Surrounded by beaches, sun-drenched Geraldton in Western Australia is a thriving city facing the Indian Ocean. Located on the Coral Coast, the city has a friendly country town feel but is infused local history and cultural heritage. Like many coastal towns, the dining and café culture is superb and the choice of which restaurant to choose is a happy dilemma for most travellers!
Celebrated for its annual display of spectacular wildflowers, Geraldton’s flora attracts visitors from all regions, with guides taking tourists on as much as 300 mile/500 kilometre round trips in order to make sure that they receive the best possible experience. A haven for visitors especially during the cooler months, the views differ year-in year-out and vary greatly depending on the rainfall. Whole fields become blanketed in colour and rare plants, such as the wreath-flower, burst into splendorous bloom. The well-informed guides keep a track of what is flowering where and visitors only have to ask to be pointed in the right direction.
With over 300 species of native plants, it is only expected that insects and birds are attracted to the area. Over 120 types of bird have been classified as well as 22 types of reptile and seven types of frog. Happily, the iconic kangaroo also makes the plains their home, so visitors can expect a real Aussie welcome if they happen upon one!
Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park
As well as the fields of wildflowers, Geraldton is also known for its devotion to wildlife rehabilitation. Wildlife rescue centres are dotted around the area, but the Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park is superlative in its commitment to rehabilitating native species back into the wild; staff work on the mantra of “rescue, rehabilitate and release”, (although they do offers a “life of relaxation” in the park itself if the animal can no longer function in the bush). Privately run for the past 30 years, the non-profit organisation is situated in beautiful surroundings and offers guests an interactive experience where you can cuddle kangaroos, pet dingos and even feed the snakes! An addition of a freshwater and a saltwater pool also allow for crocodiles, with their feeding times clearly marked for those who want to witness (or stay away from!) the carnivorous frenzy. Both staff and animals are friendly and enthusiastic to guests and the helpers are knowledgeable and passionate about their cause. Offering picturesque views, the park is set on flat ground, making it easy visiting for reduced-mobility guests as well as for those travelling with children.
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral
Not all of Geraldton’s activities however are concentrated to the great outdoors. The splendid St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, located in the centre of the city offers a haven of peace and respite for the weary traveller. Designed in 1918 by Monsignor John Hawkes and considered by many to be his greatest work, the Cathedral is built in a Spanish Mission style and features a striking doomed roof, spectacular rafters and some unusual stained glass windows (the most recent circular ones were installed only in 1988). Intending to focus on function rather than “prettiness and elegance”, the Cathedral is a massive, solid structure, and is a lovely outside as in. Watch the sun rise over the serene building for a truly magical sight. A full restoration programme has been recently completed and tours are organised by the Diocese throughout the year. St. Francis Xavier is just one of Hawkes’ buildings in Geraldton, and those who are passionate about architecture may like to spend their time visiting the five other buildings in Geraldton that were designed by this Christian architect.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial & Museum
No description of Geraldton would be worthy unless the HMAS Sydney II Memorial was mentioned. This memorial commands the hill overlooking the city and commemorates the loss of the war ship and her 645 men after a skirmish with the German raider Kormoran in 1941. The loss of lives was Australia’s greatest naval tragedy and the shipwreck lay undiscovered for many years, until renewed efforts in 2008 brought fruition.
A moving tribute to the sailors, the memorial is a set on seven pillars, representing the seven states and territories of Australia. The domed roof is made up of 645 silver gulls, contained within the structure. A little further away, the figure of a woman, cast in bronze, looks out to sea, waiting for the return of her loved one. Hauntingly beautiful, the names of each of the men who lost their lives are etched into the surrounding stones. Exquisitely designed and deeply thought-provoking, a visit to the memorial is a not only a symbolic experience but an absolute must see. Enjoy it at sunset for quiet reflection, or during the day for an informative guided tour.
Live Lobster Tour
Geraldton is fast becoming a gourmet destination with more and more foodies adding a stop here on their travels. Thanks to the thriving commercial lobster fishing industry that has been growing since the 1950s, local western rock lobster is a national and international delicacy and rightly so, as it is a taste sensation not to be missed.
Live lobster tours are now a staple stop when visiting Geraldton and remain a highlight for many visitors. During the November – June season, enthusiastic tour guides will take you through the multi-million dollar process that is live lobster farming and explain why the clear regional waters are a haven for the delicacy. As the guides take you through the behind-the-scenes insight, guests will not only delight in holding the animals in their hands but also in learning how the lobster is packed and shipped overseas. Run by the Geraldton Fisherman’s Co-operative, the tours are rooted in the Co-operative’s 60 years of history and expertise which make the tour an unforgettable experience. Whether you prefer to enjoy your lobster Aussie style, with chips on the beach, or in a more gourmet setting, there is no denying that the delectable dish is a mouth-watering delight. Add a fantastic local Chapman Valley wine into the mix, a beautiful beach sunset and you are in epicurean paradise!