The fourth largest city in Western Australia, Geraldton is a port city and an important centre for mining, fishing, wheat, sheep and tourism.
Where is it?: Geraldton is 503 km north of Perth via Brand Highway.
Geraldton is the largest town in the Central West region and one of the most attractive centres in Western Australia. It has the double advantage of being the seaside resort for the wheat farmers from the dry hinterland and, with an average of 8 hours sunshine every day, being Western Australia's most popular winter resort. Equally, while small townships like Cervantes, Jurien and Port Gregory have lobster fleets, Geraldton has the largest lobster fleet on the west coast.
Popular surf spots include Flat Rocks, Back Beach, Greenough, Glenfield and Sunset Beach. Geraldton is also an internationally renowned windsurfing location. The most popular spot is Coronation Beach, located just north of the town.
Geraldton has many great dive sites, such as the wreck of the South Tomi, sunk in 2004, and trips out to the Abrolhos Islands are available. These waters are said to be some of the best in the world, especially in Australia, often having over 40m visibility.
Geraldton is an ideal base for exploring the mid-west region - Dongara, Greenough, the Abrolhos Islands - and a well serviced stopping place for travellers heading north to Northampton, Kalbarri, Shark Bay, Carnarvon, Ningaloo Reef, North West Cape, the Pilbara and Kimberley regions.
HMAS Sydney II memorial: The country's premier site for honouring HMAS Sydney's 645 sailors who were lost off the Western Australian coast during World War II. The location of both wrecks remained a mystery for over 66 years until they were located in March 2008 by the Finding Sydney Foundation.
On 11 November 1941, HMAS Sydney engaged in a confrontation with the German raider Kormoran. The German vessel initially identified herself falsely as a Dutch ship, then opened fire with guns and torpedo when asked to give a secret call sign. Return fire led to the Kormoran's crew abandoning ship, and both vessels were lost. 78 of its 393 were also killed.
Museum of Geraldton: This Museum, located at Batavia Coast Marina, celebrates the environmental, social, cultural and economic stories of the Mid West region of Western Australia and the outlying Abrolhos Islands. A major feature are the stories from four major early shipwrecks located in the region - the Batavia, Gilt Dragon, Zuytdorp, and Zeewijk, as well the discovery of HMAS Sydney II, the pride of Australia's naval fleet, lost in action in November 1941.
Hanging above the museum's exhibitions is a replica of a Bristol Tourer flown by WA Airlines Ltd; Australia's first commercial airline. The company started operations in 1921 a year before QANTAS. Entry is by a voluntary donation.
St Francis Xavier Cathedral: English born Priest architect Monsignor John Hawes arrived in Geraldton in 1915 to take up the parish priest position. He started work on the cathedral straight away; the foundation stone was laid in 1916 and the building completed in 1938. It is regarded as one of Monsignor Hawes finest works. Guided walks through the cathedral and its crypt are available. The cathedral is one of a number of ecclesiastical buildings in Western Ausralia's Mid West designed and built by Monsignor John Hawes.
By any measure the cathedral is a hodge-podge of style. The twin towers are similar to those on the Californian Mission Church at Santa Barbara, the central dome has echoes of Brunellesci's cupola in Florence, the main doorway is from the French Renaissance, there are eight Romanesque columns inside, and the strange painting scheme (orange and grey stripes) is reminiscent of the Eastern Orthodox churches or even an Islamic mosque although Hawes' did say of the colour scheme that it was drawn from the 'many churches and cathedrals of Italy, such as Siena and Orvieto'.
There is no doubt that the interior of the church is as interesting, if not more interesting, than the exterior. It is truly a remarkable and highly original piece of architecture. Location: Cathedral Avenue, Geraldton. Ph (08) 9964 1608.
Point Moore Lighthouse: The lighthouse at Point Moor, for example, was built in 1878. It stands 34 metres high and can be seen 26 km out to sea. Interestingly the Point Moor lighthouse was pre-dated by the Bluff Point Lighthouse which was completed in 1876. The Bluff Point Lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1952 (there is a monument where the lighthouse originally stood) but the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage still stands on Chapman Road on the main northern entrance to the city. Built in 1876 the cottage is now surrounded by beautiful gardens and now houses the Geraldton Historical Society's Museum.
Yellow Submarine: The Beatles sang about a Yellow Submarine, but the crayfishen of Geraldton actually built one. One of the many icons of Geraldton, the Yellow Submarine was designed and built in Dongara in the early 1970s to look for where on the seabed the crayfish were. It has a small cabin and room for two operators. It is amazing just how small the cabin area is for the two people it takes to operate the submarine.
The project was a failure and the six tonne, privatelty-owned vessel is now on display on the Geraldton foreshore of Town Beach. When it was restored a decade ago, the submarine was stripped back and the rusting parts were replaced, and windows were cut in the side to allow the public to see inside the cabin and the original motor. This yellow submarine has an almost identical (smaller) twin in Broome and that was successfully used in the pearling industry.
Sunset Beach: is located off Bosley Street north of the city centre and is perfect for fishing, swimming, relaxing and of course watching the sunset. Dogs are permitted here and toilets and showers are close by.
Geraldton has many holiday parks available for travellers, however if you prefer the bush camping scene there is a camp ground at Coronation Beach 36km north of town. Follow the North West Coastal Highway for 28km then head west for 8km to the coast. There are about 20 camp sites, some smaller than others, with pit toilets and shower recesses (supply own water). A sheltered viewing platform with seating makes a nice spot for an evening drink whilst taking in the sunset. For $10 per vehicle per night it’s a cheap way to kick back and enjoy the beach.
North of Geraldton is the town of Northampton (52 km), as well as the Hutt River Province, an area which claims to be an independent nation since its self-proclaimed secession from Western Australia in 1969.
The Chapman Valley Heritage Trail is a 100 km driving tour from Geraldton through the valley which for nearly 100 years (from 1863-1959) was mined for lead and copper. It is now a pastoral area where sheep, wheat, cattle and lupins are grown and raised.
The appeal of the Chapman Valley is a combination of its beautiful scenery and the many historical points of interest which include Monsignor Hawes' Church of Our Lady of Fatima at Nanson and the Chapman Research Station where, since 1902, research into the agricultural problems of the region has been carried out. Interested visitors should contact the station manager on (08) 9920 5021 and arrange an appointment. A brochure on the Chapman Valley Heritage Trail is available from the Geraldton Visitor Centre, Bill Sewell Complex, Cnr Chapman Rd and Bayly St, Geraldton. Ph (08) 9921 3999.
The Abrolhos Islands and their surrounding coral reef communities form one of Western Australia's unique marine areas. The Islands lie about 60 kilometres west of Geraldton, on the Western Australian coast, and consist of 122 islands clustered into three main groups: the Wallabi Group, Easter Group and Pelsaert Group, which extend from north to south across 100 kilometres of ocean.
On its madien voyage, the Dutch trading vessel Batavia came to grief on its reefs in 1629. A stone portico recovered from the wreck has been reconstructed at the local museum, along with other artefacts.
Horrocks Beach (74 km north) is a traditional holiday, camping and fishing village for early settlers in the 1850's. Today it is popular with those who enjoy the outdoors and fishing, nature and history..
The major natural attraction in the Northampton area is Hutt Lagoon (103 km north), a remarkable pink lagoon which is coloured by the presence of algae known as beta caratine in the waters. It is mined both for its salt and for its food colouring properties. Hutt Lagoon is passed on the way to Gregory.
Originally the port for the Murchison region and called Port Gregory, the township of Gregory (99 km north) is today a small tourist and fishing village. Gregory is a fascinating settlement where convict history, fishing, wheat lands and 'getting away from it all' holidaying are an enthralling mix. There can be few places in Australia where wheat fields grow right next to huge white sand dunes, where an historic convict settlement stands on the shores of a pink lake, and where a reef runs parallel to the coast forming a natural breakwater for a small harbour.
The coastal town of Kalbarri (166 km north) has developed in recent years from an isolated community of fishermen and holiday shacks to a holiday destination offering a wide choice of activities and accommodation.
The two drawcards that have made this so are the Murchison River gorges off the road leading to the town and the stark, dramatic coastline to the south. It is around them that most of the activities on offer to visitors revolve.
Kalbarri National Park is famous for its spectacular scenery, which features rugged coastal cliffs and towering river gorges, and its magniﬁcent springtime display of wildﬂowers. The 80-kilometre Murchison River, rising in the west, has cut a 170-metre deep canyon through the park on its way to the sea at Gantheaume Bay.
Dongara (64 km south) is a small community on the Irwin River, where most of the operators of Port Denison's fishing fleet live. It is a genuinely charming fishing village (the ubiquitous Batavia Coast rock lobster is the main catch) and holiday resort characterised by some beautiful historic buildings and a main street which has some of the finest stands of Moreton Bay fig trees anywhere in Australia. Interestingly the trees were planted in 1906 for a total cost of 16 shillings and four pence.
To the south of Dongara is Port Denison - an attractive port for fishermen (especially crayfishermen) with a good marina and harbour.
Greenough (18 km south) is an all but abandoned historic rural community that developed on the Greenough Plains in the mid 19th century. Essentially a ghost town, Greenough is one of the most interesting historic towns in Australia, it is claimed by some to be the country's best preserved nineteenth century town.
The Greenough Flats form the flood plain of the river system close to the mouth of the Greenough River. The flats are renowned for their unusual trees which grow parallel to the ground. Buffeted by prevailing southerly winds, the leaning trees of Greenough (eucalyptus camaldulensis or red river gum) have grown to be a popular icon visited by many travellers. It is only on the windswept Greenough Flats that the tree develops its distinctive leaning structure - growing perpendicular to the soil below.
46 km north of Dongara is the charming village of Walkaway; the main interest for visitors being the Walkaway Station Museum. Housed in the old railway station building, this museum has an excellent display of regional transport, natural resources, weapons and military relics. Ellendale Pool, 20 km from Walkaway, is a lovely natural pool at the foot of river cliffs and is surrounded by tall shady trees. It makes a lovely spot for a picnic, barbecue or bird watching.
Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station
The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) is located at Kojarena, inland from Geraldton. The ADSCS is part of the US signals intelligence and analysis network ECHELON. The station has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites and international communications satellites (INTELSATs and COMSATs), throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian regions.