Given how expansive Western Australia is, yet filled with stunning places to visit in just about every corner, there are always cities and towns along the way who end up falling into that “passing through” category. Places like Busselton and Bunbury in the southwest, and to the northwest, Geraldton.
However, we’re here today to shine a loving light on this gateway to the northwest, a city working hard to shake the “pitstop” tag with an array of excellent reasons to make sure you stay a little longer. From their unparalleled seafood, a thriving history, arts and culture scene, the beautiful foreshore and esplanade and more, here’s 10 reasons why you should give yourself a generous amount of time in Geraldton next time you’re there:
It Has Its Own Island Paradise, The Houtman Abrolhos Islands
We posed the question a year or two ago, and we think it’s fair to say that the Houtman Abrolhos Islands are fast becoming WA’s second best island playground. The 122-island archipelago contains some of the bluest waters in the country, steeped in biodiversity and declared a national park; you can get there easily by boat from Geraldton, or book a flyover with local operators.
Crayfishing, fishing, diving, snorkelling and exploring all await, you’ll find huge colonies of marine mammals like sea lions, bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales from July-October. Drop a line in and if you’re half-decent you’ll be pulling up baldchin groper, dhufish, Sampson fish, snapper and coral trout, along with octopus, scallops and of course the Coral Coast’s most prized catch – the Western Rock Lobster (just be sure to check for fishing regulations/exclusion zones or even better, opt for a local tour operator).
Plus There’s Water Sports Galore
You don’t need to get out to the Abrolhos Islands to get wet though, the coastline of Geraldton is a watersports enthusiast’s playground. There’s plenty of great surfing spots around Autumn when the wind and swell conditions are optimal, while windsurfing is the sport du jour during the summer months. If you really want to kick things up a notch in the adrenalin department, Ultimate Watersports on the foreshore has it all. We’re talking jet ski hire and tours; fly boards; jet packs, SUPs, kayaks, tubing, wakeboarding, wakefoiling and more!
Maritime History Buffs Will Be All At Sea
Geraldton’s status as a major west coast seaport and its establishment way back in 1850 means its a city steeped in history, and there are plenty of ways to explore it. The Point Moore Lighthouse, HMAS II Sydney Memorial, St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Victoria District Hospital, Old Gaol and Craft Centre are all significant landmarks worth your time.
Meanwhile the Museum Of Geraldton explores not only the rich maritime heritage of the area, but importantly the history and culture of the Yamaji people. To go a little deeper on the first people of the region, the Yamaji Drive Trail features 14 sites to visit along a 60km route.
And There’s Plenty Of Art And Culture To Sink Your Brain Into
Art buffs would be smart to make a beeline for the wonderful Geraldton Regional Art Gallery and Visitor Centre (pictured below), featuring hundreds of spectacular pieces from around the area as well as national touring exhibitions. There’s also the Yamaji Art Centre and Mullewa’s Aboriginal Art Workshop and Gallery, plus there’s a burgeoning public art space close to the Summerstar Belair Gardens Caravan Park.
Its New Seafood Festival Is Already An Iconic WA Event
If you’re planning on heading to Geraldton around April, perhaps make it the end of the month when Shore Leave makes its return after a triumphant inaugural event last year. Locals and visitors alike are treated to a spectacular array of foodie, community and cultural events over five days, including the Abrolhos Long Table Lunch, Beach Price Markets at Fisherman’s Wharf, Midwest Paddock To Plate and loads more. There’ll be celebrity chefs rolling through and some incredible seafood – check out the program here.
The Geraldton Foreshore And Esplanade Is World Class
No coastal town is worth the salt in its seawater unless they’ve got a family-friendly foreshore area for the community, and Geraldton has developed a pearler over the past few years. Boasting world-class facilities, the foreshore is lined with barbecues, walking/cycling paths, picnic areas, playgrounds to suit all ages, exercise facilities and of course, the Water Park! Towards the southern end you’ll find the Esplanade, offering great views back towards the city, a spot of fishing and even some sea lion spotting.
There Are Tonnes Of Terrific Trails To Explore
If you prefer your activities more land based fear not, Geraldton and its surrounds have plenty of wonderful walking trails to conquer, many are also really informative, like the Geraldton Heritage Trail. Head to the area during wildflower season and watch the region sparkle while exploring the likes of Greenough River Nature Walk Trail, Chapman River Regional Park and the Mullewa Trails.
You’re Surrounded By Succulent Seafood
Alright enough of the foreplay, now we’re getting to the heart and seafood soul of what makes Geraldton great. If you’ve got time to jump on a fishing charter or crayfish boat that’s where you’ll score the freshest of the fresh when it comes to Geraldton’s beloved western rock lobster. Alternatively you can take a tour of Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-Operative, or you can head to the Fishermen’s Wharf and enjoy fresh fish and chips from Barnacles On The Wharf.
And Their Restaurants And Cafes Are On The Up And Up
It doesn’t have to be all rock lobster all the time though (Skeetas is a local fave for that if you’ve not had your fill yet), with an emerging restaurant, cafe and small bar culture that’ll keep you fed and watered just nicely. Cutler & Smith and The Provincial are a couple of great small bars in town if you’re looking to whet your whistle, while Freemasons offers the authentic country pub experience we all love.
Winding back to the start of the day, you won’t be able to do any exploring until you’ve had your caffeine hit, and Geraldton’s not short on quirky cafes slinging great coffee. Quiet Life, The Jaffle Shack (pictured below), Cafe Fleur and Two Foreshore should all be on your morning radar.
There’s Even A Pink Lake, And The Very Pretty Ellendale Pool
Last, but certainly not least, we couldn’t finish this article without mentioning the presence of a pink lake! Hutt Lagoon Pink Lake is about an hour north of Geraldton near small fishing town Port Gregory, and is well worth a visit. Booking a fly-over offers you the most spectacular effect of the pink clashing with the vivid blues of the ocean, although it’s still impressive walking alongside it.
And if inland water bodies are more your thing, make sure you pay a visit to Ellendale Pool – a scenic waterhole 45km southeast of Geraldton near Greenough. Surrounded by gum trees and a spectacular rocky gorge, it’s great for a picnic with barbecues and to learn a little thanks to interpretive signs explaining the areas Aboriginal and European history.
Start planning your Geraldton journey via the Visit Geraldton Website.