Geraldton

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St Francis Xavier Cathedral
St Francis Xavier Cathedral is an unusual highlight in Geraldton

Geraldton on Western Australia’s beautiful Batavia Coast boasts an enormous variety of attractions – both natural and man-made – to tempt grey nomads to stop and stay a while … and then a while longer.

Located some 400 kilometres north of Perth, the town with a population of around 40,000 is blessed with superb beaches, a cracking climate, a rich and varied history, a full range of shops and services, art galleries, museums, and – of course – it is located in truly magnificent country. Between July and October, this is the gateway to wildflower country … and an unforgettable explosion of floral colour.

There are a number of excellent caravan parks in Geraldton itself and, for self-contained travellers, there are seven bays at the visitor centre offering free parking for 24 hours. There are also a number of spots within striking distance where stays are less than $10 a night. These include Coronation Beach, Oakabella Homestead, Ellendale Pool, and Fig Tree Crossing.

As well as being a haven for water sports enthusiasts, Geraldton is a major port and still plays host to giant cruise ships. The sea has been central in shaping the town’s identity and the plethora of shipwrecks off its coast are a major attraction for snorkellers and divers.

The most famous wreck of all is that of the Batavia, which sunk in 1629 off the nearby Houtman Abrolhos islands. The story of the sinking and subsequent mutiny can be discovered at Geraldton’s Western Australian Museum, along with many shipwreck relics. Unfortunately for the Batavia, the Point Moor Lighthouse wasn’t built until 1878. This iconic tower stands 35 metres high and its light can be seen for 23 nautical miles.

The HMAS Sydney II Memorial, which sits on top of Mount Scott overlooking Geraldton, also draws many grey nomads. The eye-catching memorial commemorates the deaths of the vessel’s 645 crew in 1941.

While Geraldton is full of interesting buildings and museums, the stunning St Francis Xavier Cathedral certainly stands out from the crowd. Designed by Monsignor John Hawes, it was finished in 1938.

But Geraldton is not all about history. A lot of work has been carried out at the Geraldton  foreshore in recent years to transform an abandoned railway marshalling yard into a spectacular and thoughtful public area. At the southern end, the new Esplanade offers views of the city, Port, Champion Bay and Moresby Ranges from a 360-degree viewing platform. And the boardwalk at the Batavia Coast Marina is a perfect place for a scenic waterfront stroll.

The Chapman River Regional Park right in the heart of town is not a bad place to get a sense of the wildflowers in the area, and to enjoy the rich variety of birdlife and wildlife that visit there. Outside of town, grey nomads flock to the likes of Ellendale Pool, Coronation Beach and the historic village of Greenough. The Greenough Flats are also home to the iconic ‘leaning trees’, Red River gums that have effectively been flattened by the howling winds.

So much to do … and such a truly beautiful place to do it in.

 

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