100 Hours in the Dampier Peninsula
August 2015 – With time short, we recently got a quick dose of winter sunshine, beach sunsets and South East Asian flavours. Sort of like going to Bali but without the hassle of international flights & airport transfer times; immigration & customs clearance; visas; foreign exchange rates; and the crowds.
Only a short two and a half domestic flight from Perth, here’s what we experienced in 100 hours (a Saturday to Wednesday) in magical Broome & the Dampier Peninsula.
TRAVEL: Qantas & King Leopold Air – Flight from Perth to Broome then a 60 minute light plane flight to fastrack a transfer to Kooljaman at Cape Leveque. The light plane flight cuts out the 3 hour 4WD trip to Cape Leveque (which we experienced for the return leg to Broome) and offers incredible views of the pristine Kimberley coastline, Cape Leveque’s spectacular red Pindan cliffs, as well as many sightings of migrating & breaching humpback whales & their baby calves.
STAY: Kooljaman Safari Camp, jointly owned and operated by the indigenous communities of Djarindjin & Ardyaloon (One Arm Point), sleeping in one of it’s rustically comfortable “self-contained” Safari Tents with their huge balconies providing unrestricted views around the bay. We stayed in Jumigee Tent, just below the Cape Leveque Lighthouse.
Our Tip: We stayed in Jumigee Tent which was located at one of the high points of the camp, just below the lighthouse. It is a little climb from the main office and restaurant, but great views over the Eastern Beach)
EAT: Raugi’s at Kooljaman provides open air dining with sunset views overlooking Western Beach, as well as a breakfast & lunch service. On our first night, we enjoyed Irish Head Chef Joseph McGrattan’s modern European-influenced dishes, which combined subtle indigenous flavours & Michelin trained flare, including Crispy Skin Barramundi and Chargrilled Scotch Fillet. We returned on our second night to try his Pasta Rotolo filled with pumpkin, ricotta and sage tapenade. Main meals range in price from $28 to $40 and the restaurant (and entire resort) is BYO.
There is no alcohol for sale throughout the camp, so you will need to bring your own with you for the duration of your visit.
Chill out & relax – Walk and swim along Kooljaman’s Eastern Beach. Morning coffee at Raugi’s watching passing whales journeying past. For some local activity, Kooljaman offers guided indigenous culture and bush tucker walks around the local surrounds, as well as fishing or mud crabbing excursions. Alternatively, do nothing at all and simply enjoy the sheer tranquillity in one of Australia’s most remote locations.
Our Tip: As we arrived with no food supplies for our short visit, the General Store provides basic items including canned goods, UHT milk, ice creams & soft drinks, but no fresh fruit or vegetables., We purchased eggs, frozen bread, some tinned vegetables, and a frozen BBQ pack from the General Store and fired up a leisurely breakfast & lunch from the BBQ on our tent balcony, with views over Cape Leveque’s Eastern Beach.
TRAVEL: Cape Leveque Mail Run – You can’t really say that you’ve visited Cape Leveque without saying that you “survived” the 220km partly unsealed Cape Leveque Road of the Dampier Peninsula. Having flown in to Kooljaman, we decided to get a lift back to Broome with the “Cape Leveque Mail Run”, a 4WD trip that departs Broome at 5am every Monday, Wednesday & Friday, then returns from Kooljaman at 8:30am. With our driver Anthony, we had the opportunity to not only experience the Cape Leveque Road, but to also visit the indigenous communities of the Dampier Peninsula including Lombadina, with it’s paperbark roofed “Christ the King Parish Church” (see photos below) built in 1934 by the local Aboriginal people and Brother Joseph Tautz of Beagle Bay Mission. We also dropped mail off at the communities of Beagle Bay & One Arm Point and Cygnet Bay, home of Australia’s oldest operating pearl farm, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, established in the 1940’s by the Brown family.
Our Tip: To find out more about the “Cape Leveque Mail Run” contact Doug the Postie at 0474 086 458.
STAY: Cable Beach Club – Situated on the doorstep of one of the world’s most iconic and beautiful stretches of beach, we last stayed here on our honeymoon in 1989, only six months after Lord Alistair McAlpine opened the resort with 77 one-bedroom bungalows, with their design based on the shuttered houses of Broome’s famous master pearlers. It’s changed a lot over time and now the resort has over 230 different styles of rooms available, set amongst magnificent native palm gardens exhibiting some of Lord McAlpine’s eclectic Asian artefacts.
Our Tip: Rooms situated in either the Corella or Eucalyptus Wing back onto the adults-only Ocean Pool, where chillout music, double sun lounges, and a relaxed tropical vibe makes you feel like you are somewhere in South East Asia.
EAT: Just as Broome in the early 1900’s attracted Malay, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese workers to work in its booming pearl shell industry, we loved that these multicultural cuisines are still being embraced when dining in Broome today. The weather is certainly conducive to this Asian-influenced cooking, which continued our feeling that we had travelled to South East Asia. Tonight we enjoyed the Cable Beach Club’s newly opened poolside restaurant, Rambutan , which offers vibrant Malay/Singaporean/Indonesian influenced dishes which are real winners.
Our Tip: We loved the authentic & bold flavours of the Kapitan Ayam (Nyonya Chicken Curry); Rendang Daging (Beef Rendang); and Mee Hoon Goreng (Fried Noodles)
ENJOY: Take a bottle of bubbles or a few beers down to watch Cable Beach’s famous sunset, or watch it from the deck of the resort’s Sunset Bar & Grill.
Chill out & relax: The Cable Beach Club offers daily complimentary yoga at the Buddha Sanctuary, opposite the resort, and if you’re not keen for a sunrise class they offer a civilised 8:30 morning session. Breakfast at the resort’s Sunset Bar & Grill, where a table on the terrace also allowed for views of whales swimming & breaching along the coast. Chill out poolside for the rest of the day.
EAT & DRINK – Head into town to check out some of Broome’s historical master pearler’s houses and a pre-dinner drink at Broome’s famous Matso’s Brewery, housed in the 1910 “Matso’s Store”, formerly the Union Bank of Australia. Dinner at Azuki Japanese Fusion, for another taste of Broome’s Asian culinary influence. Azuki is a Japanese style eating house with a limited menu of classic Japanese dishes presented with a western twist.
Final early morning walk along Cable Beach before breakfast. As our return flight wasn’t until 6:30pm, after breakfast and checking out of our room, we were able to enjoy a couple of more hours poolside, before heading into town for a leisurely late lunch of Australian produce & flavours.
Our Tip: For evening flights out of Broome, the Cable Beach Club offers luggage storage when you check out. Take them up on their offer to provide you with a private change room for the opportunity to shower & freshen up prior to your transfer to the airport, after the afternoon in town or at the pool.
EAT: Late lunch at 18 Degrees, overlooking Roebuck Bay, for a taste of local Australian produce presented as relaxed, shared plate dining. Excellent wine & cocktail list to enjoy as well.
Our Tip: “Crispy Crocodile & Shrimp Cakes with Smoked Paprika Aioli” and the “Barramundi Medallions served with Shrimp & Pork Dumplings” enjoyed with a beautiful bottle of “Bay of Fires Pinot Gris” from Tasmania.