Turquoise Bay - Cape Range National Park

Top 9 Towns along the Coral Coast

The Coral Coast of Western Australia spans all the way from Cervantes in the south to Exmouth in the north and covers about 1,100km of coastline.  Within the area is Kalbarri National Park, World Heritage areas Shark Bay Marine Park and Ningaloo Marine Park, as well as beautiful sandy beaches, rugged limestone cliffs and bizzare rock formations.

 

Lancelin does fall a bit short of being part of the Coral Coast, but for the purpose of this post, we will dub this great little town an honorary member…

 

Lancelin – 127km north of Perth

This relaxed coastal town is known as the WA base for wind and kite surfers.  Water sports are the main thing to do around here, unless you like 4WDing or dirt bike riding.  Head north out of town to find some wicked sand dunes to drive or ride over.

 

The town boasts a few cafés, as well as a bakery, surf shop, pharmacy, pizza shop and supermarket.  There are a few pubs in town, including the Endeavour Tavern, which has a kick-ass beer garden.  If you’re looking for some accommodation in the area, check out the Lancelin Lodge YHA.

 

 

Cervantes – 147km north of Perth

This town was established in 1962 as a cray fishing town and got its name from the American whaling ship that was wrecked off the coast in 1844.  It’s another coastal town that offers a variety of water activies, but it’s also super close to the Pinnacles.

 

One of the main attractions in town is the Lobster Shack, a family owned seafood processing operation where you can tour the factory, have a seafood lunch or buy some fresh lobster.  Just out of town is Lake Thetis, a lake that is home to stromatolites and thrombolites and is twice as salty as the ocean.

 

Dongara-Denison – 350km north of Perth

These two sister towns are separated by the Irwin River and boast great fishing, great beaches and the historic Priory Hotel, which was constructed in 1881 as a hotel before being converted into a school that was run by the Domical Sisters for 70 years.

After we checked out Fisherman’s Lookout and the Obelisk in Denison, we drove across the river into Dongara.  Big Moreton Bay Fig trees line the streets, and everyone was really friendly, including the chick who owns the Stomp Music shop.

 

 

Geraldton – 415km north of Perth

Geraldton is a city, not a town, but it’s a fantastic place to visit.  Also known as the Sun City, it has everything from supermarkets, theatres and an aquatic centre, to pubs, restaurants and cafes. Plus, it’s a short drive from Greenough’s leaning trees and Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park.  Check out our post on Geraldton.

 

Kalbarri – 589km north of Perth

This little town sits right on the mouth of the Murchison River and is surrounded by the Kalbarri National Park.  Explore the coastal gorges and rock formations just south of town or drive inland to check out Nature’s Window and deep river gorges.

 

There are two pubs and two supermarkets in town, as well as a really cheap café called Angie’s Café, but if you prefer to catch your own dinner, head to Chinaman Rock with your rod.  There are heaps of accommodation options, from expensive resorts to caravan parks.  Kalbarri Backpackers YHA is a brilliant choice if you’re looking for something relaxed and social and within walking distance to everything.

 

 

Denham – 834km north of Perth

The hub of Shark Bay, this little town is the home to Australia’s westernmost pub, The Shark Bay Hotel.  It is also a short drive to Ocean Park, Monkey Mia and Francois Peron National Park, and further down the coast is Shell Beach and the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool.

 

If you’re a keen 4WDer and fisherman, head to Steep Point.  Once you’ve conquered the sand dunes, see the ranger about a camp spot before dropping a line into the turquoise coloured bay.

 

 

Carnarvon – 905km north of Perth

We thought Carnarvon would be much busier but it’s totally chilled out.  It has a thriving tropical fruit industry and the town is surrounded by plantations that produce papaya, bananas and mangoes.  We also scored some cheap vegetables before doing a spot of tasting at Bumbak’s Preserves & Ice creams Outlet.

 

 

The OTC Dish is a massive landmark that can be seen from town.  It was opened in 1966 as a communications satellite dish and was closed after helping to locate Halley’s Comet in 1987.  It also participated in the Space Race and helped put man on the moon in 1969, and was also the sender of Australia first satellite TV broadcast.

 

Coral Bay – 1132km north of Perth

People were constantly recommending this location and when we got there, we realised why.  Coral Bay is such a beautiful place.  The town survives purely on tourism and is made up of a supermarket, bottle shop and a few caravan parks.

 

Juz went snorkelling by the reef, which is only a few meters from the shore, but other activities include quad biking and fishing.

 

 

Exmouth – 1260km north of Perth

We expected a little more from Exmouth – the layout of the town was a little strange and it felt like more of an inland town than a coastal town.  It was named after the Exmouth Gulf, which was surveyed by Captain Phillip Parker King in 1818.  The surrounding coastline is quite treacherous and is responsible for the Wreck of the Mildura in 1907, and its rusty skeleton can be seen from the beach.  Two lighthouses have been erected to make the coastline a little safer – the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse and the Point Cloates Lighthouse.

 

 

The area was the location of a secret base during World War II and was code named Operation Potshot, which is why the pub in town is called the Potshot Hotel.  We couldn’t afford to pay $30 for a chicken parma at the pub so we feasted on souvlakia from Planet Burgers before crashing at the Excape Backpackers YHA next door.  In the morning, we drove over the cape to the western side of the peninsula and visited the Jurabi Turtle Centre.  We learnt about the different turtles that live in the surrounding waters and the need to minimise the impact of humans on turtles coming to the area to nest.

 

Further along is Cape Range National Park, which is part of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area. The park covers over 50,000 hectares and is made up of white beaches, limestone ranges and rocky gorges.  We would have loved to go snorkelling over the reef but Juz was way too hungover from the previous evening so we went for a hike in Mandu Mandu Gorge instead.

 

 

BIG4 Holiday Parks on the Coral Coast

Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park, Dongara

Sunset Beach Holiday Park, Geraldton

BIG4 Plantation Caravan Park, Carnarvon

Exmouth Cape Holiday Park, Exmouth 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HMAS Sydney II Memorial

City Profile : Geraldton

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!

 

A Geraldton sunset

 

P.S. Geraldton loves sundials and bougainvilleas!

 

Points of Interest

Geraldton Foreshore

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!

 

 

WA Museum

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.

 

 

Greenough

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.

 

Kebabs Plus

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

 

Cheers!

Drink : Pub Crawl in Geraldton, WA

It was a warm Saturday afternoon in Geraldton and we were a little bored.  Jeremy the French Helpx helper had come back from his assignment on the farm and we all decided that we should hit the town and check out the local pubs.

 

The Provincial Bar & Café

We found out that their happy hour went from 4:30pm to 5:30pm and after walking 3.5km into the city, we got there with 10 minutes to spare.  Juz was super happy about them serving White Rabbit on tap so Jeremy and Juz got the White Ale while Dave went with the Dark Ale.

 

 

This place has an awesome atmosphere and we could see why it’s one of Geraldton’s most favourite places.  Plus, its run by a guy from Melbourne so you know their woodfire pizzas are gonna be amazing.

 

 

The Freemason Hotel

It was a bit too early for dinner so we walked down the street to the Freemason Hotel.  The band was just warming up so we had to yell across the bar for our beer of choice.  Apart from the live music, there was a round pool table, foosball table and heaps of dance floor room for a late night boogie.

 

 

The Geraldton Hotel

We were looking forward to this place but when we walked into the main bar, we were a little disappointed.  The lighting was white and bright with a bunch of old codgers sitting at the bar watching the West Coast vs Carlton match.

 

 

After a round of drinks, we went to order and were impressed by the massive beer garden that hosts their Sunday Sessions.  Dave got the steak sandwich while Juz and Jeremy got the chicken parma – all meals are $10.

 

Our food was ready really quickly.  The chicken parma was ok but could have been better if the chicken meat was real.  The chips were really bland but the small amount of salad compensated in flavour.  Dave’s steak burger was good – a nice piece of rump steak with beetroot and processed cheese in a soft sesame seed bun.

 

 

The Camel Bar

This place was pumping when we arrived.  There was a band playing, people both young and old were sitting at the bar, playing pool or finishing off their dinner.

 

 

The place was decorated with camel paraphernalia – the biggest collection in Western Australia!  We had a bit of a laugh and showed the manager the infamous camel picture.

 

Geraldton 2013-04-20 037

 

Breakers Bar & Café

Compared to the Camel Bar, this place was a bit quiet.  The décor was modern and sleek with a curved metallic bar, black couches and a stage for live music.  They do cheap meals throughout the week, including a $15 parma on Thursdays – hopefully we’ll have a chance to try one.

 

 

We had a round of drinks here before we realised we had a massive walk back home.  We fooled around with a floodlight on the way home, met some dudes who thought Dave’s beard was awesome, climbed some fences and got home just before midnight.