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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.