Events in rural areas are so different from those in the city. They have big hearts with even bigger personalities you can’t miss, so we’ve compiled a list of the must-do unique events in the Kimberley.
Big shows are rare and special, anticipation steadily building as the date rolls around; turnout is huge, excitement off the Richter scale. On the day of Kununurra’s Kimberley Moon Experience on the banks of the Ord River featuring a black-tie dinner,the town’s hairdressers start styling tresses at 6am, just so they can get through everyone. With services totally booked out, they say it’s one of the busiest days of the year.
It’s a similar story in Broome when a glittering long-table dinner is held on the sands of Cable Beach. Elegant gowns mingle with (pedicured) bare feet as guests clink champagne glasses by sunset. Happily, these ‘party of the year’ occasions are open to anyone; locals warmly welcome visitors, proud to share these pinnacle events of multi-day festivals that reflect the culture of each outback community. You’d be crazy to miss out.
Celebration of the outback: Ord Valley Muster
Each May, the Ord Valley Muster lights up the East Kimberley. Some 30 events are squeezed into 10 days, with comedy shows and nail-biting rodeos running side by side with boat yoga (performed in a lagoon), live music on outback stages and feasts under the stars.
What’s the icon event? The Kimberley Moon Experience combines big-name musicians with a glamorous dinner. In 2019, ARIA award-winner Amy Shark will headline, along with Australian singer-songwriter, Pete Murray. The amphitheatre is set on the banks of the Ord River, and those attending the black-tie Kimberley Fine Diamonds Dinner are transferred by boat, arriving to a pink carpet where they’re handed sparkling wine and canapes, before settling in for a multi-course dinner. The concert also has a general admission section, and ticket-holders are welcome to picnic from the afternoon onwards, when entertainment begins. No matter where you are, bring your dancing shoes – locals make the most of this night of nights and hit the dance floor early, only leaving it very late.
When: 17-26 May, 2019
Where: Events happen across Kununurra, with the main concert at Jim Hughes Amphitheatre
How: Book tickets and see the program at ordvalleymuster.com.au
Getting there: Qantas, Air North and Virgin Australia schedule daily flights into Kununurra from all major Australian cities, via Darwin, Broome or Perth.
Festival of the pearl: Shinju Matsuri
Nearly 50 years ago, Broome’s distinctly multicultural community decided to combine its Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian festivals into one. The move gave birth to Shinju Matsuri, which means Festival of the Pearl.
Broome’s pearling boom, which began in the late 1800s, drew fortune-hunters from around the globe to the tiny frontier town on the edge of the outback. At its height, about 400 pearling luggers were sailing from its sandy shores. Their descendants remain part of the local population, and the festival remembers the tenacity and calamity of the defining era. Sammy the Dragon opens the eight-day event, dancing through the colourful float parade that chronicles Broome’s past. The mood swings from celebratory to contemplative as hundreds of glowing lanterns inscribed with messages are released into the water at Gantheaume Point for the incredibly picturesque Floating Lantern Matsuri. Elsewhere, local produce (including pearl meat) is feasted upon at the Pearl Harvest Yum Cha. Then, it’s all worked off at the Dragon Boat Regatta – as much fun to watch as to participate in. The Festival always coincides with the full moon, so the illumination phenomenon known as Staircase to the Moon can be witnessed to the skin tingling warble of a didgeridoo.
What’s the icon event? The sell-out Sunset Long Table Dinner that runs parallel to the water on endless Cable Beach is Broome’s biggest excuse to dress up. Fairy lights frame the setting, with tables adorned with native greenery and twine. Adam Liaw and Marion Grasby have cooked on the outdoor kitchen in the past.
Extra motivation: Shinju Matsuri turns 50 in 2020
When: 7-15 September, 2019
Where: Events happen across Broome, including at Cable Beach
How: Book tickets and see the program at shinjumatsuri.com.au
Getting there: Qantas runs seasonal direct flights from Broome to Melbourne and Sydney. There are daily connections from Perth, year round.