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Beguiling Broome is so much more than its famed 22 kilometre (14 mile) Cable Beach. It has dinosaur trails, Aboriginal experiences, pearl farms and a moonbeam light show, too.

By Fleur Bainger

Most people who come to Broome spend all their time on the sands of its famous beach, or browsing the South Sea pearl boutiques. Few realise that this outback beach town harbours dinosaur footprints in the rocks, or rare snubfin dolphins in the bay. Here are seven ways to discover some of Broome's best local secrets.

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Take a hovercraft to see dinosaur footprints

Broome has an abundance of the largest and most diverse dinosaur footprints in the world. The giant prints have been fossilised in rocky surfaces all over the place, but you'll never notice them without the help of an expert guide. During a one hour tour you can travel over tidal flats to some of the best examples in a huge hovercraft, as its driver excitedly tells you about the stegosaurus and brontosaurus prints you're about to see (AUD$128 per person, bookings essential). They were laid about 130 million years ago, and more are being discovered all the time.

Spot rare Subfish Dolphins on an ocean cruise

Documentary maker David Attenborough recently scanned Broome's turquoise Roebuck Bay looking for snubfin dolphins. They're a rare type of dolphin, with a rounded nose and fins. Broome has the largest known population on earth of these cute-looking mammals. While watching them on TV is good (Attenborough's new series is due to screen in 2017), seeing them in reality is far better. Join Broome Whale Watching on a three hour morning or sunset Roebuck Bay Eco Tour (AUD$95).

Hold a cultured pearl plucked fresh from the sea

Without the discovery of pearl shells here in the 1800s, Broome might not even exist. That's how vital the pearling industry has been to this town. Visit Willie Creek Pearls, a working pearl farm where you can jump aboard a boat for a two hour ecotour (AUD$90) of its aquatic beds and learn about the industry's astonishing and often brutal history. Or venture further afield to visit Cygnet Bay Pearls, a working pearl farm four hours north of Broome, where you can not only take a tour or "sea safari" but stay for a night or two in basic but comfortable accommodation in a memorable beachside setting. This region, the Kimberley, has some of the biggest tropical tides in the world. They rise and fall twice daily by up to 12 metres (39 feet), delivering vital minerals to the Pinctada maxima shells and causing the nearby phenomenon known as the Horizontal waterfalls. Of course, you can also shop for pearls while you're here.

Watch a movie in the oldest working open-air cinema in the world

Heritage-listed Sun Pictures is one of the most charming places in Broome. Featured in the box office hit Australia and in the local movie Bran Nue Dae, Sun Pictures still shows current release movies under the stars every night of the week. In keeping with the historic feel, the box office and kiosk are cash only. Run your fingers over the worn wood of the deck chairs, throw popcorn in your mouth in Broome's balmy night air and enjoy a piece of living history.

Explore Broome on an Aboriginal walking tour

Local Aboriginal man Bart Pigram, of Narlijia Cultural Tours, leads fascinating, two hour walking tours through the heart of Broome. Using historic maps, he'll tell you the history of the town's main street and Chinatown district, weaving in tales about the pearling industry, which favoured Aboriginal women as divers. As he explains the significance of the landscape to his people, the Yawuru people, you’ll cover about two kilometres (1.2 miles) on mostly flat ground. 

Marvel at a moonlight staircase to the sound of a Didgeridoo

From March to October the light from each full moon makes the mudflats at Roebuck Bay look like a set of gleaming stairs rising into the night sky. This natural phenomenon is known as the Staircase to the Moon. There are several vantage points around town, but for a special experience go to the Mangrove Hotel, where the magical warble of a didgeridoo resonates through the air as the moon rises. Grab a cold drink, order dinner and relax in the hotel's summery setting of lush lawn, white tables and chairs and strings of fairy lights. The moon experience is free.

Admire sunset from a Camel's back on Cable Beach

It's touristy, yes, but there's a reason this is the must-do experience in Broome. As the daisy chain of camels strolls along Cable Beach's waterline, camel shadows are projected on the spirit-level-flat sand and it's just beautiful. Add the pinks and oranges of the sunset, and the rhythmic pacing as you grasp the U-shaped safety rail built into your saddle, and it's a very soothing way to spend an hour. Try to get a camel towards the front of the camel train for the best photographs. Day rides cost from AUD$35 and sunset rides from AUD$85.

How to get there

Virgin Australia and Qantas fly to Broome and it is serviced by most Australian capital cities. Otherwise, it’s a 2226 kilometre (1383 mile) drive from Perth, the capital city of Western Australia.

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