Diana Lawrenson

— Writer —

Diana Lawrenson Pages to Places Blog

Welcome to my blog that takes you from pages to places. Come and discover some quirky, little-known, or loose-but-relevant links from books to places around the world. You might even like to add a book suggestion of your own to the topic.

30 April 2016 | Australia, Broome


Broome, Western AustraliaIn her autobiography The Master Pearler’s Daughter, Rosemary Hemphill, better known for the herb business she later created, writes richly of her childhood and family. Her long route home from boarding school in Perth was not by car or train or plane, but by coastal steamer some 1400 nautical miles up the Western Australian coast to the then remote town of Broome.

Back in the 1920s and 30s when Hemphill was growing up, Broome was a pearling Cable Beach, Broometown, not the tourist destination it is today. Cable Beach – named for the undersea telegraph cable that came ashore linking Australia to Indonesia, Singapore and the UK was there; the ancient dinosaur footprints at the rocky Gantheaume Point were there, and millions of birds were there – many of which seasonally travelled far further than the children of Broome home on their own seasonal sojourn from school ‘down south’.

Today, flying in above miles of red ochre earth beside the azure sea it’s easy to understand why European art dealers once dismissed paintings they saw of Broome, claiming the colours were not realistic. They’d never seen iron-rich earth.

The town’s history in both peace and war, the pearling industry now specialising in cultured pearls, and the strings of introduced camels giving rides at sunset along Cable Beach are all part of the town’s current allure. But for me the Broome Bird Observatory is the highlight. It’s acknowledged as one of the best places on earth for ‘twitchers’, amateur or professional.

Road to Broome Bird Observatory

Away from the town but still on Roebuck Bay, the Observatory Bird-watching, Broomeruns tours to see shore birds, birds of the bush and plains, and birds of the lakes. The diversity is enormous. Although I carried a pair of binoculars, I was glad to see even more through telescopes the guide provided. A sea eagle perched on a branch high above the shoreline, watching. As he took off, his shadow passed above feeding godwits. A great cloud of them rose as one from the sand, staying together and sweeping this way and that out over the bay. When the danger passed they landed to feed again, fattening themselves for their coming flight to Siberia.

Tens of thousands of birds – knots, plovers, stints, sandpipers, curlews, whimbrels and others ─ depart Broome in waves between March and May for breeding grounds as distant as the Arctic. It’s a spectacle – a pearl of a spectacle ─ I want to go back and see.

Roebuck Bay, shore birds


  • The Master Pearler’s Daughter by Rosemary Hemphill
  • The White Divers of Broome by John Bailey
  • My Home Broome by Tamzyne Richardson and Bronwyn Houston (children)
  • The Ghosts of Roebuck Bay by Ian W. Shaw
  1. Sounds wonderful Diana. I’ve never been to Broome, but it’s definitely on my bucket list!

    1. There’s heaps of interest. Little wonder so many fall in love with the place.

Would you like to suggest another relevant book to add to the list?

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