Beach polo and pearls in Broome
Polo may be the sport of kings, but beach polo in Broome brings a whole new meaning to fun in the sun, as Caroline Davidson discovers.
Founded on the pearl button industry, the town of Broome, Western Australia, once supplied eighty percent of the world’s pearl buttons. Today, along with tourism, the pearling industry is still central to Broome’s existence. A combination of the two has drawn locals, celebrities and the who’s who of Perth to Broome this May for the Paspaley Cup; the final contest of the 10th Airnorth Australasian Beach Polo Championships; a world-class weekend tournament attracting international, local and indigenous players, held annually against the spectacular backdrop of Cable Beach.
Similar to a country race meeting, beach polo is both more casual, exciting and definitely more up- close-and- personal to the action than its traditional counterpart. Along with high fashion Broome-style, bare feet are also mandatory for the soft sand of the VIP marquee. Paspaley Pearls, the largest producer of South Sea Pearls in Australia, is one of the event’s key sponsors so it’s no surprise that pearls are the jewelry of choice at the event for both men and women.
The accommodation of choice
To enjoy the event to the fullest, Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa, located beachside as its name suggests, is the accommodation of choice. Opened by the visionary but eccentric Lord McAlpine in May 1988, the resort is spread over 26 acres of beachfront land and its buildings, set in a magical landscape of tropical gardens, water features and wildlife sanctuary, reflect the original architectural features and materials of the early settlers to best suit the climate, featuring original polished Jarrah wood floors, mini-orb corrugated iron and cooling wrap-around verandas. The current owner and operator, the Malaysian Wen family’s company, Hawaiian, extensively refurbished and upgraded the resort which also reflects the Wen’s passion for art. Original Nolans, Duracks and more are on display in suites and public areas and charming Asian sculptures, antiques and artefacts grace the grounds and restaurants. Local artists such as bird and wildlife illustrator Tom Montgomery, Kimberley landscape oil painter Suzy French and Australasian Landscape Photographer of the Year, Yane, are supported and delight guests with a creative artist-in-residence program throughout the peak season.
Offering 225 rooms across a variety of bungalows, villas, self-contained apartments and three luxurious suites, the resort caters to a wide demographic of well-heeled couples and families and is popular for corporate conferences. It is full for the beach polo event but never seems overcrowded or too busy.
A reason to linger longer
The facilities are impressive and a compelling reason for a prolonged stay worthy of a top destination resort. An adults-only pool and a separate pool for families, complimentary fat-tyre beach bicycles, tennis courts, mini-golf and an air-conditioned gym cater to the active. The tranquil sanctuary of the Chahoya Spa with spacious treatment rooms, comprehensive menu of treatments and L’Occitane product range infused with locally sourced Kakadu Plum, a separate hair salon and Buddha Sanctuary retreat area make this a haven hard to leave for people wishing to enjoy all Broome has to offer.
Diners are spoilt for choice with four excellent restaurants, from the stylish and airconditioned Chichetti Club, its high ceilings festooned with original early 20th century and stylized Macau split bamboo finch cages, serving Venetian-style tapas and, at lunchtime, an inspired version of a club sandwich on grilled sourdough, to the relaxed indoor /outdoor Sunset Bar & Grill; a popular gathering place to watch the spectacular nightly performance of sunset over the Indian Ocean. Try Kichi Kichi for contemporary Asian favourites or the intimate Zensai for authentic Japanese cuisine.
More fun in the sun
The Beach Polo event was launched with a glamorous VIP ‘Dinner Under the Stars’. The menu, created by hatted Sydney chef Hamish Ingham, showcased the best of local produce such as Kimberley beef, barramundi and exotic pearl meat.
The fun of the polo is also accessible to locals with visiting families on the beach and scantily clad backpackers in ‘Bikiniland’ at one end of the field, enjoying it all for free. From patting the ponies as they warm up to returning the special ball into play each time it sails over the flimsy barricade, to high-fiving the talented winning players as they gallop triumphantly past on a lap of honour, inches from enthusiastic onlookers; this is crowd participation at its most exciting. Add to this seemingly unlimited oysters, Perrier- Jouet champagne and cocktails, a fashion show on a sand runway for stunning local designer Kirrikin, prizes for best dressed, a DJ providing a soundtrack that had the VIPs up and dancing on the furniture, and well, seriously, what more could an event possibly offer?
Broome is an unexpectedly fascinating location that ticks every box for a beach or tropical holiday combined with unique history, authentic local attractions and activity options such as the ‘staircase to the moon’ experience, a pearl farm visit and the must-do sunset camel-ride. No need to wait for the next beach polo event, Broome is a pearl waiting to be discovered; natural, alluring and exotic.