On the coast in the south-western tip of the Kimberley, Broome is a detached, tropical oasis which makes a welcome sight after the long journeys from either the Pilbera or the Northern Territory. Even those arriving by air (Broome has it's own international airport) appreciate the townships breathtaking location, not to mention it's lively and cosmopolitian atmosphere.
Lying in between green mangrove mud flats and the turquoise waters ofthe Indian Ocean, Broome's early fame derived from it's world-beatingpearl industry, attracting fortune seekers from many nations in the late nineteenth century. Today it's best known as one of the nation's true getaways, alluring swarms of tourists dreaming of lazing onunspoilt white beaches in the middle of nowhere. As to be expected of any beach mecca, the townships fabulous shores are matched by a greatrange of resort and backpacker style accommodations, as well as a healthy variety of multicultural restaurants and outdoor cafes. There'salso a number of interesting shops and attractions, many of which showcase the town's speciality of pearling.
Many visitors to Broome coincide their trip with the full moon, in an attempt to witness the Staircase to the Moon. When theconditions are right, the reflections of the moon on the rippling mudflats form what appears to be a golden staircase to the sky. This amazing natural phenomenon is accompanied by a very enjoyable evening market at Town Beach.
Travelling west from Broome and heading for the heart of the Kimberley,the Great Northern Highway begins the next step of its immense journey to the Northern Territory. Just past the Willare Bridge Roadhouse 179 kilometres down theroad, the Derby Highway branches left and terminates on the coast at the major settlement of Derby. Worth the 43 kilometre detour, Derby's centre is gracefully set on a small peninsula, enveloped by extensive mud flats and the serene tidal waters of King Sound. Thick vegetation and the lush tropical gardens which line the streets, add to the township's feel and appeal.
Acting as an administration centre for several Aboriginal communities and a hinterland rich in pastoral and mineral wealth, Derby also provides the ideal base from which to explore the spectacular Devonian Reef National Parks. Devonian Reef National Parks is the collective name for three separate parks, once part of the western stretches of the Great Barrier Reef 350 million years ago. The landscapes are now dominated by a series of dramatic gorges, looming over dense tropical forests, trickling rivers and rock pools, and an amazing variety of different wildlife species. You're almost guaranteed to spot some lazy freshwater crocodiles sunning themselves on the sandy banks of a waterhole.
During the wet season, the gorge's meandering rivers turn into gushing torrents, closing all roads into the parks from November to March.During the dry, the gravel roads are best suited to four wheel drivesand even then, can be rough. The safest option is to rely on some localexperience, and jump on one of the wilderness tours operating out of Derby. Additional tours operate out of Broome as well as the small settlement of Fitzroy Crossing.
Fitzroy Crossing is situated below the Devonian Reef National Parks on the Great Northern Highway, 217 kilometres from the Derby turn-off. Also within close proximity to the parks, it makes the other convenient access point from which to base explorations. The towns facilities reflect this and considering it's size (pop. 1150), boastsa good range of accommodation and organised tours.