How to witness a "moon staircase"

By: Colin Kerr, Photography by: Colin Kerr

Your timing has to be just right to witness this amazing natural phenomenon…

How to witness a "moon staircase"
Stairway to the moon, WA.

IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA'S northwest, the allure of warm sunny days, swaying palm trees, beautiful golden beaches and romantic moonlit nights has long attracted people in their thousands.

But in the Kimberley pearling town of Broome, as well as the Pilbara's Port Hedland and Dampier, yet another natural phenomenon is attracting hundreds to the foreshores.

In this part of Australia there are huge tidal movements - up to around 10m at peak tides - and a few times a year when very low tides coincide with the rising of the full moon or with sunrise in the morning, an almost mystical natural wonder occurs.

An optical illusion is created of golden stairs leading to the sky - either to the sun or the moon.

This natural phenomenon is caused by reflections off the exposed mudflats in Broome and wide expanses of sand at Port Hedland and Dampier at extremely low tides. As you move left or right the staircase appears to follow, and some who witness the event say the effect is like a ladder with rungs of fire.

It's at Broome's Town Beach in Roebuck Bay, Port Hedland's Point Cooke foreshore and at Hearsons Cove near Dampier that it can be seen, but you have to be quick, particularly for the staircase to the moon, where many things must coincide - the tides, nightfall and the full moon.

It occurs only a few times between March and October each year. The sunrise coincides with extremely low tides a little more often, but it's only the early bird who'll get a glimpse of this beaut scene!


In 2011 the stairway to the moon will appear on July 16, 17, 18; August 15, 16, 17; September 13, 14, 15; and October 13, 14, 15.

Call Broome, (08) 9192 2222; Port Hedland, (08) 9173 1711; Dampier, (08) 9144 4600 or visit

Source: Camper Trailer Australia #42