AS we sail into the bay to moor at the Broome jetty, one can’t help being drawn into the beautiful vibrant colour of this incredible part of Australia.
The bright turquoise sea set against the vibrant red of the land and that blue sky is incredible. When I first saw a Pro Hart painting I thought he had over emphasised the colours, but no, this is how it is.
Known as the Pearl of the North, Broome first saw European visitors in 1688 but it took another 200 years before the pearl industry began. It drew many different races from Asia and Japan and Aboriginal women were also used as divers; it is said that if they were pregnant they could stay under water longer.
Many of those women and many others perished in the quest for the pearl. The Japanese cemetery at Broome, with its 900 graves, stands testament to those that lost their lives to the pearl industry.
From its lawless beginnings, Broome has grown and prospered to the present day. A must see is Cable Beach. Again the turquoise sea, 21kms of white sandy beach and then the contrasting red dirt of the land.
Cable Beach got its name from the cable that was laid under the sea from here to Singapore and then onto England to provide communications with the world.
Cable Beach was once the domain of the ‘hippy’ culture but they were moved out as commercial resort developments moved in.
There’s lots to see in Broome. From China town to Museums, Pearl Farm and Gatheaume Point and its 130 million year old dinosaur footprints, and of course that famous camel ride on Cable Beach as the setting sun plays tricks on the water.
Leaving Broome we set sail for the Kimberley Coast and were joined by our pilot Captain Craig Brent-White. He was one of the first mariners to actually plot the area and draw charts that showed the depth of the water and safe passage through the Kimberley coastline.
He tells stories of his early days here running fishing luggers and how the pearl industry developed. Although Australia and this region still offer the best pearls in the world, they only account for a third of one percent of world production. 95 percent of the industry is now dominated by the Chinese.
As we sail up the narrows, the Kimberley Coast now runs along both sides of our ship. That red soil is starting to change colour as the sun begins to set and the bright red soil is now turning to a dark blue as the bright orange sun is swallowed by the turquoise sea.
Next Darwin. Situated on the Timor Sea it is closer to Singapore than Sydney. Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory and was named after Charles Darwin (although he never visited there).
It’s a very friendly city and I seemed to meet people who had come here on a holiday and stayed. The dry season and the weather is barmy, but when the wet season arrives the humidity will soar and many southerners will return home forced out by the searing heat.
There is lots to see and do including a trip to Litchfield National Park with its huge magnetic termite mounds, massive waterfalls and rainforests, the Territory Wildlife Park, maybe a harbour cruise, museums and galleries and the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre.
There are various modes of getting around. At the visitors centre you can catch the double decker hop-on-hop-off bus, which will take you to all the major sights.
Darwin is also famous for its day and night markets and its food fusion. Being so close to Asia you can select from a wide variety of eateries, and while on filling up its estimated the average ‘territorian’ consumes over 227L of beer a year.
If you get the opportunity, don’t miss the Defence of Darwin Military Museum. It’s interactive and gives you a real insight into Darwin’s defence in the war, and the major air battle that was fought here with the Japanese.
We are now sailing around the very top of Australia, the Cape York Peninsula. It is here we pick up our Reef Pilot, Gerrit Hulsebos. He will guide the ship through the inside waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and when you see it you realise why it’s called the Great Barrier Reef. It’s actually the biggest living structure in the world; surely something we need to protect.
Thousands of tonnes of shipping use the reef passage each year. It’s safer than being out in the wilds of the Coral Sea and much quicker with the shorter distance to travel.
Our port of call is Port Douglas. It’s a very pretty place with resorts everywhere, but no one is allowed to build higher than tree height, so from the sea you can’t see all the buildings and tourists from around the world flock here for its tranquil beauty and bright blue sea. But be careful, one eye on possible ‘crocks’ and one on the more common stingers.
Discovered in 1877 tourism only got underway big time thanks to Christopher Skase who had to leave Australia in a hurry ahead of the tax office, but it was his initial dream that saw resorts developed and a massive palm tree planting program that gave the region its tropical island feel.
In the beginning, the race was on to see if Port Douglas or Cairns (only one hour away) would be the major centre, Cairns won.
Must sees while here are The Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway with gondolas that take you high above and through the rain forest, and something new, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park which allows you to interact with local aboriginal culture, throw a boomerang and view ancient aboriginal artefacts; they serve a pretty good meal too.
It’s back to our ship and another two days at sea before we reach our next port of call, Brisbane.
Brisbane is an easy city to get around, excellent bus services to get you pretty much anywhere you want to go and the city’s water taxis give you another special view of the city from the Brisbane River.
The Gold Coast with all its dazzle, Australia Zoo founded by Steve Irwin and now carried forward by his family, Mount Tamborine and Surfers Paradise are all favourites, or if you just want to drink in the city’s history then a visit to the XXXX Brewery and Alehouse. Established in 1878, you can explore the 125 year old history of the brewery and why the XXXX brand has remained so strong in Queensland.
After drinking in the city’s sun and enjoying its parks and the beauty of Morton Bay and its zillion dollars of sea going craft we return to the Dawn Princess for the final leg of the journey to Sydney and on to home.
I would like to thank the wonderful staff of the Dawn Princess, nothing was too much trouble for them, with excellent service and great meals the experience has been good and with two show-lounges the entertainment excellent.
On the down side, I had booked the ship to see the top end and their website offered Litchfield National Park from Darwin. It was not until I boarded the ship did I realise this cruise was not offering Litchfield but their website still had it as an option. Not good enough Dawn Princess. If you are not offering it then take it off your website. Other than that disappointment a job well done.
Until next time,