What is the staircase to the Moon?

“Drink in the moon as though you might die of thirst.” 
Sanober Khan

North Western Australia’s The Staircase to The Moon can be as magical as it sounds. Rather than simply viewing the sunset and marking the end of a beautiful day, spectators can witness a lunar phenomenon.

The natural event occurs every full moon between March and October. The spectacle is celebrated over three consecutive nights  when the NWA coastline along Broome, Onslow, Cossack, Karratha and Dampier provide the setting for the perfect view.

The Staircase (an optical illusion of course!) is created as the moon rises from the horizon and casts its bright reflection across the ridges of the exposed mud flats giving the appearance of steps. To many people the event is jaw-dropping and so spectacular that even locals, who get to see it for five months every year, stare in awe.

Jo Durbridge, is one such fan: “The tide goes out, and the moon peeks slowly above the horizon. It’s quite amazing.” Mind you at time of writing, Jo was marketing manager at Australia’s North West Tourism, so a little biased!

Where is the staircase to the moon in Broome?

The best viewing spot in Broome, and arguably in the entire region, is at Roebuck Bay.

As it is such a big crowd-puller, Broome businesses have taken the event and run with it. At The Mangrove Hotel, they hold live entertainment parties every ‘Staircase’ night. Guests gather to listen as a didgeridoo player ushers in the spectacle and there is usually an excited anticipation in the air.

(Full disclosure; early in the season there can also be the buzz of mosquitos from the mangrove swamps along the coast as well).

Next door to the Mangrove Hotel is Moonlight Bay Suites which also has some great vantage points. This property is one of our personal favourites in Broome town and quite often is your “free inclusion hotel” when booking your Kimberley cruise with Kimberley Travel and Cruise. If your visit coincides with the full moon we would highly recommend you book a Bayview apartment.

Enjoy great views of the Staircase to the Moon from our free inclusion hotel – Moonlight bay Suites

At Town Beach (note this is not the same as Cable Beach), the Staircase’s arrival takes on a festival feel. Picnic blankets are spread out; there’s an audible pop of a bottle of fizz and an infectious atmosphere. All this is and a Staircase Night Market where local businesses sell food, products and crafts as well as entertaining the crowds with live music. Usually extra bus services are out on to enable people staying at the various Cable Beach hotels to view the spectacle as well. Just keep your eyes out for the locals – they know the best viewing points.

Undoubtedly, Mother Nature plays the most significant hand in this event. Although she delivers the Staircase, she also juggles other factors that can affect the visibility such as time of sunset, moonrise and tidal flow. Check with guides and locals for information and Staircase dates. 

Staircase to the Moon – 2 cautions

I have had the pleasure of seeing the Staircase on a number of occasions and can be a lovely sight. I have a couple of cautions about the Staircase as a spectacle:

Difficulty for photographers

Note to photographers – it is incredibly hard to take a photo that does justice to this spectacle. To be brutally honest smart phone and I-pad photos will not look very good and definitely won’t impress your Facebook friends. And the ‘auto’ settings on most professional standard cameras is not adequate either. To really do a photo justice you would need a good camera on manual setting and lots and lots of patience. You can see photos online that look great but maybe this is one event that in person should just be enjoyed with the naked eye.

The photo below was taken by a friend who is a fanatical amateur photographer. Its not bad but he was disappointed and wished he’d just watched the phenomenon instead

Careful of the hype

When I last viewed the staircase I over-heard this comment from a traveller – “Is that it?  I don’t know what all the fuss is about” 

Not everyone comes away impressed and you will find plenty of disappointed Tripadvisor reviews online bemoaning the hype and the hassle. This description of trying to get a good vantage point to take a good photo is quite entertaining https://www.verdemode.com/stairway-to-the-moon-broome/ My personal take is the staircase is a wonderful thing to see if you happen to be in Broome for a full moon during the dry season. But please do not stress too much and do not build your holiday to the Kimberley around it. For me a beautiful sunset at Cable Beach is just as magical an experience.

Sunset at the iconic Cable Beach – no staircase but lots of camels
The staircase to the moon was lovely and I am glad I was there of course. But I wouldn’t want to over play the experience. To be honest I noticed that the Iphone photos looked better than what I could actually see with my own eyes at the time!
When you cruise the Kimberley coast you see many wonderful sunsets. And on my trip I really enjoyed the sunset at Mindil Beach in Darwin when the market was on full swing.
Dawn Rolt
Expedition Partner

When is the staircase to the Moon in Broome 2025?

March 2025
Saturday 15th 6:40pm
Sunday 16th 7:15pm
Monday 17th 7:45pm
April 2025
Monday 14th 6:21pm
Tuesday 15th 6:59pm
Wednesday 16th 8:11pm
May 2025
Monday 14th 6:26pm
Tuesday 15th 7:17pm
Wednesday 16th 8:11pm
June 2025
Thursday 12th 6:06pm
Friday 13th 7:03pm
Saturday 14th 8:01pm
July 2025
Friday 11th 5:53pm
Saturday 12th 6:52pm
Sunday 13th 7:49pm
August 2025
Sunday 10th 6:37pm
Monday 11th 7:34pm
Tuesday 12th 8:31pm
September 2025
Monday 8th 6:19pm
Tuesday 9th 7:18pm
Wednesday 10th 8:18pm
October 2025
Wednesday 8th 7:04pm
Thursday 9th 8:10pm
Friday 10th 9:19pm

Where else to view the Staircase along the coast

A trip to Onslow and Sunset Beach is an excellent choice for viewing magical sunsets and the Staircase to the Moon phenomenon.

If in Cossack head to Settler’s Beach. This ghost town offers a unique location to witness an equally unique event.

Karratha & Dampier
Hearson’s Cove is a 30-minute drive from Karratha. The large mud flats make it an excellent spot for Staircase watching.

Port Hedland
Head to the viewing deck next to the Cooke Point Caravan Park.

Cape Keraudren Nature Reserve

Pitch up at the Cape Keraudren Nature Reserve for top Staircase viewing.

About Jenny

I’m an expert in small ship cruising in the Kimberley and have completed four cruises on different vessels along this spectacular coastline. With a family I now work part-time so if you would like to have a chat with me about Kimberley cruising at a time that suits you book in a call here  and I will call you then.

Cruises in the Kimberley are not ‘one size fits all’ scenario; there are different ships and itineraries each offering their own special elements.  If you would like some general information to start your research then download my free guide to Kimberley cruising here.   I have also written some really interesting blogs (if I do say so myself) click here to have read.

Here are a few of the most popular ones.

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