Watching a Stairway to the Moon Appear in Broome

stairway moon broome

Smugly spreading our rug on the grass verge on the beach front, it’s hard to hide the satisfaction of landing one of the sweetest spots to view Broome’s natural lunar phenomenon – Stairway to the Moon.

Expensive cameras atop their tripods sit dotted around us. Photographers, both professional and amateur, wait in poised position to snap the reflection of the moon rising across the mudflats of Broome’s main beach, Roebuck Bay.

Yet, just as we start to get comfortable the crowd disperses.

Hold on, is that it? Did we blink and miss this awesome sight everyone’s been banging on about?

Then, just as I’m about to add it to the pile of disappointing travel build-ups that never happened we realise people are starting to trickle to the other side of the wharf. By the time we clock we’re facing in the wrong direction a huge crowd has gathered on the wharf and is lined along the jetty. It’s jam-packed and we wonder whether we’ll see the moon rise at all through the throng of people.

So, this time we have to hunt for a clear space, somewhere big enough to not get squashed in the melee and high enough to see over the heads of the crowd.

We end up on a grassy knoll on the edge of the park-stroke-cemetery, right beside the local drunks. Lovely. Makes for a bit of entertainment while we wait for the main show, anyway.

The usual thing happens when a crowd is waiting… impatiently.

“What time do they say it’s going to happen?”

“What time is it with you?”

“MOVE!”

“Ahh, now I can’t see a bloody thing.”

“Is that the sun or the moon?” [I swear, that is an actual question I heard.]

“Is it happening yet?”

“What about now?”

Yeah, you know what I mean.

As the crowd grows, emotions are stirred. A few photographers give the local drunks something to gawp at for a change when a couple start grappling at each other’s throats while vying for the same prized spot.

With all the commotion I’m expecting the second coming at this stage.

Then it starts.

Slowly, just in front of the old battered stone wall quay, the light begins to change.

The moon rises slowly in the distance, and from previous nights skies I knew that it would have a tinge of orange, but nothing as bright as this.

stairway to moon broome

Like a ball of burning amber, the moon floats higher and higher above the water. Its reflection lights the striations of the corrugated mudflats in a narrow line below, giving the impression of a flight of burning stairs leading right to the moon.

broome stairway to moon

Everyone stops to take it in.

And for one tiny moment the crowd is quiet, the drunks silence their rambled mutterings, even the dogs stand motionless. It is beautiful. Peaceful. Still.

stairway to the moon

Then, as if a plague of locusts have descended, a cacophony of clicks fills the air.

Broome is lit up with the frenzy of flashlight, and the moment is gone.

The crowd revert to their jostling, fevered behaviour. Everyone with a camera elbows, bashes and cajoles their way to getting ‘the shot’.

It’s mayhem once again, and all us poorly-positioned amateurs are photographing is everyone else’s flashes – that’s what happens when a few hundred people try to take the same photo in the dark. Even the pros look as if they’re having problems.

I’ll never make a serious photographer. I give up. I realise I’m missing this wonderful natural phenomena because I’m too busy trying to capture it.

Instead I sit back, cuddle closer to my family and enjoy.

photography sunset

Stairway to the moon occurs once a month over a three day period from March to October, so if you want to see it you need to plan your travels around those dates. Broome’s community website releases the dates every year.

Image Credits: © Simon Hoey. A BIG thank you to my lovely brother-in-law Simon, who waded through mudflats and mangroves to get these fab shots. Get a Flickr account, man!

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About the Author: Linda hails from evergreen Northern Ireland, but is currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Her passion for travel and the natural world has seen her working as a writer and editor on a number of websites, including Environmental Graffiti and Why Go Ecotourism, but now she’s decided to go all Eurythmics and is doin’ it for herself. Eco Traveller Guide is her new venture in the online world; hope you enjoy the ride!

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  1. How stunning! I’d never even heard about this. Just another reason to make Broome and the Kimberley a priority for next year! Great story Linda.
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Australia snapshot: The Queen of the NullaborMy Profile

  2. Fabulous photos from your brother in law of this amazing sight. We visit Broome every year but are yet to be there for ‘the day’ though I’m not sure I could handle all the jostling that goes on!
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..New York’s Grand Central StationMy Profile

  3. Tash says:

    Ohhh, such amazing photos!
    I have never been in Broome at the right time for this either….one day!
    Tash recently posted..The Australian War MemorialMy Profile

  4. Incredible shots…hard to believe that’s the moon!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Tree-to-Tree Adventure at Tallahassee MuseumMy Profile

  5. Barbara says:

    I’ve never even heard of this … but it looks incredibly beautiful. What a shame it’s such an animal farm!

    There is a fine line between capturing the moment and enjoying the moment, isn’t there?
    Barbara recently posted..Saigon Street Eats — It’s All About The Food!My Profile

    • Totally! Which is sometimes why I don’t have the best photos. I’m always so busy fiddling with the settings that I sometimes miss things completely!

      Btw, I hadn’t heard of it until I planned to visit the area. I guess Broome is so far out of the way it’s not on the usual backpacker route so isn’t as widely talked about. Probably a good thing, eh?

  6. Peter says:

    Great post! I think we also refer to it as the Stairway to Heaven as well, If I can remember correctly what my year 11 teacher was telling us.
    Peter recently posted..“I think we should plan a holiday”My Profile

  7. Laurence says:

    I missed this by a few days, but listening to your description of the hordes – I don’t think I missed out on that much :D I saw some epic moon rises in other, more deserted locations in Oz, so think I’m covered :)
    Laurence recently posted..Home away from home: another tale of tea and toiletsMy Profile

  8. This is a very beautiful view that you captured. Many people just keep wishing to have a live look on such scenes but for you it looks like a very nice experience.

  9. Sounds like a special moment!
    Cam @ Traveling Canucks recently posted..From Our iPhone: A Photo Story from SwitzerlandMy Profile

  10. Turtle says:

    That’s beautiful! I always forget what wonderful skies we can have in Australia. That’s what comes from being trapped in the middle of Sydney for so many years as a child! :)
    Turtle recently posted..Yogyakarta’s palace and the family honoursMy Profile

  11. Sherry says:

    Impressive shots, with an equally impressive story. I was captivated the whole time; from the just the small glimpse of the moon to it’s complete shining brightness. The “Stairway to the Moon” is something I must see for myself.
    Sherry recently posted..Canyon Deep in RondaMy Profile

  12. Love the story Linda, and the shots are amazing. We watched this phenomenum in May, but failed to get such great shots.
    Johanna at ZigaZag recently posted..How to lose weight the healthy way. A Quest and Tips from gorgeous Western Australia.My Profile

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