Broome is a town of contrasts. There is the contrast between the red pindan and the turquoise waters, between Cable Beach and Town Beach and between old Broome and new Broome. Then there is the contrast between the two seasons, the wet and the dry. The wet, with its hot and humid days with overnight minimums rarely below 28 degrees, then the dry, with its warm and dry days and cool nights with overnight minimums in the teens and sometimes below.
Broomies become acclimatized to the heat, rarely experiencing anything below 27 degrees between mid-October and April. It’s this familiarity with heat that has Broome reacting to overnight temperatures in the teens as if a polar wind had just blown across the Broome peninsula. Aircons and ceiling fans get switched off as the doonas and blankets are dragged out of the linen cupboard and dusted off after their long wet season hibernation. This is the climate change that all of Broome agrees on. Its bloody cold.
It’s during the dry season in Broome when another contrast becomes obvious. The contrast between southern visitors and locals.
The southern visitors are conspicuous in the light clothing they wear. They dress for a summers day, while their hometowns are experiencing winter. They are out and about mainly in shorts and t-shirts or singlets. They regularly comment on how hot it is.
Locals by contrast are rugged up for what they know is the cold time in Broome. We don’t say winter, but if we did, this would be it. Many Broomies are out in long sleeve shirts and jeans. This is the time of year that Broomies can wear jackets out at night or even out to the Broome Turf Club on a Saturday afternoon.
This contrast between locals and visitors is at its most extreme at Sun Pictures any night during the dry. The world’s oldest operating picture gardens is a favourite for the visitors who turn up to the movies in their shorts and t-shirts, while the locals are all under blankets wearing their ugg boots (originals for those who arrived in the 70s) and tracky dacks. Even the dogs feel the cold with all the Broome dogs getting furrier this time of year.
Locals regularly comment on how cold it is. If you’re an early morning walker in Broome you’ll see plenty of beanies and scarfs smelling of moth balls worn by locals trying to fend off those polar winds. For those who take their morning walk to the beach before work they tend not to take their thongs off on the sand because its too cold for their wet season acclimatized feet. Broomies are fragile creature during the dry season.
Most years Broome has an unusual mid-year weather event where the town can experience several days of unseasonal cold weather and sometimes rain. During these events split peas and bacon bones for pea and ham soup sell out quickly. The main business and social areas of Broome look like a Good Samaritans fashion parade. You can usually pick what year someone arrived in Broome by the clothes they are wearing during the annual unseasonal weather. It’s the only time locals wish their houses had heaters. Broome houses are built to lose heat quickly and not retain heat.
One year the unseasonal weather was so cold (it only reached 22 during the day) that the local hardware store sold out of its entire stock of portable heaters. The store owner couldn’t believe his luck as he’d been carrying those same three heaters for many years.
This blog is posted on Saturday 1 June. It’s the first day of winter in Australia. Broome has a maximum of 27 with an overnight low of 13. You know you’re in Broome when the locals rug up for the dry while its snowing in parts of Australia.