Geraldton

The fourth largest city in Western Australia, Geraldton is a port city and an important centre for mining, fishing, wheat, sheep and tourism.

Geraldton is the largest town in the Central West region and one of the most attractive centres in Western Australia. It has the double advantage of being the seaside resort for the wheat farmers from the dry hinterland and, with an average of 8 hours sunshine every day, being Western Australia's most popular winter resort. Equally, while small townships like Cervantes, Jurien and Port Gregory have lobster fleets, Geraldton has the largest lobster fleet on the west coast.

Popular surf spots include Flat Rocks, Back Beach, Greenough, Glenfield and Sunset Beach. Geraldton is also an internationally renowned windsurfing location. The most popular spot is Coronation Beach, located just north of the town.

Geraldton has many great dive sites, such as the wreck of the South Tomi, sunk in 2004, and trips out to the Abrolhos Islands are available. These waters are said to be some of the best in the world, especially in Australia, often having over 40m visibility.

Geraldton is an ideal base for exploring the mid-west region - Dongara, Greenough, the Abrolhos Islands - and a well serviced stopping place for travellers heading north to Northampton, Kalbarri, Shark Bay, Carnarvon, Ningaloo Reef, North West Cape, the Pilbara and Kimberley regions.


HMAS Sydney II memorial

The country's premier site for honouring HMAS Sydney's 645 sailors who were lost off the Western Australian coast during World War II. The location of both wrecks remained a mystery for over 66 years until they were located in March 2008 by the Finding Sydney Foundation.

On 11 November 1941, HMAS Sydney engaged in a confrontation with the German raider Kormoran. The German vessel initially identified herself falsely as a Dutch ship, then opened fire with guns and torpedo when asked to give a secret call sign. Return fire led to the Kormoran's crew abandoning ship, and both vessels were lost. 78 of its 393 were also killed.


Western Australian Museum Geraldton

This Museum, located at Batavia Coast Marina, celebrates the environmental, social, cultural and economic stories of the Mid West region of Western Australia and the outlying Abrolhos Islands. A major feature are the stories from four major early shipwrecks located in the region - the Batavia, Gilt Dragon, Zuytdorp, and Zeewijk, as well the discovery of HMAS Sydney II, the pride of Australia's naval fleet, lost in action in Novemver 1941.

Hanging above the museum's exhibitions is a replica of a Bristol Tourer flown by WA Airlines Ltd; Australia's first commercial airline. The company started operations in 1921 a year before QANTAS. Entry is by a voluntary donation.


St Francis Xavier Cathedral

English born Priest architect Monsignor John Hawes arrived in Geraldton in 1915 to take up the parish priest position. He started work on the cathedral straight away; the foundation stone was laid in 1916 and the building completed in 1938. It is regarded as one of Monsignor Hawes finest works. Guided walks through the cathedral and its crypt are available. The cathedral is one of a number of ecclesiastical buildings in Western Ausralia's Mid West designed and built by Monsignor John Hawes.

By any measure the cathedral is a hodge-podge of style. The twin towers are similar to those on the Californian Mission Church at Santa Barbara, the central dome has echoes of Brunellesci's cupola in Florence, the main doorway is from the French Renaissance, there are eight Romanesque columns inside, and the strange painting scheme (orange and grey stripes) is reminiscent of the Eastern Orthodox churches or even an Islamic mosque although Hawes' did say of the colour scheme that it was drawn from the 'many churches and cathedrals of Italy, such as Siena and Orvieto'. There is no doubt that the interior of the church is as interesting, if not more interesting, than the exterior. It is truly a remarkable and highly original piece of architecture.

Location: Cathedral Avenue, Geraldton. Ph (08) 9964 1608.


Point Moore Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Point Moor, for example, was built in 1878. It stands 34 metres high and can be seen 26 km out to sea. Interestingly the Point Moor lighthouse was pre-dated by the Bluff Point Lighthouse which was completed in 1876. The Bluff Point Lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1952 (there is a monument where the lighthouse originally stood) but the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage still stands on Chapman Road on the main northern entrance to the city. Built in 1876 the cottage is now surrounded by beautiful gardens and now houses the Geraldton Historical Society's Museum.


Yellow Submarine

The Beatles sang about a Yellow Submarine, but the crayfishen of Geraldton actually built one. One of the many icons of Geraldton, the Yellow Submarine was designed and built in Dongara in the early 1970s to look for where on the seabed the crayfish were. It has a small cabin and room for two operators.  It is amazing just how small the cabin area is for the two people it takes to operate the submarine. The project was a failure and the six tonne, privatelty-owned vessel is now on display on the Geraldton foreshore of Town Beach. When it was restored a decade ago, the submarine was stripped back and the rusting parts were replaced, and windows were cut in the side to allow the public to see inside the cabin and the original motor. This yellow submarine has an almost identical (smaller) twin in Broome and that was successfully used in the pearling industry.

Sunset Beach is located off Bosley St north of the city centre and is perfect for fishing, swimming, relaxing and of course watching the sunset. Dogs are permitted here and toilets and showers are close by.


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Where is it?

Geraldton is 503 km north of Perth via Brand Highway.


Surrounding Area

Geraldton has many holiday parks available for travellers, however if you prefer the bush camping scene there is a camp ground at Coronation Beach 36km north of town. Follow the North West Coastal Highway for 28km then head west for 8km to the coast. There are about 20 camp sites, some smaller than others, with pit toilets and shower recesses (supply own water). A sheltered viewing platform with seating makes a nice spot for an evening drink whilst taking in the sunset. For $10 per vehicle per night it’s a cheap way to kick back and enjoy the beach.

Northampton

North of Geraldton is the town of Northampton, as well as the Hutt River Province, an area which claims to be an independent nation since its self-proclaimed secession from Western Australia in 1969.

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Chapman Valley

The Chapman Valley Heritage Trail is a 100 km driving tour from Geraldton through the valley which for nearly 100 years (from 1863-1959) was mined for lead and copper. It is now a pastoral area where sheep, wheat, cattle and lupins are grown and raised. The appeal of the Chapman Valley is a combination of its beautiful scenery and the many historical points of interest which include Monsignor Hawes' Church of Our Lady of Fatima at Nanson and the Chapman Research Station where, since 1902, research into the agricultural problems of the region has been carried out. Interested visitors should contact the station manager on (08) 9920 5021 and arrange an appointment. A brochure on the Chapman Valley Heritage Trail is available from the Geraldton Visitor Centre, Bill Sewell Complex, Cnr Chapman Rd and Bayly St, Geraldton. Ph (08) 9921 3999.


Abrolhos Islands

The Abrolhos Islands are 60 km to the west of Geraldton. On its madien voyage, the Dutch trading vessel Batavia came to grief on its reefs in 1629. A stone portico recovered from the wreck has been reconstructed at the local museum, along with other artefacts.

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Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station

The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) is located at Kojarena, inland from Geraldton. The ADSCS is part of the US signals intelligence and analysis network ECHELON. The station has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites and international communications satellites (INTELSATs and COMSATs), throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian regions.


History of Geraldton

Though many European maritime explorers encountered or were even wrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos islands 60 km west of Geraldton in the 17th and 18th centuries, there is no evidence that any made landfall near the site of the current town. The first European to explore the area was George Grey in 1839.

A decade later the explorer Augustus Gregory travelled through the area. He discovered lead on the Murchison River and the mine which was subsequently established was named Geraldine after the Governor Charles Fitzgerald.

The town of Geraldton was gazetted in 1850. In the years that followed the hinterland was settled by farmers and in 1857, after the closure of the unsuccessful Convict Depot at Port Gregory, Geraldton became a short lived convict settlement. In the 1860s, after the decline of Port Gregory, it became the major port north of Fremantle and in 1871 it was officially proclaimed a town.

It was during the time after 1850 that the local Aboriginal population, which was estimated at over 1000 between Dongara and Geraldton, was virtually wiped out. Massacres and diseases were the killers. It is known that nearly 300 Aborigines died at Tibradden Station in 1853 as the result of an outbreak of measles.

In 1879 the Western Australian government built a railway between Geraldton and Northampton.

The town's major period of growth occurred in the 1890s when it became the major port for the Murchison gold rushes. Prospectors poured through the port on their way to the fields at Cue, Day Dawn, Mount Magnet, Meekatharra and Yalgoo.

By World War 1 Geraldton had become the major centre for the surrounding wheat belt. It still holds this position today and is an important centre for fishing, wheat, sheep and tourism.

HMAS Sydney was lost off the coast north west of Geraldton and there is a memorial overlooking the city. After years of searching, the wreck of HMAS Sydney was discovered north of Geraldton, 150 kilometres from Shark Bay.

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