Once a bustling hub of pearl sheds, billiard saloons, opium dens and brothels, Broome’s Chinatown is still a retail and dining hub for this unique North West town.
Visitors to Chinatown today can still see the distinctive corrugated iron style of building that harks back to yesteryear as they enjoy the al fresco dining in cafes and restaurants and browse the pearl showrooms in Australia’s pearl capital.
Chinatown was a multicultural hub since the discovery of the world's largest pearl shell species, the Pinctada Maxima. The area developed from the pearling crew camps and corrugated tin sheds which ranged along the Roebuck Bay foreshore, and the area around Dampier Terrace and Carnarvon Street quickly became the commercial and nightlife heart of the new town. While Chinatown’s buildings were small, densely packed and accessible only by walkways and lanes, the more spacious pearl masters residences stretched out along Weld, Walcott and Robinson Streets in the area known as Old Broome.
Stroll along Carnarvon St, where the corrugated iron buildings that housed noodle restaurants, boarding houses and shops are still home to cafés and retail businesses, as well as the world’s oldest operating picture gardens, Sun Pictures.
Short St Gallery, formerly known as Hanoe’s Cottage, is a fine example of the old Broome style of building – raised to avoid flooding with ventilation to the central single room provided by the shuttered verandahs and wind scoop. On the other end of Short St, the Streeter & Male buildings and nearby Streeter’s Jetty provide a visual connection to Broome’s pearling past.
Napier Terrace is home to buildings which used to house the pearl cleaning business of TB Ellies and a Japanese boarding house, now a bookshop and restaurant. Venture just a short distance further to find the old Police Lock Up building just around the corner on Carnarvon St.
As you walk along Carnarvon Street, Johnny Chi Lane and Dampier Terrace, you'll notice vibrant and cooling landscaping, broadened walkways and shaded outdoor seating, all in materials complementing Broome's unique heritage - themed to the original Asian Quarter and pearling, the mangroves and Roebuck Bay. Public art reflects and celebrates Broome's Aboriginal, Asian and Pearling heritage - follow the walking trail to discover the pearling timeline, the Shopkeeper's Sculpture by Nic Compton and the Jilgarra artwork by Martha Lee, amongst others. At the southern end of Dampier Terrace, the Roebuck Bay Lookout offers elevated, sweeping views over the bay and is well worth a visit.
To take your own journey through Chinatown, pick up a Broome map at the Visitor Centre or retail outlets around Broome, and search out commemorative plaques around Chinatown for more information on the area. For authentic insights into Chinatown’s past, visit the Broome Museum or join a sightseeing or walking tour of Broome.
Chinatown is serviced by Town Bus Service, with stops throughout Broome and Cable Beach.