Geraldton a great West Australian coastal town

Leaning tree at Greenough

Western Australia’s Coral Coast has got many lovely beaches, bays and towns.  The biggest town is Geraldton which is 424 kilometres north of Perth.

Actually, its proper title is the City of Geraldton-Greenough, which sits on a relatively flat plain, but is framed by a series of hills and ranges in the east, the Chapman River in the north, the Greenough River in the south and the Indian Ocean to the west.

Geraldton is in an area called the Batavia Coast, which is named after a particularly gruesome historical event when the Dutch ship Batavia was ship wrecked on the Abrolhos Islands, a mutiny ensured, followed by much brutality including rapes and murders.  The formal name for these islands is the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, but everyone refers to them simply as the Abrolhos.  They are a group of 122 uninhabited islands and coral reefs which lie about 80 kilometres (50 miles) off the coast.  There is tremendous fishing off the islands, and although the islands are officially considered to be uninhabited, during the cray fishing season, cray fish are a type of rock lobster, the islands are inhabited by professional cray fishermen and their families.  At other times, the islands are popular with anglers, divers and surfers.

Geraldton is a regional centre for the Mid-West of Western Australia, so there are many facilities there.  Despite being a busy working port, the city is quite laid back.  The weather here is almost idyllic, and Geraldton averages eight hours of sunshine a day for 365 days a year.  It has a vibrant city centre and despite its relative isolation, prices are barely different from those in Perth.

HMAS Sydney II Memorial

Some of the natural attractions that are close to Geraldton include Ellendale Pool, a permanent pool on the Greenough River about 45 kilometres from Geraldton, driving through some very pretty country.  Camping is allowed here, but there is a slight cost.  The mouth of the Greenough River is 10 kms south of Geraldton, it opens into quite a large inlet, and there is a good surf beach at its mouth.  The Chapman Valley is just to the north of Geraldton.  It’s an area with rolling plains nestled between flat-topped mesas, and it is very picturesque.  You can do a scenic drive of the Chapman Valley if heading north to Kalbarri or Carnarvon.

Geraldton-Greenough is an historical area of some importance.  There are a number of heritage buildings in the area, including the Central Greenough Historic Settlement, a whole town that has been well preserved and is open to the public.  One of Geraldton’s most celebrated buildings is St Francis Xavier Cathedral which was built by Monsignor Hawes.  Priest architect John Cyril Hawes arrived in Geraldton in 1915 to take up the parish priest position. He started work on the cathedral straight away.  The cathedral’s foundation stone was laid in 1916 and the building was completed in 1938.

Another monument of note is the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, which has a commanding view on a hill overlooking Geraldton. RAN cruiser HMAS Sydney II and her men disappeared after a battle with German raider HSK Kormoran. While both ships were lost, many of the Kormoran crew survived the ordeal.

Ellendale Pool

The beautifully designed memorial features a silver dome of 645 seagulls to represent each of the lost Sydney sailors. The wall of remembrance shows photographs of the ship and the names of the Sydney crew. To the north, a bronze statue of a woman gazes desperately out to sea as she awaits news of the ill-fated Sydney.

Geraldton has a number of good beaches that are close to the city centre.  It can get very windy here, which whips up quite a good surf.  Geraldton is very popular with wind surfers and kite surfers, and also those interested in sailing.  Fishing and diving is also popular, and many people join a tour to the Abrolhos Islands to get their fix.  One of the best ways to enjoy Geraldton is by air, and there are a number of scenic flights available.

Geraldton Beach

Geraldton is about a four and a half hour direct drive from Perth.  The Brand Highway is quite a good drive, and there are many sightseeing opportunities along the route, starting with The Pinnacles in the south. If you wish, from The Pinnacles you can choose to drive a pretty coastal route to Geraldton rather than following the main highway.  There is a coach service to Geraldton, but it takes a longer inland route via a number of small rural communities, and Skywest has regular air services too.

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