gathering point to see the Staircase to the Moon on certain dates throughout the year. The pop-up Town Beach Markets often complement this event and provide an opportunity for visitors to purchase craft items, dinner from the stalls and enjoy the nature’s ‘entertainment’.

The night market is held in-conjunction with the Staircase to The Moon, from March to October, with many ‘street food’ on offer. Otherwise the night market is held in Broome town on Thursdays from June to September.

Visitors on vacation yearning for Oriental food will love the dumplings stall, while a Thai food stall is nearby too.

A multi-talented didgeridoo and guitar artist provided a nice sonic experience to the night market.

A Boab Tree by the carpark. Across the Kimberley, through Kununurra and all the way to Broome, Boabs are a common sight but every Boab tree is unique. Some individual Boab trees can be 1500 years old or older, which makes them the oldest living beings in Australia and puts them among the oldest in the world.

This natural phenomenon is observed between April and October only. It is caused by the rising of a full moon reflecting on the exposed mudflats at extremely low tide, creating a surreal optical illusion of a staircase reaching up to the moon. This pic was edited to show the moon closer to the ocean edge, which was blocked by stratus clouds during our session. Just to show what a “perfect” Staircase to The Moon would be.

The best vantage point to see and shoot the Staircase to the Moon, located at the tip of the outcrop going out to the mudflats.

The town comes alive with the night bazaar and definitely a fun event for foodies to check out the food on offer all in one place.

Day #3

Get to Know Pearl @Willie’s Creek Pearl Farm

Pearling in Western Australia existed well before European settlement. By 1981, there were five pearl farms operational: Kuri Bay, Port Smith, Cygnet Bay, and two in Broome’s Roebuck Bay The industry today includes 19 of Australia’s 20 cultured pearl farms and generates annual exports of A$200M and employs about 1000 people.Willie Creek Pearl farm is one of the key players in the industry.

The pearl farm manager, Stuart, showing us the difference between an AUD10000 and AUD 1000 pearl.

Can you estimate the market price of this treasure freshly extracted from within the pearl oyster? This pearl is worth at least AUD1000.

A piece of white Pearl meat, which is the adductor muscle of the pearl oyster and while it is a highly regarded delicacy it is a by-product of pearl production. Only once the oyster is no longer used for producing pearls is it removed from the farms and sold for the meat and mother of pearl shell. This piece fetches AUD 40-50 on the market. Tastes like scallop which is described as sweet with a hint of salt. 

Beautiful and serene creek, the turquoise colour of the bay is due to the calcium from soil leaching into the water enhancing the green tint.

Look at the dinner plate-sized pearl oysters, growing from a few centimetres to such huge size, which may take between 5 to 20 years. The longer a pearl stays in the shell, the more nacre that forms and the larger the pearl.

The cruise also took us along the creek mangroves that host pretty birds like this Rainbow Honeybee Eaters. This species usually stay the summer in forested areas in most of southern Australia excluding Tasmania. They only migrate north during the winter into northern Australia.

Stuart holding up one the pearl farm signature product. Can you estimate the value of this pearl bracelet ?

Experience Kimberly @ James Price Point

The day’s highlight was the full day tour to many ‘secret spots’ arranged by Jetabout Holidays with a local guide, in his Toyota Land Cruiser, an excellent and wise choice for the unsealed roads of Broome.

Enroute to our next destination, we chanced upon a “train” of Processionary Moth Caterpillars on the red soil unsealed path. This is the time when you especially love the swivel screen of Canon EOS R and RP mirrorless cameras, to capture low angled close-up shots of the hairy caterpillars.

This intriguing sight is the caterpillar phase of the processionary moths. Once the eggs hatch, they begin to feed on the leaves of their first host plant. Once having devoured every last leaf, they trail off in single-file to their next meal. Head to toe in a straight line, these caterpillars follow a silken thread laid by their leader.

Don showing us a freshly plucked flower that looks like a hummingbird – the Crotalaria cunninghamii, also known as greenbirdflower or regal birdflower, is a plant of the legume family Fabaceae. It is native to, and widespread in, inland northern Australia

We simply love the textured beach ‘art’ created by the sea during low tides.

It was an amazing feeling to know this is a dinosaur footprint.

James Price Point was the proposed location for the cancelled Browse LNG project. A 2016 study of the footprints by the University of Queensland confirmed they are the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world and contain the world’s largest single print. Indications of 21 separate dinosaur species from the Cretaceous period have been identified.

A resident Osprey returning to its nest at the rock cliff. Ospreys are essentially sedentary, though they will range more freely in non-breeding periods and frequently faithful to a nest site, using the nest for many years..

These picture-perfect Kimberley scenery red cliffs venue are a favourite spot for locals looking for a quick break. Only 50km north of Broome, it’s the perfect place for a day out or even a short camping trip.

Our last stop for the day, with a picnic by the Indian Ocean. We had the beach all to ourselves with the next car, perhaps many kilometres away.

Don preparing our beach-side picnic, with the sun, sand and sea accompanying us.

Alvin shooting a disused observation stand used in the past to count migratory whales along the coast.

The sunset hues were stunning, so was the icy-cold beer and snacks.

Our last view of the day before the sun retires for the day.

A spot of Milky Way photography prior returning to town, just an hour drive away. We were lucky to have a shooting star to grace the picture.

Dinner by the sea @ Zander

Dinner venue for the day, very nice casual dining venue by the sea.

Four types of meats here – Chicken, Beef, Crocodile and Kangaroo. I think I like the usual better.

Authentic Indian cuisine served here, with the spices and spiciness done just right and not “localised”.

Day #4

Breakkie @ Cable Beach Cafe

The cosy Town Beach Cafe is the one best place to wake up the stomach in the morning, with a unblocked view of Town Beach, which we saw the Staircase to the Moon just the night before.

Certainly beats any fast food joints food, with healthier ingredients and toppings.

Gorgeous Seascape @ Roebuck Bay

One of the most photogenic and unique seascapes I have seen anywhere in Australia, which the rocky area that holds many dinosaur foot prints.

A drone overhead aerial shot to bring out the graphic pattern and hues of the creek. Drone pilots will love the freedom of airspace here.

The rocky outcrop that holds many huge dinosaurs foot imprints. Can you spot them?

Feathery Time @ Broome Bird Observatory

At the Broome Bird Observatory lookout point. The observatory hosts researchers from around the globe with a strong focus on Roebuck Bay and the East Asian Australasian Flyway

A flock of Black Necked Stilts or Bubble Gum Pink legs doing a flypast for us.

Broome region is home to more than 330 species of birds. This is more than one third of Australia’s total species and includes 55 species of shorebirds, which is nearly a quarter of the world’s total. 

Broome is certainly a birds enthusiast paradise. The rich and unspoiled habitats of the region encourage large numbers of most species.

The area is also well known for the number of scarce migrants and vagrants that periodically arrive here from the Northern Hemisphere. Many birds occur across the region on a seasonal basis.

Conclusion

This visit to Broome filled the “gap” of my visits to the key regions including Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. And what a stunning ‘gap” Broome certainly was, with her unique personality and laid-back beauty. I thought I have seen much of Australia thus far only to be reminded by Broome that I am still in the process of “UnDiscovering” and rediscovering her.

I truly believe that given time and with more frequent direct flights connecting Broome to the rest of Asia, she will certainly become the ‘Pearl of Australia” in more ways than one.

Many sincere thanks for coming along my pixels journey.  Should any readers be keen to go on a similar self-drive trip in the future, please feel free to drop me a message or check out Jetabout Holidays package HERE! For my other Australian adventures, you can check it out here.

Footnote: All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays and all rights reserved. The opinion expressed is factual, objective and that of the author.