The Staircase to the Moon in Broome is an illusion that occurs when the full moon rises above the exposed tidal flats. The moon’s reflection on the rippled, wet sand at low tide creates the staircase effect.
The Staircase to the Moon occurs for two or three days a month between March and October. There are a few places in the Kimberley region of Western Australia you can see the staircase effect, but Broome is the best know location.
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Staircase to the moon dates
Purely by luck, we were in Broome for the April display. If you are planning a trip to Broome in 2021, these are the dates to look out for if you want to catch the staircase to the moon:
Where to see the Staircase to the Moon
The best place for viewing the Staircase to the Moon in Broome is at Town Beach Reserve on Robinson Street. If you are a first time visor to Broome, don’t confuse Town Beach with Cable Beach.
The two beaches are on opposite sides of the Broome Peninsula. If you turn up at Cable Beach on a Staircase night, you’ll likely have the place to yourself because the party is happening on the other side of town.
One of the biggest parties takes place at the Mangrove Hotel. The hotel is a great vantage point for watching the event. If you want to have your staircase experience there, best book in advance.
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Staircase to the Moon Markets
There is also a great vibe at the Staircase to the Moon Markets. The markets run on each night of the full moon in Town Beach Reserve.
There is a huge range of delicious local food, craft stalls and entertainment. The Moon Markets are a great place to relax before and after the staircase has appeared.
The markets have a terrific atmosphere; it is a very family friendly location. Parking at the Town Beach Reserve can be tricky on Staircase nights, but there is a bus service if you don’t want the hassle.
Avoiding the crowds
On our trip around Australia, we had headed north early in the season. When we arrived in Broome it was still hot and humid.
While there were people around, it was not the crowds we thought would be packing the beaches, bars and cafes. As a result, we figured we would have no trouble finding a good spot to see the staircase.
Staircase to the Moon photos
Seeing the Staircase to the moon in Broome is a great experience to tick off your travel list. Having done it, there is one piece of advice I’d give if you are heading that way and have the chance to see it. My tip is, unless you are a professional photographer; don’t waste your time trying to get a picture.
Between the crowds and how fast the moon rises, it is difficult to get a good photo of it. If you have to, point your phone at it and see what you get. But, to be honest, the Staircase to the Moon is one of those things best seen with your own eyes. Believe me; I learnt this lesson the hard way!
As a keen amateur photographer, I was looking forward to shooting the Staircase to the Moon. With the town appearing to be so quiet, I thought I’d have no trouble finding a prime location.
Full moon crowds
We had three nights of Staircase viewing ahead of us. I was expecting my biggest problem to be choosing which of my great pictures I’d be hanging in the lounge room back home.
On the first evening we set off for our position overlooking Roebuck Bay. We had scoped out a vantage point earlier in the day but when we arrived something was very wrong. There weren’t a few dozen people milling around, there were thousands.
For the life of us we couldn’t figure out where all these people had been hiding! They sure hadn’t been roaming the humid streets of Broome by day. Despite the crowds, we found a good spot to view the phenomenon. As the moon appeared on the horizon my camera went to work.
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With lots of photos taken and the moon now high in the sky we returned to camp. I couldn’t wait to see my pictures. When they loaded onto the computer, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Every single one showed blurred blobs of yellow light against the night sky. They were, without exception, terrible.
As I had witnessed the entire event from behind the camera, I desperately asked Nat if it had been a hazy night. Perhaps I had captured the sight accurately. She sympathetically reported that the air was crystal clear. I didn’t believe it was possible to take so many bad pictures in a row.
Nat tried her best to convince me that one or two of them looked staircase-like. I tried squinting at my pictures hoping to see what she did but to no avail. As frustrated as I was at least I still had two nights to make amends.
Not every cloud has silver lining…
For the next two nights we arrived at the viewing area in good time and found a good viewing spot. But, to my despair, on both occasions a bank of cloud sat on the horizon spoiling the effect. By the time the moon had risen above the cloud, the reflection on the mudflats wasn’t very stair-like at all.
As I conceded defeat, I wondered if I could fix the best of my bad images on the computer somehow. I suggested the idea to Nat. She patted me on the back and reminded me that I knew less about ‘photo-shopping’ than I did about photography.
I knew she was right. I decided it would it be easier to buy a postcard instead.