Western Australia's mid-western coastline has long been a magnet for mariners, and tales of triumph and tragedy at sea are a common theme in the port city of Geraldton. History buffs are well catered for, but there's something for everyone in this burgeoning holiday hotspot. Tick off these ten great things to do.
Geraldton may be best known as the gateway to the Abrolhos Islands, but there are plenty of other great reasons to visit this coastal hub in Western Australia’s Mid West.
Let’s start with the weather. ‘Gero’, as locals call it, is much loved for its year-round balmy climate, making it a paradise for beach enthusiasts and anyone with a passion for oceanic pastimes. At 419 kilometres from Perth, it’s also reasonably accessible to road trippers (by WA standards at least!). Plan to stay at least three days and keep space in your itinerary for stops en route at Nambung National Park (to visit the moon-like Pinnacles Desert) and the gorgeous seaside town of Jurien Bay.
Once in Gero, time slows down a little and life is easy/breezy. Here are ten of the best things to do in Geraldton.
1. Sail away to beautiful islands
If you’re from the eastern states, you may not be all that familiar with the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. But let’s just say that there’s no need to covet snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef when WA has its very own island playground and coral wonderland just offshore. The Abrolhos Islands are a series of 122 coral islands of various sizes, that support a vast array of sea creatures, migratory birds, and land-dwelling critters. Often dubbed the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’, the islands are situated about sixty kilometres west of Geraldton.
Depending on your budget, day cruises, fishing charters, scuba diving trips to the Batavia shipwreck (more on that a little later), whale-watching tours, and flyovers are all memorable ways to experience this piece of paradise.
2. Spend a day by the beach
As a coastal city in Western Australia, Geraldton, of course, has beautiful beaches defined by turquoise water and latte-coloured sand. But the Foreshore precinct has all the added comforts to make your day of surf and sun really shine. Just a stone’s throw from the shoreline is Kai Lani — a cute little shipping container cafe plonked on the grass. They do great coffee, burgers, wraps, smoothies, and soft-serve ice cream (a must for any bona fide beach day!).
Along the Foreshore, which is part of the longer Waterfront Heritage Trail, you’ll also find epic playgrounds and a water park, barbecues, picnic tables, paved walkways, bike parking, and some colourful Rubik’s Cube-inspired loos!
3. Walk the Esplanade and see sea lions
Situated at the southern end of the Foreshore, The Esplanade is a modern-day incarnation of what was the city’s first jetty. It leads out to a 360-degree lookout — a place for gazing at the ocean and seeing sea lions resting on the rocks nearby. The safest way to view these marine mammals is through the provided tourist binoculars.
4. Honour those lost at sea
You may hear whispers on the wind or get a salty tear in your eye as you view Geraldton’s spectacular memorial to the 645 souls lost on the HMAS Sydney II. The Australian naval ship sank in November 1941 in the waters south west of Carnarvon after a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran, which also sustained catastrophic damage and was scuttled by her crew. Both ships lay lost on the ocean floor until 2008. The HMAS Sydney II Memorial overlooks the city and coast, and is made up of several symbolic tributes. They include the Waiting Woman sculpture, who will forever scan the horizon in hope.
5. Get an education in local history
Following the Waterfront Heritage Trail will bring you to Batavia Coast Marina and the impressive Museum of Geraldton. You could easily spend a couple of hours here getting the region’s backstory. Take a guided tour of Shipwrecks Gallery and hear about infamous coastal tragedies, treasure lost and found, and life aboard the tall ships of yesteryear. There’s a focus on the wreck of the Dutch East India Company’s Batavia on the Abrolhos Islands in 1649, and the grizzly mutiny that ensued. Peruse the collections devoted to Yamaji First People history and culture, bush tucker, fisheries, the gold rush, wildlife, wildflowers, and more. The museum also hosts travelling exhibitions and shows a short 3D film about the HMAS Sydney II.
6. See the world upside down
Housed in the former turn-of-the-20th-century Town Hall, Geraldton Regional Art Gallery is the spot for visiting culture vultures to get their fix. View the city’s civic art collection, including works by contemporary local creatives.
If you’re interested in seeing a stunning piece of public art, check out the giant crystal ball near the beach at Beresford Foreshore. It spins everything on its head, but in the most beautiful way. The sculpture was created by Sydney-based artist Lucy Humphrey and is called Horizon (but many locals simply refer to it as ‘the sphere’). The clear globe is filled with water, which is why everything looks upside down. It attracts many a camera-toting tourist looking for the best composition to share on social media. There’s even a sign with photography tips.
7. Enjoy cocktails with a view
The Western Australian coastline is justly famous for its sunsets over the Indian Ocean. And what goes well with golden hour? Cocktails, of course! Sip $15 concoctions at Skeetas Seafood Restaurant and Bar on Friday evenings as you watch the sun drop beyond Batavia Marina. If you’re after a next level view, head for Old Man and the Sea — Geraldton’s nautical-themed rooftop bar. This is also a great spot for a cold beer on a hot afternoon.
8. Do a gin or whisky tasting
Bob’s Boutique Bar can be found in The Gerald Apartment Hotel, and hotel bars don’t get much cooler than this one. Think midnight grey walls, red and rose-coloured retro-style furniture, and inventive ways to recycle old hardcover books (as menu covers). As gin-mania continues to sweep the country, lovers of a good G&T are in luck here. The bar stocks a diverse range of local, national, and international gins and whiskeys. If you can’t decide on your poison, try the gin flight. For $30, you’ll get three shots of gin and a mixer to complement each. Whiskey drinkers can also choose a tasting flight, which includes three shots straight or on the rocks.
9. Shop at the Platform Markets
Sundays in Geraldton are for shopping and eating your way around the pop-up markets at the old railway station. The Platform Markets offer everything from bamboo socks and homemade cakes, to second-hand CDs and thriving house plants. Browse the artisanal wares and devour your choice of food truck fodder. Don’t pass by Wicked Waffles without treating yourself to a sweet treat. Sure, you can get classic toppings, but why do that when you can order ‘The Elvis’ — thick waffles topped with peanut butter, bananas, chocolate, whipped cream and chopped nuts!
10. Stop and smell the wildflowers
Every spring, much of WA’s dusty landscape is transformed into a sea of colour as more than 12,000 species of wildflower come into bloom. Wildflower season attracts more than just bees; humans travel far and wide to catch a glimpse and whiff of nature’s beauty. From Geraldton, head 128 kilometres east to the town of Pindar to see lechenaultia macrantha — pink and white blossoms that grow in a circle, and are better known as ‘wreath flowers’.
These floral formations are so popular with road trippers that there’s even designated parking to cater for the throng of admirers. Follow Pindar-Beringarra Road for about 10 kilometres and you’ll spot the wreaths sitting pretty by the roadside.
Browse our range of Western Australia tours and experiences here.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Geraldton? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. She also spent six months working on a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book, or zooming in on a beautiful scene.