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Broome Sandstone Dinosaur Footprints


Heritage Council

Place Number

There no heritage location found in the Google fusion table.


Dampier Peninsula Coastline Broome

Location Details

Tracks are at: James Price Point, Port Area, South Pipeline, Quondong Point, Cable Beach, Gantheaume Beach, Gantheaume Point, Riddell Beach, Port Beach, Town Beach, Red Cliffs

Local Government




Construction Date

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
National Heritage List YES 31 Aug 2011

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
RHP - To be assessed Current 25 Oct 2019

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
(no listings)


the place is associated with the prehistoric life of Western Australia.

the place is an extremely rare example of dinosaur fossil traces.

the place has the potential, through scientific study, to uncover new information about the early dinosaurs inhabiting Western Australia.

Physical Description

Broome Sandstone Dinosaur Footprints are a series of footprints (called fossil traces), lying on a series of rocky outcrops along the coast throughout the Broome area, from Roebuck Bay and the Broome Townsite north to Cape Leveque. The fossil traces lie in a geological structure known as the Broome Sandstone, a mix of sandstone and mudstone dating to the Early Cretaceous period (approximately 133-140 million years ago). This geological structure extends from Cape Levenque to the southern edge of Eighty Mile Beach and approximately 100 km inland from the coast, with surface outcrops becoming exposed along the shorelines of the Broome area.1

At least 21 different types of dinosaur footprints have been identified, making this the most diverse collections of dinosaurian trace fossils in the world. Numerous tracksites have been identified, many of which preserve short sections of trackways (sequences of prints recording the movement of one or more animals).2 The Palaeontology Survey of the Broome Sandstone – Browse LNG Precinct Report performed in 2011 outlines dinosaur fossil traces (tracksides or related groups of tracks) in the following locations:

James Price Point: 7 track sites

James Price proposed Port: 9 track sites

James Price proposed South Pipeline: 4 track sites

Cable Beach: 8 track sites

Gantheaume Beach: 3 track sites

Gantheaume Point: 4 track sites

Riddell Beach: 4 track sites

Port Beach: 4 track sites

Town Beach: 7 track sites

Red Cliffs: 5 track sites

The fossil traces identified within these sites include sauropods, theropods, orinthopods and invertebrates.3

Of particular note on this list are the Red Cliff fossil traces, which comprise a series of natural moulds formed by the trackways of large sauropods- ‘lizard-hipped’ herbivores characterised by massive bodies and long necks, existing from 210 to 65.5 Million years ago; and a footprint of a single theropod- ‘bird-hipped’ herbivores and carnivores characterised by massive bodies and bipedalism, existing from 231 million years ago and later evolving into birds.4 A total of five separate print types are present at the site, ranging from single prints to trackways to intersections of multiple trackways.5

The fossil traces are present as large, dish-like depressions, preserved as a series of rock layers with an ‘onion-like’ effect, which sometimes project above the surrounding rock as the footprints appear to be more resistant to erosion. The layering effect of these footprints can range from 20cm to 70 cm, and range in size from 45 cm to 120 cm.6


Aboriginal people lived around the Broome and Dampier Peninsula Regions for tens of thousands of years, the family groups moving through the landscape in response to the “wet” and “dry” seasons, utilising local marine and plant species, yellow ochres and tools composed of wood, stone or shell.7 This region was home to varied language groups, including the Rubibi, Jabirr, Ngumbarl, Bindunbur, Bardi and Jawi people.8 A striking cultural tradition of these different groups is the rich legacy of painted rock art, recognised at the National level.9 The Aboriginal groups of the area recognised the fossilised footprints along the Broome Sandstone formation as traces of ancestral beings, with these footprints becoming significant parts of local tradition.10

This way of life was disrupted by the arrival of British settlers, who expanded through the region in the 1850s-1870s, establishing pearl diving centres along the coast and pastoral interests inland, often to the detriment of Aboriginal people. Broome was established in 1883, primarily to service pearling ships.11 During this period, a number of scientific expeditions were undertaken throughout the Kimberley region, seeking to map the area and better understand its resources.12 These expeditions were reflections of a larger scientific interest in the natural world within British culture during the nineteenth century, which included, among other subjects, prehistoric life.

The study of dinosaurs in Western culture began in the 1820s in England, where advances in geology had led researchers to question the timescale of Earth’s past. Bones associated with ancient sediments were originally thought of as oversized versions of modern lizards, although it was not until 1842 that the term dinosaurian was coined by Richard Owen. A turning point for dinosaur study came with the full-sized dinosaur sculptures featured at the grounds of the Crystal Place in 1854, which set off a public fashion for the subject. Interest was further heightened by the ‘Bone Wars’ in America, where competing researchers discovered and assembled a number of whole dinosaur skeletons in the 1870s and 1880s.13

In Western Australia, expeditions to discover dinosaur fossils were mounted as early as 1908, with megafauna remains discovered in Mammoth Cave the following year. By this point, a palaeontologist was already associated with the board of the Western Australian Museum.14 Discussions on new international discoveries and the evolution of dinosaurs were peppered throughout the newspapers of Western Australia as items of scientific interest from 1910 to the 1940s.15 Western Australia was initially noted as lacking in fossil-bearing rocks, a noteable exception being the early marine fossils of the Gingin chalks.16 While other fossil sites were eventually found along the southern coast and in the Kimberleys, the lack of dinosaur fossils as opposed to megafauna or early fish appears to have dampened public enthusiasm.17

This changed in December 1945, with the reporting of a dinosaur footprint at Gantheaume Point, a cast of which was confirmed by the Western Australian Museum, which sparked the interest of local papers.18 The cast was confirmed as that of a three-toed dinosaur, and a study of fossilised plant species from within the surrounding geological strata indicated that the date was within the Cretaceous-Jurassic period.19 Public interest in the dinosaurs of Western Australia increased slowly in the post-war period, partially due to a growing public interest in science and partially as Western Australia seeking to identify itself as a significant place where iconic dinosaur fossils can be found.20

In 1967, Colbert & Merrilees performed a more comprehensive study of the footprints at Gamtheaume point, comparing them to other international specimens and identified the Broome footprints as being produced by a new species, Megalosauropus broomensis. This report also identified other sets of footprints south of Gantheaume Point.21

The period between the 1960s to the 1980s has been considered by Paleontologists as the ‘dinosaur renaissance,’ in which a flurry of new discoveries and theories excited a great deal of new interest in the subject. These theories included the link between dinosaurs and birds, the concept of warm-blooded dinosaurs, models of dinosaur behaviour and the meteorite impact mass-extinction theory.22 As a result of these new discoveries, combined with the advent of computer imaging techniques allowing for realistic depictions of dinosaurs in televisions, movie and print, public interest in dinosaurs has been intense since the 1990s. Steven Spielberg’s film Jurassic Park in 1993 is a particularly good example of this surge in public interest.23

A study was performed on the Red Cliff dinosaur footprints in 1994, by University of Queensland paleontologists T Thulborn and T Hamely, along with Broome naturalist P Foulkes. This study highlighted the rarity of such fossil traces in Australia and their significance as the first indication of sauropod dinosaurs in western half of Australia, ‘showing a considerable diversity in their morphology and preservation.’24 Since 2010, a number of other studies have been performed on these fossil traces in connection with proposed mineral and resource projects in the region.25

In recent years, tours have been established to the dinosaur traces, 26 which in some cases also highlight the associated Dreaming stories of Aboriginal people. 27

Place Type

Geological monument


Epoch General Specific
Present Use OTHER Other
Original Use OTHER Other

Creation Date

14 Nov 2013

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

11 May 2022


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