Ladies and Gentlemen, James Brown is alive and well!
In fact, he’s running Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm on the Dampier Peninsula. Who would’ve thunked it eh?!
Papa’s got a Brand New Pearl. And so’s my girlfriend but sshhhhhhh! It’s a secret.
After waking with the sunrise in a Safari Tent and watching the whales breach a few hundred metres out to sea from the balcony, it was time to finish up my bush butler breakfast and leave the beautiful surrounds of Kooljaman for Cygnet Bay.
Cygnet Bay is Australia’s oldest pearl farm, home to the Brown family for over 60 years and three generations. Originally established to collect mother-of-pearl, this family run operation has progressed to become the first Australian company cultivating cultured pearls.
Like most people I’d never been to a pearl farm before, and it was absolutely fascinating. There is such a delicate science behind the whole process and a great deal of hard work to create the pearl, and one of the by-products is the fantastic meat from the animal. It has a kind of scallop taste with a calamari texture. The Farm has evolved and expanded over the last three to four years, allowing tourists to visit, take advantage of the great accommodation and opening a top notch restaurant and café. It’s quite astonishing really. Just as with Kooljaman’s kitchen, these places are in the middle of nature, surrounded by outstanding scenery and have amazing chefs sourcing and using local fresh produce.
We were visiting on the last day of harvest and were treated to an exquisite eight course degustation feast, incorporating pearl meat with lots of other Western Australian produce. Kangaroo tataki, crocodile won tons and Rottnest scallop were all complemented with a selection of the best Western Australian wines. Good job I had a light lunch (of pearl meat).
“Here’s your seat Mr. Taste Master, head of the table as our Guest of Honour, with Bruce and Alison Brown the owners either side of you”. Yowsers, I’d better be on my best behavior, but was immediately put at ease as Bruce and Alison were such warm, interesting and welcoming hosts.
Whilst looking for work on my backpacking adventures many moons ago, I wish I’d come across Cygnet Bay. All farm work is hard graft but there’s a real sense of togetherness here, and they really look after their crew with the quality food they serve in the mess hall (steak and garlic prawns whilst we were there). So once again folks, believe in yourself and the world’s your oyster! Dean Brown certainly did, and 67 years after skippering a rickety wooden lugger through treacherous waters to this hidden paradise, they’re still going strong.
Tips and Tricks
Getting to Broome and Cygnet Bay
- Virgin Australia has daily flights from Perth to Broome.
- Car rental through Budget Rent a Car. Transfer flights also available from Broome.
Where I Stayed
My Expert Local Guides
- Special thanks to Paula O’Brian of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm
My Insider Tips
- Book in early for the 8 course Pearl Harvest Degustation Menu at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. Chef Douglas Malcolm uses local WA produce in this annual event to celebrate the end of the pearl harvest season.