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This subtropical town 2356 km north of Perth has a fascinating history, and a cosmopolitan feel which originates from its early pearling days. Although pearling still plays an important role in Broome's economy, the town is now one of Western Australia's most popular tourist destinations, with the beautiful Cable Beach a major drawcard. Broome's population is more than 11,150.

Aboriginal people lived along this coast for thousands of years, and the Malays and Macassans sailed the coastline well before the coming of Europeans; the first European to visit was William Dampier, in 1688. In 1821 the British sent Phillip Parker King to survey the coast; he named Roebuck Bay. By the 1870s pearling was a major activity along The Kimberley coast, with about 80 boats working from Cossack, near Roebourne, and by 1880 a settlement had grown up right near the mouth of Dampier Creek. In 1883 the township of Broome was officially proclaimed. Pastoralists soon arrived, opening up the inland. Then in 1889 Broome was connected to the Overland Telegraph line from the south. Also, a submarine telegraph cable was laid between Broome and Banjawangie in Indonesia.

Between 1900 and 1914 Broome was at its peak. World War I saw the trade in pearl shell suspended and, sadly, the town never again rose to its prewar heights, although pearling did resume after the war. With the demise of markets
for mother-of-pearl shell after World War II, the cultured pearl industry was born and it still thrives today.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Broome. A visit to the Japanese and Pioneer Cemeteries and the Historical Society Museum gives an insight into the harsh life people endured in the town's early days. Chinatown is a veritable hive of business, centred on the pearling industry, and this area features a number of fine old buildings and also the Sun Pictures movie house, possibly the world's oldest open-air picture garden. Visitors can wander through the pearl emporiums, then drive out to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm and learn all about how the cultured pearls are grown.

Cable Beach, which was named after the submarine cable, has miles of clean white sand, turquoise blue sea, and safe swimming. Vehicles are permitted to drive along the beach north of the boat ramp -this is also a nude bathing area. Nearby is the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park, where visitors can see mature crocodiles and other reptiles at close quarters and in their natural habitat.

Anglers will find plenty of places to drop a line here, including Crab Creek, Barred Creek, Willie Creek, Fisherman's Bend and Prices Point. Gamefishing is also becoming a major attraction; the Sailfish Fly Rod Challenge is held in June, and the Broome Gamefish Tournament competition is in July -both are 'tag and release' events.

Just outside town is the Broome Bird Observatory. This is a research base and is one of the world's top wader-bird-viewing locations and it is certainly worth visiting. Guided tours and ornithological courses are run here and there are many beach, mangrove, plain and bushland excursions and walks. Accommodation as well as caravan/camping facilities are also available.

The Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, features a great coastline, secluded bays, spectacular red pindan cliffs (especially during the warm glow of early evening light), and some great fishing, as well as a good variety of bird and animal life. Access is pretty good, but it is 4WD country. A number of Aboriginal communities that live on the Peninsula have opened their doors to travellers, as have one or two cattle stations.

There are several special events held in Broome, including the O-Bon Festival in August while the Shinju Matsuri (Festival of the Pearl) is in August/ September. Accommodation is always short at this time of year, so book ahead.

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