It’s the middle of the week in Broome’s Paspaley jewellery boutique. The sales assistants are run off their feet showing their clientele trays of shiny pearl rings, earrings and necklaces, most with perfect round pearls the size of marbles. The “r” word doesn’t apply here. Just the week before, the boutique sold two pearl necklaces worth $45,000 each. In Broome, the world’s most expensive pearls sell like hotcakes.
I stare at the strand worth $120,000 in my hands, trying to get my head around how the lustre, complexion, size, shape and colour of Paspaley’s pearls can command such high prices.
That sort of money would buy a brand new Audi A6 3-litre TFSI quattro tiptronic.
Gateway to the Kimberley region
Remote, exotic and intensely colourful, Broome is a feast for the eyes with dazzling blue skies, orange-red pindan soil and boab trees. Gardens grow with ghost gums, palms, frangipani, hibiscus and bougainvillea.
Adding to its air of mystery is a far-flung location discovered by English buccaneer William Dampier, some 2350 kilometres from Perth on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and a mixing pot of Malay, European, Koepanger, Chinese, Japanese and Aboriginal cultures.
It’s the gateway to Western Australia’s spectacular Kimberley region and the launching point for luxury ships that cruise the rugged northern coastline; cruise prices cost up to $22,000 for 13-nights.
The Kimberley region (usually referred to as “the Kimberleys“) is a tourism hotspot that is still amazingly pristine. Each year there are new experiences that pop up, such as the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm so even if you’ve been before, it’s worth thinking about another trip.
Broome for the rich and famous
Pearl showrooms in the historic area of town are dotted among art galleries and cafes serving wine, coffee and fresh barramundi. Here, you never know whom you might bump into. Famous faces often slip quietly into Broome, among them billionaire media magnate Kerry Stokes who owns a beachfront property on Cable Beach.
Broome is a magnet for anyone with a private jet, such as film stars and socialites who want to be anonymous. They arrive on domestic flights and hire four-wheel drives just like anyone else. So it’s no surprise that there’s a good choice of luxury resorts to stay at in Broome.
Up until a few years ago, the 263-room Cable Beach Club Resort (built in 1988 as a joint venture between Lord Alistair McAlpine and the WA state government) was the only luxury resort in town.
These days, there are lots of other choices such as The Pearle of Cable Beach, The Oaks, a 225-room resort complex, Kimberley Sands Resort & Spa, Ramada Eco Beach Resort, 119 kilometres south of Broome.
At Kimberley Sands, there are no sweeping marble staircases or gold-framed mirrors. Designs are simple and features – such as louver shutters, low-ceiling fans and airy cane furniture – were chosen to suite the climate. Boab trees, Pinctada maxima shells and local stone appear throughout the resort and integrate into the decor to capture the spirit of the destination.
The poolside boab trees were transplanted from pastoral properties around the region to add authenticity to the landscape. The boab trees, the asymmetrical pool, spa nooks, a cascading water feature and a 25-meter lap lane come together to create a stylised Kimberley oasis look.
Pinctada maxima shells, from the world’s largest oysters, are inlaid into the timber counters at the reception, Nyx Bar, and Brizo Pool Bar and Cafe; original artworks and furnishings reflect the earthy colours and textures of the Kimberley.
The Li’Tya Day Spa offers unique treatments such as a body scrub treatment made with crushed Paspaley mother-of-pearl shells and Aboriginal hot stone massage using stones collected from Kununurra.
If you’re keen to explore futher, here are more things to do in Broome.