People have lived in this area for 40,000 years, those since the time of European contact being the Yamatji or Wajarri Aboriginals. In 1848 lead ore was discovered a little way north and the town grew up, being named for Charles Fitzgerald (1791-1887) the State governor. Crucially, Geraldton had a harbour - these are few and far between on this hazardous coastline. Its industries were metal ore mining along with livestock and fishing, and these remain.
Geraldton was transformed in the 1960s when the Brand Highway was sealed (tarmacked) all the way from Perth, so that bumpy dusty 420 km (260 miles) became one day's easy drive. The city's main interest to travellers is therefore as an overnight stopover, but it has a range of tourist attractions in its own right, especially water sports.
Geraldton Visitor Centre is in the Bill Sewell Complex, central in town on Chapman Road. It's open M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa Su 9:30AM-1:30PM.
That tarmac highway spelt the end of passenger rail services to Geraldton, and of the coastal passenger steamers.
1 Geraldton Airport (GET IATA), Mount Magnet Rd (10 km east of town), ☏ . Qantas fly twice a day from Perth, taking an hour, so a day-trip either way is possible; in 2022 you might pay $230 each way. Virgin no longer fly here. The terminal has a small cafe. Car hire is available but must be pre-booked. It's a pity they didn't name this airport for its locality, Moonyoonooka; imagine the flight announcements. There's no public transport to downtown, reckon $30 for a taxi. Taxi transfers are also available to outlying towns such as Greenough and Dongara.
- Indian Ocean Drive / Highway 60 (423 km from Perth to Geraldton) was upgraded in 2010 and for light vehicles is the shorter, pleasanter route; but fill up on fuel as it can be hard to find along the way. Freeway 2 northbound from Perth leads straight into State Route 60, passing by Pinnacles (Nambung) National Park, Cervantes, Jurien Bay and Lesueur National Park, to join Brand Highway just south of Dongara.
- Brand Highway 1 (440 km) is the fastest, most direct route. So it has filling stations and is the trucking route, and these huge Road Trains will require your full attention. Much of the highway is only one lane each way, so overtaking these juggernauts or being overtaken by them is hazardous, especially at night.
- A historic route follows the former Midland Railway, travelling through the small towns of Moora, Three Springs and Watheroo.
- Driving from the north-west, follow Highway 1, and from inland approach via Mullewa.
TransWA buses ply 2 or 3 times a day between Perth and Geraldton, taking 6 hours, for a single fare of $70. They run along Hwy 1 past Dongara and Greenough, or via coastal Hwy 60 through Lancelin, Cervantes and Jurien Bay to rejoin Hwy 1 at Dongara. Slower routes swing inland via New Norcia and Moora, or via Northam and Wubin. One bus a day continues from Geraldton to Northampton and Kalbarri. Twice a week a bus runs inland to Mount Magnet and Meekathara on the Great Northern Highway.
2 Geraldton Railway Station hasn't seen a train since 1975, but it's where the buses bring you.
The main sights of Geraldton are fairly central, and easy to reach on foot, especially once the sea breeze gets up to offset the heat.
There are eight local bus routes, which you might take for the outlying beaches. Bus 800 circles downtown every 30 min, the others run roughly hourly daytime:
- Buses 850 and 851 go north up Chapman Rd to Spalding and Sunset Beach.
- Bus 853 goes east to the racecourse.
- Buses 854 and 855 go south to Tarcoola Beach and Wandina.
- Bus 856 goes to the West End, Beachlands and Lighthouse.
Local buses don't reach nearby towns such as Greenough, Dongara or Northampton; for these take the TransWA coach.
Car hire is available from Avis, Hertz, Budget, Thrifty and others. You need wheels to explore Kalbarri or get up to Shark Bay / Monkey Mia.
Geraldton Associated Taxis are on +61 131008.
- 1 Esplanade is a breakwater, a pleasant stroll for views back to town. If there's a stench of fish, the sea lions are hauled out on the rocks.
- 2 HMAS Sydney Memorial is atop Mount Scott, a hillock overlooking town, access east side from Gummer Ave. HMAS Sydney was a light cruiser that served with distinction during World War II in the Mediterranean, before returning to duties around Australia. In Nov 1941 she was sunk with the loss of all 645 men after a battle with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran. Not until 2008 were the two wrecks located, some 100 km west of Dirk Hartog Island WA.
- 3 Museum of Geraldton, 2 Museum Place, Marina, ☏ . Daily 9:30AM–3PM. Part of Western Australian Museum, this is a fascinating place that chronicles the land-side and maritime history of the region, including video footage of the wreck of HMAS Sydney. Donation $5.
- Old Geraldton Gaol is now a craft centre, but the cells have been preserved and you can look around. It's at 84 Chapman Rd, open M-F 10AM-3:30PM, Sa 9AM-noon.
- 4 Regional Art Gallery, Stirlings General, 24 Chapman Rd, ☏ . Tu-F 9AM–4PM, Sa-M 9:30AM-1:30PM. Rotating exhibitons of contemporary work in the former town hall, there isn't a permanent collection.
- 5 Cathedral of St Francis Xavier, 56 Cathedral Ave, ☏ . M-F 9AM-4:30PM. Completed in 1938 and rebuilt in 2017, this is the finest work of the prolific architect Monsignor John Hawes, with twin towers and Romanesque interior evoking the Missions of Mexico and Cordoba. Plus adjacent museum about Hawes' life and work and battles with the bishop, who wanted everything done in gloomy Gothic. Free.
- 6 Point Moore Lighthouse was built from 1877, though the first attempt was bungled and they had to start over. It's a 35 m candy-stripe metal tower, made in Birmingham, England and shipped out in sections for local assembly. It was automated in 1975 and remains in use, with a range of 42.6 km. No public access, but lighthouse and keepers' artefacts are in the museum.
- What's on? Read Geraldton Guardian or Midwest Times. Or listen to ABC on 828 AM or Triple M (formerly Spirit) on 98.1 FM.
- Wind surfing: the main spots are Point Moore and St Georges Beach 4 km north. Winds are light in the morning and build during the day, and Nov-April they reach gale-force.
- Surfing: most popular is Back Beach south side of town. Lots of others from the Point up to St Geeorges.
- Water sports outlets often cover a range of activities, with lessons and equipment hire, sale and repair. They include Glassy Day, Willocks, Corner Surf, Midwest Surf School and Kitewest.
- Water Park is on the foreshore at the end of Cathedral Ave. It's the wet section of a tots playground.
- Aquarena is a public swimming pool on Pass St north side of the golf course. In 2022 it's closed for rebuilding.
- Scuba diving: Batavia Coast Dive Academy are at 118 NW Coastal Highway, open M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-1PM.
- Skate Parks are at Cape Burney, Maitland Park, Wonthella, Strathalbyn, Tarcoola Beach, Forrester and Drummond Cove.
- Cinema: Orana is at 229 Marine Terrace by the Esplanade.
- Queens Park Theatre is within the civic centre at 75 Cathedral Ave.
- Golf: Geraldton GC is east side of town on Pass St beyond the NW Coastal Hwy. Spalding Park GC is 5 km north in Bluff Point.
- Horse racing: Utakarra Racecourse has flat-racing Oct-April. Attendance is free except for the biggest events, such as the Gold Cup at Easter. It's 2 km east of town, far side of the golf course, on Utukarra Rd.
- Houtman Abrolhos Islands are an archipelago 70 km off the coast, with protected wildlife and flora. Snorkelling and diving trips by boat or light aircraft usually start from Geraldton. You can land on some of the islands but can't stay overnight.
- If you're heading north or inland, buy any supplies here. As the region's chief city, Gero has best choice and prices. Folk from as far away as Carnarvon, Exmouth and Meekatharra have to make occasional shopping expeditions here. The main store is Woolworths in the Stirling Complex off Durlacher St, open M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 11AM-5PM.
- Markets in town are Saturdays at Maitland Park, Sunday mornings at the Old Railway Station on Chapman Rd, and the first and last Sunday of the month on Marine Terrace.
- The art of the Yamaji people is in a distinctive pointillist style. Find their wares, amongst other outlets, at 205 Marine Terrace.
- Jaffle Shack is a cheerful rustic cafe at 188 Marine Terrace, open M-F 7AM-3PM, Sa Su 7AM-2PM. There's another on Foreshore Drive.
- Freemasons Hotel at the corner of Marine Terrace and Durlacher St is well-known but earned dismal reviews in 2021 / 22.
- Salt Dish does seafood and other meals at 35 Marine Terrace, open M-Th 7AM-3PM, F 7AM-3PM, 5:30-10PM, Sa 5:30-10PM.
- Mia Restaurant, 69 Forrest St, ☏ . Daily noon-2PM, 5-9PM. Serves western and Asian food, BYOB. Some disappointments but most customers get value for money.
- Skeetas, 3/219 Foreshore Drive (next to museum), ☏ . Daily 6:30AM-11PM. Great seafood by the harbour.
- Jade House is Chinese by Batavia Park, open Tu-Su 5-8PM
- RT's at 82 Marine Terrace is Australian fare. They have a way with a roo tail.
- Hog's Breath is a chain steakhouse at 3/30 Chapman Rd, open daily 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5-8:30PM.
- Murchison Tavern is at 20 Chapman Rd, open daily 11AM-9:30PM.
- Smokin' Grill is a burger place at 2/52 Durlacher St, open M-Th 4:30-9PM, F-Su 11:30AM-9PM.
- Mad Mexican is at 79 Durlacher St, open Tu-Sa 11:30AM-2PM, 4:30-9PM.
- Tanti's is Thai at 174 Marine Terrace, open W-M 5-9PM.
- L'Italiano at 204 Marine Terrace is open W-Su 5-8:30PM.
- Lemon Grass, 10F Fitzgerald St (corner with Marine Terrace), ☏ . Sa-Th 5:30-9PM, F 11:30-2PM, 5-9PM. This Thai restaurant gets mixed reviews.
- Liquid Mojo, 117 Marine Terrace, ☏ . M-F 8:30AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. Reliable juice bar, serving smoothies, fresh juice and yoghurt. Food includes wraps, salad, and soup in winter.
- The Provincial, 167 Marine Terrace, ☏ . Tu-Th 7AM-10PM, F Sa 7-11PM. Bar with decent pub grub, especially the wood-fired pizza.
- Cutler & Smith are at 41 Chapman Rd, open Th-Sa 4Pm-midnight.
- Vibe is the only nightclub, at 38 Fitzgerald St.
- Distillery: Copperhead Road[dead link] make rum in Greenough.
- 1 Geraldton Backpackers, 172 Marine Terrace (by water park), ☏ . Great reviews for this clean friendly central hostel. Dorm $40 ppn.
- Ocean Centre Hotel, Cathedral Ave (corner with Foreshore Drive, behind Backpackers), ☏ . Central and clean, limited parking. B&B double $170.
- Gerald Apartment Hotel, 25 Cathedral Ave, ☏ . Great scores for comfort, cleanliness and service. Double room $220.
- 2 Mantra Geraldton, 221 Foreshore Drive (by Marina), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Spacious one, two and three bedroom apartments, with kitchen, laundry, lounge and dining areas. Facilities are worn and cleanliness is erratic. Double room $250.
- 3 Nesuto Geraldton Apartments, 298 Chapman Rd, ☏ . Spacious apartments, some fittings worn. Double room $200.
- Broadwater Mariner Resort is a mid-range place next to Nesuto.
- 4 Wintersun Hotel, 441 Chapman Rd, ☏ . Good rooms, north edge of town. Double room $140.
- 5 Weelaway, 104 Gregory St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Charming atmospheric 19th-century house, a 10-min walk from Marine Terrace. B&B double $120.
- 6 Belair Gardens, 463 Marine Terrace, ☏ . Well-run camping and caravan site open all year. Sites $30.
- 7 ibis Styles, 140 Brand Hwy, ☏ . Chain budget hotel, rooms are tatty but clean. B&B double $130.
- Geraldton Motor Inn (formerly Comfort Inn), 107 Brand Highway (100 m north of Ibis), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Some glitches, but mostly value for money at this mid-range place south side of town. B&B double $140.
- 8 Sunset Beach Holiday Park (BIG4), 4 Boseley St, Sunset Beach (6 km north of town), ☏ . Friendly clean place right on the beachfront, with chalets and pitches.
As of April 2022, Geraldton has 4G from all Australian carriers, but it's patchy and doesn't extend beyond town. 5G has not reached this area.
North along the NW Coastal Highway brings you to:
- Kalbarri National Park, turn off at Northampton or Ajana.
- Shark Bay and Monkey Mia for water sports and dolphins.
- Carnarvon, a good stopover on the way further north towards Coral Bay and Exmouth.
South on Brand Highway 1 goes through Greenough, a preserved 19th century settlement, and with trees bent at right angles by the winds. Continue south to Dongara, then towards Perth by either the Brand or NW Coastal Highway.