Unforgettable experiences

As the cost of business events in Perth begins to come down from mining boom highs, there’s value to be found in Western Australia’s regional areas. Graeme Kemlo visited the north-west and south-west to discover the best in business events.

There’s something magical about the first time you see the sunrise over red Pilbara rock and the cloudless deep blue skies that give luminescence to the ghostly white gums dominant in this most Australian of landscapes. These colours and textures sear the memory for me no matter what part of the world I am in, yet many Australians have never seen it.

It is an experience that needs no balloon ride, no bubbly drinks, no exercise class, no adrenalin-fuelled team-building. For a delegate, it simply “is”. Breathe it in.
In Broome the distinctive red rock gives way to red ‘pindan’ soil, where the landscape is just as rugged, and marine turquoise rises up to meet sky blue. Here a town rich in a century of pearling history has recognised the opportunity to play to its strengths and its infrastructure supports a vibrant tourism and incentive sector.

Historic Gems

The Paspaley pearling family still run pearl farms, boats and retail stores, but Marilyn Paspaley has diversified into accommodation and experiences in the west Kimberley. She now operates the 72-room Pinctada Cable Beach Resort and Spa, which has a meeting room for 38, and numerous breakout spaces. They also have the elegant century-old McAlpine House, Broome, which is perfect for a corporate retreat with just eight rooms for up to 15 guests.
Star-studded style
Pinctada Kimberley Grande Kununurra is an 80-minute flight away in the east Kimberley. It is a 72-room riverfront homestead-style resort with three meeting spaces for up to 300 or a boardroom that suits between 20 and 30. A three hour flight from Perth, it is a stepping off point for the Ord River, Argyle diamond mine, and the Bungle Bungle ranges. It hosted the star-studded cast of ‘Australia’ the movie.

Scenic Adventures

Broome is famous for its sunset camel rides on town beach, but here you can also watch a movie under the stars at the original Sun Pictures, see the staircase to the moon, find dinosaur footprints, learn about wartime history and visit the Japanese cemetery, enjoy an ale at the unique Matso’s Brewery or visit the deep water jetty… which is where we sample one of the best adventures this region has to offer: MV Great Escape.

Great Escape is a luxury 26 metre fully air-conditioned motor yacht with seven staterooms for just 14 guests. Staterooms have queen-sized walk-around beds, individual climate-controls, private ensuites, flat screen TVs, DVD players and personal fridges. It cruises the Kimberley coast where its catamaran hull allows greater access and offers a range of activities from fishing and mud crabbing, to turtle spotting and diving – there’s even a helicopter aboard to access those remote fishing spots, waterfalls and swimming holes.
Five crew, including a chef, cater to every need – from chauffeuring you to a fishing spot, to serving drinks on the back deck at sunset, or bubbly in the spa. Indoors, the spacious lounge adjoins a separate dining area where the chef’s specialities include freshly caught barramundi, mud-crab, spanish mackerel, tuna or oysters harvested and prised from the shoreline. Should you ever need to speak to the office there’s a satellite phone, fax and email service too.

Remote Incentives

Among the destinations visited along the remote north coast is Berkeley River Lodge, set atop a 65 metre coastal dune, 150 km from the nearest civilisation, Wyndham. This is a great incentive product – only 20 villas and a maximum 40 delegates with exclusive use of the conferencing facilities. But this is more about reward – with the Bell helicopter on standby to take you fishing in remote rivers, catch the sunrise from Mount Casuarina, seek out your own private freshwater plunge pool, spot the wildlife (including crocodiles), or simply chill out.
The Oaks group has two Broome properties: Oaks Broome is a modern four-and-a-half-star hotel complex one minute from the beach featuring 174 hotel and apartment-style rooms set around two courtyard pools, with a dedicated conference room for up to 60 (theatre), plus its 1861 restaurant that overlooks the pool and

Increased infrastructure and assessibilitysuits 150 (banquet); Oaks Cable Beach Sanctuary has 141 rooms (studio, one and two-bedroom) plus three-bedroom villas with private plunge pools.

Larger meetings are accommodated in Broome’s Civic Centre, which seats 450 theatre-style and is close to a range of accommodation. It also offers a smaller meeting room for 40 with kitchen and bar facilities off the main hall.
Across Roebuck Bay lies Broome’s Eco Beach Resort on which we have reported before. A return visit found the resort still offering a high level of service, the same commitment to eco sustainability, but with new accommodation options – two oceanfront beach houses, each sleeping up to six, perfect for a corporate retreat. The other improvement is the installation of an airstrip able to take 10 seater turbo prop aircraft, which means you are onsite in less than 20 minutes rather than two hours by yacht or a bumpy road trip. m