When I first visited Broome, it was a wonderfully rustic and yet still vaguely exotic place with multi-lingual street signs that reflected the multi-ethnic population. There was no landscaping other than what nature provided. Shops tended to be either Asian-run, incense-scented establishments with fans turning lazily overhead or open-air venues where barefooted and often shirtless artisans cranked out trinkets made from local materials, most notably sea shells, with particular emphasis on mother-of-pearl.
On my third trip to Australia, as I made my way across the top of Western Australia, I told my traveling companions about what a fun, funky place Broome was, and I looked forward to seeing it again. Ooops. Well, not everything was altered. The low-slung architectural style of Broome had been preserved, and the town’s movie theater still consisted of a bunch of lawn chairs in the open air, but things had definitely changed. The pearl business was booming, and elegant stores offered Broome’s huge, white pearls in stunning settings, all presented by skilled and well-dressed sales personnel. The streets were beautifully landscaped. There were day spas and nail salons. The lunch room was serving quiche. What had happened?
Well, what had happened was someone figured out that a place with miles and miles of pristine beaches and a couple hundred days of sunlight each year might be a nice place for a resort. The resort was built, and Broome went upscale. All very attractive and probably much nicer for the locals (at least some of them), but a huge disappointment for those of us who fancied the more rustic Broome.
The photo on the left is Carnarvon Street the first time I saw it. The photo on the right is the same street the second time I visited Broome. Fortunately, the wild rugged areas are still close by, and the surrounding area is considered one of the world’s great birding sites—a feature we enjoyed very much on that second visit.