In the far north-west of Australia, Broome is a spectacularly placed beach resort and frontier town now making a name for itself as a tropical getaway. It started life in the 1890s as a centre for harvesting pearl shell and is now a major source of saltwater cultured pearls. It is also the gateway to the Kimberley, a vast, hot wilderness almost as large as Iraq, and has a pioneer feel with attractive, tin-roofed houses and an Asian heritage that results from the indentured labour brought in to dive for pearls. Many adventures start and end here as travellers go exploring in light planes and dirt-splattered four-wheel-drive vehicles, then return to relax by the Indian Ocean with a frozen mango smoothie. For many, the best thing about Broome is its great sense of space and the intense colours of the enveloping landscape - immense blue skies, endless golden sands, soil as red as paprika and a bewitching turquoise sea.
A comfortable bed
The 243-room Cable Beach Club Resort (www.cablebeachclub.com, doubles from US$348; Dh1,280) is a well-run, family-friendly hotel that enjoys a prime location next to Cable Beach, a stupendous run of sand that stretches for 22 kilometres and is a popular spot for sunset camel rides. If beauty treatments are your bag, book into the five-star Pinctada Cable Beach Resort (www.pinctadacablebeach.com.au, from $359; Dh1,321), a 72-room contemporary spa resort where the therapies include an Aboriginal-inspired "sapphire sea-wrap" using mud mixed with kelp and mother of pearl ($226; Dh830). For somewhere small and characterful, McAlpine House (www.mcalpinehouse.com.au, from $167; Dh616) is a delightful, eight-room boutique guest house set in dense tropical gardens with screeching parrots, a small pool and airy verandas.
Find your feet
The town is spread out in low-rise blocks between the immense sands of Cable Beach and the mangrove-fringed shores of Roebuck Bay. Most shops and restaurants are in Chinatown, and you can get around by bus, bike or taxi. For more information see www.westernaustralia.com/broome.
Meet the locals
Aussies are a sociable bunch and you'll soon get to know them when you go on a trip. Kimberley Wild Expeditions (www.kimberleywild.com.au) offers a half-day city tour, or book a relaxing sunset cruise aboard Intombi (www.broomelugger.com), a gorgeous wooden sailing boat built in 1903 to harvest pearl shell. The Broome Historical Society runs an engrossing museum (www.broomemuseum.org.au) devoted to the town's colourful past. At night, take a deck chair-style seat at Sun Pictures (www.broomemovies.com.au), which opened in 1916 and is the world's oldest operating outdoor cinema, or peer through the telescopes of Astro Tours (www.astrotours.net) where you can learn about the amazing stars that fill the night sky here - including the Arabic-named Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali in the Libra constellation.
Book a table
Broome is big on Asian food, fish and mangoes. Matso's (www.matsos.com.au) is a lively all-day restaurant where you can try some Chinese-style kangaroo with pomegranate molasses ($35; Dh128). Alternatively, order a whole baked threadfin salmon ($53; Dh195) in advance from Aarli (6 Hamersley St), an easy-going restaurant with tables set under the frangipani trees. A beach picnic is a must - pick up local delicacies at the Courthouse Markets (38 Hamersley St) held on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
It's all about pearls, girls. Dampier Terrace in Chinatown is lined with glittering showrooms - but don't rush it. The Pearl Information Centre (1 Hamersley St) offers an excellent free introductory talk about pearls and their origins, and remember that you can always buy them loose, then have them made up at leisure back in the UAE. If you want to purchase at source, Kimberley Aviation (www.kimberleyaviation.com.au) offers half-day sightseeing flights that touch down at the remote Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm (www.cygnetbaypearls.com.au), where you can go out in a boat and see how they are cultivated.
What to avoid
"The Wet", when northern Australia is hit with tropical storms and the odd cyclone. May to September is the best time to visit.
Broome is just the beginning. Still unknown to many Australians, the Kimberley feels like a strange new planet with its deserted beaches, red soil and cattle stations so huge they do the mustering by helicopter. For a quick taste, take a 90-minute flight east to Kununurra to see the mighty landscapes of El Questro Wilderness Park and the World Heritage-listed Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, where you can go hiking amid towering gorges and take a leisurely cruise through crocodile-infested waters. APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures (www.aptouring.com.au) offers tours.For more options see www.australiasnorthwest.com.
Most visitors fly in via Perth. Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies direct to Perth from Dubai in 10-and-a-half hours, from Dh6,300 return, including taxes. Skywest Airlines (www.skywest.com.au) can then fly you up to Broome in two-and-a-half hours from 369 Australian dollars (Dh1,384) return, including taxes.