Geraldton is one of those beautiful regional cities where everyone seems to know each other and all the residents have everything at their fingertips – supermarkets and shopping centres, theatres and sporting facilities, beaches and boating, fishing and swimming – everything! The city is alive and dynamic with all sorts of activities like outdoor cinema, kite surfing, yachting, water sports, kids playing on the foreshore, little athletics and plenty of health conscious people going for runs along the coast in the cool of the morning.
Also known as the Sunshine City, the Windy City or the Sun City, Geraldton sits on Champion Bay, which was first explored by ship in 1840. George Grey was the first European to explore the area by foot in 1839 and returned to Fremantle with reports of fertile soil. It wasn’t until 1849 that Augustus Gregory was employed to survey a town site and a year later, Geraldton was born. There was a significant need for a port town north of Perth for mining and farming purposes and the town really bloomed during the Murchison gold rush in 1892. These days, the population is around 26,500 people and Geraldton is still a busy hub for wheat storage and transportation, as well as mining, rock lobster fishing, and tourism.
We stayed in Geraldton for two weeks under the roof of our Helpx hosts – a family of four with a tremendous schedule that included a brief stint in Perth for educational purposes. They put word out for some assistance over the school holidays and we answered their call. This was a great opportunity to explore the city and surrounding area. We went up to Kalbarri for a few days and got to know sunny Geraldton very well. We even smashed out a pub crawl!
P.S. Geraldton loves sundials and bougainvilleas!
Points of Interest
If you have kids, then this is the place to go. There are three colourful playgrounds, including a water funpark and shaded toddler area, and a great walking path along the beach with a great view of the bay.
The foreshore was also where the Oxfam Walk Against Want Fun Run kicked off. Check out how Juz went here. If you go to the far end of the foreshore, near the marina, you can also take a leak in the Rubik’s Cubicles – very cool!
This is the Geraldton branch of the WA Museum and we thought this would be a great place to take the Helpx kids. We spent the morning learning about local animals and history, expeditions to Antarctica, and the HMAS Sydney which was sunk during battle in WW2. We also checked out a bounty of shipwreck loot and watched colourful fish swim around in a fish tank.
Batavia Coast Marina
The home of some modern apartment blocks and very spiffy boats, the stylish Batavia Marina was opened in 1995 and is also an outdoor exhibit for the Batavia Longboat Replica, which is anchored just outside of the WA Museum.
Go for a stroll along the boardwalk or try your luck at fishing. We dropped a line here and even though we gave the bait fish an excellent lunch, we ended up catching a nice sized bream just as we were packing up.
Point Moore Lighthouse
This 34m tall structure started its days in 1877 when its pieces were brought over from England aboard the ‘Lady Louisa’. It was bolted together in Geraldton and started operating in 1878. The kerosene wick lamp was replaced by an incandescent lamp in 1911 but it’s had a few lighting upgrades since then, with the beam now visible up to 26km out at sea. The red and white stripes were painted on 1969 and it is the oldest surviving Commonwealth lighthouse in WA under Federal control.
Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral
The most noticeable building in Geraldton, this Byzantine style cathedral was designed by Monsignor Hawes, a famous Christian architect who worked on many chapels and churches all over the world. While the foundation stone for Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral was first laid in 1916, the building wasn’t completed until 1938 and is considered to be one of Monsignor Hawes’ best works.
Guided tours are available through the cathedral, but you can walk in any time you like and have a look around. We loved the stained glass windows but thought the paint job inside was a little strange. ‘Really? … Stripes…?’
Hmas Sydney II Memorial
Right on the top of Mount Scott, the HMAS Sydney II Memorial was built in 2001 to honour the 645 Australian sailors that lost their lives in a battle off the coast of Western Australia. The HMAS Sydney intercepted a German raider, the HSK Kormoran near Shark Bay in 1941 and after a battle, both ships went down. They were lost for 66 years until the ships were finally found.
The memorial consists of a replicated portion of the ship’s prow, a granite wall that lists all the sailors lost, a bronze statue of a woman looking longingly out to sea, and a great dome made of 645 steel seagulls that are suspended over a massive propeller. It really is a beautiful memorial and in 2009, the Australian government recognised the site as one of national significance.
Queens Park Theatre
Owned and operated by the City of Geraldton, the Queens Park Theatre is an entertainment landmark and venue. It hosts a variety of attractions like comedy shows, community art programs, dance and performance, as well as music and movie nights.
We were lucky enough to catch the final screening of their Summer Outdoor Cinema session and watched Not Suitable for Children in the amphitheatre with the cool night breeze and starry sky overhead.
Separation Point Lookout
We went for a cruise around town and noticed some massive kites in the sky. We followed them to Separation Point Lookout and watched the kite surfers cut through the blue water. The Point Moore Lighthouse is visible in the distance and this would be an excellent spot to watch the sunset.
As you drive north towards Geraldton, you will pass through Greenough – a small country town that runs at a fairly slow pace. The most definitive and weirdest feature of Greenough is the trees that line the highway. They lean, and some are growing at 90 degree angles along the ground, all because of the strong southerly winds.
Another great attraction of Greenough is the Wildlife and Bird Park on Company Road. Check out our post on this fantastic sanctuary that works to rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife and educate the public on how important it is to take care of our native fauna.
Food & Drink
We went to most of the pubs in Geraldton and found the Provincial Bar and Café to be the best in terms of atmosphere. They also do a happy hour between 4:30pm and 5:30pm when you can get a pint of White Rabbit for $7. The other pubs were good in their own right too – check out our pub crawl post for more details.
Salt Dish Café
We ventured into town on a Thursday morning for a breakfast and knew that the best café in town was Salt Dish. You could tell that it was a local favourite because it was packed. The friendly lass behind the counter showed us to a table and took our coffee orders as we admired the silver ceiling.
Dave ordered the #35 with bacon, eggs and tomato while Juz went with the Poached eggs, spinach, prosciutto and hollandaise sauce. The wait was about 30 minutes and if the food was terrible, we would have cracked the shits but they nailed everything! The coffee was delicious, the eggs were gooey and everything tasted brilliant. The only criticism was that the ‘toast’ was more like ‘warm bread’, but the bread was great so no harm done.
We couldn’t leave town without a kebab so before heading towards Shark Bay, we stopped off at Kebabs Plus for a quick lunch. Dave got doner meat, which was a mixture of beef and lamb while Juz got chicken. They were both prepared really quickly and we ate them just as quickly. They were really tasty (but not as tasty as the ones you can get in Melbourne), and Dave’s doner meat was about a centimetre thick!
Information & Accommodation
The Geraldton Visitor Centre is located at the Bill Sewell Complex on the corner of Chapman Rd and Bayly St – 08 9921 3999
Big4 Sunset Beach Holiday Park Geraldton – 4 Bosley Street, Geraldton – 08 9938 1655