Learn about Broome’s fascinating pearling history and browse the dazzling goods on show at jewelry showrooms in this multicultural quarter.
Broome’s fascinating Chinatown district makes for an ideal cultural diversion between bouts of lounging on the magnificent Cable Beach. Experience the region’s multicultural character, find out about its time as a thriving pearling center and shop for pearl and mother-of-pearl souvenirs.
Though Broome had long been a magnet for pearl hunters, it was really the discovery of the pinctada maxima, a large species of pearl oyster, in the 1870s that served as a catalyst for its growth. By the turn of the 20th century, this small Australian outpost had become a pearling boomtown, with laborers arriving from all over Asia to work on the pearl luggers. Wander the streets of Broome’s Chinatown today and look for remnants from its early frontier days.
Sign up for a guided tour and follow a local through Chinatown’s shop-packed lanes while listening to tales from the town’s past. Among the most representative streets in the neighborhood is Johnny Chi Lane, a pedestrian-only open-air mall filled with shops selling clothes and jewelry. While ambling down the lane, read the notices on the outside of the shops, which detail the history of the area. On Sunday mornings, Johnny Chi Lane hosts a market.
Seek out some of the district’s oldest buildings, which bear Asian architectural influences. The Short Street Gallery, for instance, occupies a well-preserved original Chinatown building, as does Matso’s Broome Brewery.
For even more information about Broome’s pearling past, stroll down to Streeters Jetty on Dampier Terrace. This was the original jetty used by Broome’s pearlers back in the 1880s. Not far from here is the Pearl Luggers Museum. Take a 1-hour guided tour of this museum to hear captivating accounts of pearl dives. Examine memorabilia relating to the pearl industry, view archival footage of deep sea divers at work and inspect two well-restored pearl luggers, which are displayed in a replica jetty.
Broome’s Chinatown district encompasses the area between Carnarvon and Short streets. As several lanes here are pedestrianized, it is best explored on foot.