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

When is the staircase to the Moon in Broome 2021?

March 2021 Monday 29th 6.32pm Tuesday 30th 7.16pm Wednesday 31st 8.03pmApril 2021 Tuesday 27th 5.50pm Wednesday 28th 6.40pm Thursday 29th 7.34pmMay 2021 Thursday 27th 6.13pm Friday 28th 7.15pm Saturday 29th 7.34pmJune 2021 Friday 25th 5.58pm Saturday 26th 7.03pm Sunday 27th 8.06pm
July 2021 Saturday 24th 5.47pm Sunday 25th 6.49pm Monday 26th 7.48pmAugust 2021 Monday 23rd 6.30pm Tuesday 24th 7.24pm Wednesday 25th 8.15pmSeptember 2021 Tuesday 21st 6.06pm Wednesday 22nd 6.56pm Thursday 23rd 7.46pmOctober 2021 Thursday 21st 6.29pm Friday 22nd 7.19pm Saturday 23rd 8.10pm

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.