Geraldton Cruise Port

Port of Geraldton: An Overview

Lost treasures, bendy trees and an historical first for Australia. It's all found in this part of Western Australia.

The first recorded site of a European visitor to the continent is within the vicinity. Too far for a day trip, but worth knowing about, it was 400 years ago that explorer Dirk Hartog nailed his inscribed pewter plate to a pole on an island a few hundred kilometres north of Geraldton.

Closer and more recent events include the mystery surrounding the wreck of a Dutch ship carrying wealth for the Spice Islands in the 18th century, as well as the sinking of HMAS Sydney II with immense loss of life in 1941.

Today's Geraldton is a thriving coastal city with a population of about 36,000 and the commercial centre for the local farming community. Its port welcomes cruise ships as well as fishing trawlers bringing in some of the world's best seafood for processing and packing.

With its rich indigenous and maritime history, Geraldton is an ideal hub for visitors. Here you can relax on creamy sand and enjoy a range of water sports, visit the treasure islands of the Abrolhos, be astounded by carpets of wildflowers in springtime, or trees that seem to grow sideways in Greenough.

Port Facilities

Batavia Coast Marina has a range of restaurants and cafes as well as the local museum and a boardwalk you can stroll along or relax and watch the watercraft at the jetty. On Sunday there is a farmer's market across the road and harbour tours on a replica Batavia longboat. The main shopping area is a short three-block walk and there you will find good shopping, dining, theatres, and ATMs, as well as Wi-Fi in various locations (see below).

Don't Miss

HMAS Sydney II Memorial: The most poignant memorial in Geraldton, erected, in 2001, commemorates the 1941 sinking of HMAS Sydney II and loss of 645 lives. There are guided tours, daily, or you may quietly experience this very moving place set on a hill overlooking the city. The giant sculptured Dome of Souls combines 645 steel seagulls, one for every sailor who perished, and a Roll of Honour lists every name.

The Waiting Woman is a bronze statue of a woman searching the waters for those who will never return. When the statue was erected the ship's exact location was not known. When finally discovered in 2008 it turned out that this woman is facing the exact point where the wreck lies. Located in Gummer Avenue, you may visit at any time for free or be guided by a voluntary local tour guide at 10.30am daily.

(Gummer Avenue; +61 899 566 600)

Western Australian Museum, Geraldton: Geraldton's modern museum, on the waterfront, pieces together several eras of maritime history with evocative displays of the region's Big Three of shipwrecks -- Batavia, Zeewyjk and HMAS Sydney II. Other displays show the early life of the settlement and its present-day agriculture, fishing, mining and science industries, as well as the indigenous Yamaji history and culture. Free entry.

(Museum Place, Batavia Coast Marina; +61 899 215 080; open daily 9.30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

The Houtman Abrolhos Islands: Geraldton Air Charters use small planes that travel west for an extended scenic overfly of the three main groups of the Pelseart, Easter and Wallabi group of the Abrolhos Islands (or more correctly Houtman Abrolhos) an archipelago of 122 islands and associated coral reefs about 80 kilometres off the coast. The warm Leeuwin current that flows along this part of the coast is responsible for one of this State's greatest marine treasures and is home to coral of all the colours. If you plan to dive in the area you may sight the wreck of the Batavia, wrecked in 1629, now lying in about five metres of water. Fishing is also good with the waters rich with hundreds of species and a range of fishing and eco-tours are also available.

To get the background to the wreck and its survivors, pack a copy of Peter Fitzsimon's epic book Batavia. Not for the faint-hearted, it is a no-holds- barred depiction of Australia's most villainous massacre, in which almost 300 people died.

Oakabella Homestead: The award-winning 1850s'-built Oakabella Homestead is classified by the National Trust. Set in dramatic landscape, tours include Elephant Hill, Table Hill and the ancient gorge and seasonal waterfall in Oakabella Creek. Dazzling spreads of wildflowers can be found in springtime. When you 're through touring, indulge yourself with Oakabella's famous scones and homemade meals.

Tours of the Oakabella Homestead Heritage Precinct run daily from March 1 to January 31 (closed February): 10 a.m.; 1: 30 p.m.; 3 p.m. Tour fee: $10 per person or $25 for a family package (2 adults, 2 children), meals extra.

(Lot 4 Starling Road, Oakabella, Northampton; +61 899 251 033; open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

St Francis Xavier Cathedral?: Designed by Monsignor John Hawes, and built with local stone over 22 years, this cathedral is well worth seeing, especially the 'zebra striping' of the interior. You may enter and look around yourself for free or there are guided tours for a minimal fee that operate Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.

(Cnr Cathedral Avenue and Maitland Street, Geraldton; +61 899 213 221)

Nearby on Saturday, a farmers' market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon in Maitland Park on Cathedral Avenue.

Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park: This privately owned park has been rescuing and rehabilitating Australian wildlife for 30 years. Some animals are longtime residents, but there are always new ones as well. The owners say you can 'dance with a dingo, cuddle a kangaroo or sing with a snake' in the park-like surroundings. Call for crocodile feeding times during summer and summer holidays. Adults $10; seniors $9, students aged 12 to 17 years $9, children $8, under-2 free (no EFTPOS facilities). (449 Company Road, Greenough; +61 899 261 171; open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Wednesdays).

Point Moore Lighthouse: Constructed in 1878, this 34-metre candy-striped lighthouse is easy to locate on the coastline five minutes north of the town. It was the first all-steel tower built on the mainland of Australia, and is now an icon in the port town of Geraldton. While it is not open to the public you can walk around it and read the interpretive plaque that provides some interesting facts about the lighthouse and its history. The ocean views here are photo-worthy. (45 Marine Terrace, West End; +61 899 213 999)

Lavender Valley Farm: This 20-hectare family farm in the lovely Chapman Valley, north of Geraldton, has about two hectares of lavender, grown to produce fragrant essential oil. Native animals such as galahs, cockatoos and occasionally echidna visit parts of the property. The rammed earth cafe is open seasonally to the public. (1852 Chapman Valley Road, Yetna, +61 8 9920 5469.)

Batavia Coast Marina: Geraldton's waterfront is worth exploring for its cafes, restaurants and tourist information centre as well as the museum. There are markets on Saturdays and, if you are here on Sunday, you may tour the harbour on a Batavia longboat replica.

Live Lobster Tours: Tour the Geraldton Fishermen's Co-operative for an up-close-and-personal experience of the area's major food industry. Check the chalkboard outside for times, but the tours usually operate at 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Adults $10, seniors $8, child $5. Wear suitable shoes -- no thongs (flip-flops).

(11 Ocean Street, Geraldton; +61 899 659 000)

Greenough Leaning Tree: The tiny historic settlement of Greenough has a particularly quirky drawcard.

If you think this is a one-off, you are wrong. While the one that is signposted at the roadside may be the most sensational leaning tree in these parts, there are many others nearby, each forced sideways by the heavy westerly winds that sweep across the paddocks in coastal areas locally.

Nearby, the historic National Trust village of Greenough has 11 stone buildings built by the district's 19th-century pioneers. These are open to the public for self-guided tours. Glimpse the past in the two churches, convent, presbytery and school. The government complex houses a courthouse and old jail, as well as the original community hall. Old-time dances are still held in the hall today. Enter through Wainwrights, the old grocery store, which leads on to a modern air-conditioned cafe with an outdoor area overlooking the historic settlement.

(Cnr of Brand Hwy and McCartney Rd, Greenough; +61 899 261 084; Open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and public holidays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Getting Around

By bus: TransGeraldton (+61 899 232 225) is the local public bus transport.

By car or taxi: Local taxis are available and there are car rental agencies as well.

By bike: Hire a bike to see the beaches and town. Ask the local Meet and Greet helpers at the Marina for recommendations.

By plane: Flights to the Abrolhos Islands are available from Geraldton Air Charter.

Beaches

Geraldton is Australia's top windsurfing area. Favourite water sports include fishing, boating, canoeing, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling and scuba diving in the crystal-clear waters of what is called the Batavia Coast. There are several wreck diving sites off the coast, including the South Tomi, which was sunk in 2004.

Popular surf spots include Flat Rocks, Headbutts, Greenough, Back Beach, Sunset Beach and Glenfield. Stand-up paddleboarding spots include Point Moore, Town Beach, The Foreshore, St. Georges Beach and Drummond Cove to the north.

The Indian Ocean and the waters around Geraldton are home to a wide range of marine life and also feature some of Western Australia's most abundant fishing areas. The local western rock lobster (crayfish) industry is one of the largest in the country. You will see the large fishing boats in all of the local ports.

Sunset Beach, an outer northern coastal suburb is popular for surfing, fishing, windsurfing and kite boarding and, as the name suggests, a beautiful place to enjoy watching the sun sink into the Indian Ocean.

Back Beach: Great for both beginners and more experienced surfers, depending on the swell size, 'Backers', as it is fondly known, is the place to go for beach-break surf and to boogie board or kitesurf.

Front Beach: This is a protected beach at the southern end of the Geraldton foreshore and features a playground and other family-friendly facilities.

Drummond Cove: This is a family-friendly beach in northern Geraldton, which includes a playground and barbecue facilities.

Food and Drink

Wherever you eat in Geraldton, if you enjoy good seafood, do make sure to enjoy the locally caught 'crayfish' or western rock lobster. This delicious seafood is served in many cafes and restaurants and may appear simply as a lobster burger or any way up to mornay in a classy restaurant.

The various restaurants and cafes in the town feature a wide range of contemporary and ethnic cuisines. As a holiday destination, of course, all the major fast food chains are represented, but it is worth trying the local fish and chip shops and burger bars, too, if you are after a quick bite.

Dome Caf?: This independent chain of cafes began in Western Australia decades ago and has become very popular. This is a big place but service is fast and the coffee is good. It's so relaxed, you can even enjoy a Big Breakfast for lunch, from the all-day menu of breakfasts, fresh salads, soups, sandwiches, rustic pizzas, and -- always -- a fisherman's catch -- fish and chips, maybe, or calamari. (31 Foreshore Drive, Geraldton; 61 899 655 112; Open daily 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

Salt Dish: Settle down in this charming vintage setting to enjoy homemade cakes, either inside or in the outdoor kitchen garden. Lunch choices might include something such as cauliflower fritters with dukkah, zucchini and basil tapenade with confit vine tomatoes, or pulled lamb, smoked eggplant and freekeh with lemon, paired with Persian feta and pomegranate. (35 Marine Tce, Geraldton; +61 899 646 030; Open Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.)

Skeetas Restaurant & Cafe: This local favourite has been serving fine food and wine in Geraldton for more than two decades. Now relocated at the marina, there are lovely water views to value-add to your lunch. The all-day menu features shareable rustic pizzas such as vegetarian cauliflower, beetroot, feta, corn, carrot, and aioli or others such as sopressa, chorizo, prosciutto, and bocconcini. There is tapas, too, as well as Indian-inspired dishes such as vegetable biryani and a range of curries. (3/219 Foreshore Drive, Marina Precinct, Geraldton; 61 899 641 619; open all day, daily)

Fleur Tearoom Cafe: Despite the name, this place does not stay open until English 'tea-time', but it does have an extensive range of teas and serves good coffee as well. The lunch menu might include dishes such as slow-cooked pulled beef served on a bed of lettuce and coleslaw, topped with pumpkin caramelised onions, peas and feta. Cross your fingers that the fresh fig cake is available when you visit. (186 Marine Terrace, Geraldton; +61 899 499 750; Wednesday to Sunday, lunch until 3 p.m.)

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships anchor in Southern Champion Bay not far from the city centre, and passengers are tendered into Batavia Coast Marina. Cruise ship 'meet and greet' volunteers are on hand to direct and assist visitors in exploring the city's attractions and directing them to ATMs and markets.

Good to Know

Have fun noticing local numberplates on cars. Every council area in Western Australia has its own prefix for cars registered in that region. In Geraldton it is GN.

Be careful collecting shells in shallow water or on the beach as they might contain live 'occupants'. The blue-ringed octopus is very dangerous. Not all beaches are patrolled or have flags so do watch out for 'rips' (strong currents) when there is a big swell.

Picking wildflowers is prohibited throughout the State. If bushwalking, be alert for snakes.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

ATMs and currency exchanges may be found throughout the town at banks and also in shopping centres as well as many hotels. Withdrawals will be in Australian currency, usually in $50 and $20 notes. For current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. US dollars are not acceptable when shopping, but major credit cards are generally welcome.

Language

English is spoken.

Shopping

Geraldton's Western Australian Museum is located right at the waterfront. Its souvenir selection is one of the best with everything from replica Dirk Hartog plates to Aboriginal art and jewellery featuring local gems such as sparkling black iron ore.