Geraldton WA is the third-largest city in the state, and it’s a laid back Western Australian coastal city that has excellent weather all year round, dramatic coastline and sandy beaches.
The coastal vibes in Geraldton are big, and you can stroll along the waterfront, watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean and enjoy some of the best fish and chips in WA.
It’s historic too, and you can learn about the local Aboriginal communities and their long history in the region, visit art galleries and cultural centres and pay your respects at the memorial to the sunken HMAS Sydney which was lost at sea fighting the Germans during World War II.
Here are the best things to do in Geraldton, Western Australia!
A Brief History of Geraldton
Geraldton WA and the surrounding region have been inhabited for tens of thousands of years by Aboriginals, many of whom today still reside in the area and identify themselves with the Yamatji or Wajarri communities.
They are thought to have populated the region for around 40,000 years, and it wasn’t until the early 17th century that the first European explorers began to explore the coastline here. While the Dutch under the command of Dirk Hartog landed briefly at Shark Bay, to the north in 1616, it would be another two hundred years until the coast around Geraldton was again visited by Europeans.
After the growth of the Swan River Colony, which would eventually become the city of Perth, from 1829 onwards, colonists began moving north. Even then, Geraldton was seen as too dry and dusty a place to be worth settling, as the Europeans were interested in fertile land for farming.
Minerals and iron ore were soon discovered in the region though, and Geraldton was established as a town in 1851, as it provided the perfect location for a harbour.
In World War II, the Australian navy ship HMAS Sydney, fought an infamous battle off the coast of Geraldton, with the German cruiser Kormoran. Both ships were destroyed in unclear and mysterious circumstances, and the wrecks were only discovered in 2008. Both ships and their crews are today memorialised in Geraldton, at the famous HMAS Sydney Memorial.
How to travel from Perth to Geraldton
Geraldton is found along the mid-west coastline of Western Australia. The city is located north of Perth, at a distance of around 400 kilometres from the state capital.
If you are driving, then the journey time is at least 4 hours each way from Perth to Geraldton, and you have the choice of taking either the Indian Ocean Drive along the coast or travelling inland along the Brand Highway.
Both routes are almost exactly the same distance, but taking the coastal route will allow you to stop off at some of Western Australia’s most famous tourist destinations. Along the coast, you can call in at Lancelin, to experience the large sand dunes, at Cervantes to visit Nambung National Park and the Pinnacles Desert, or at Jurien Bay, for great beaches and snorkelling.
If you’re just travelling from Perth to Geraldton by car, then you’ll want at the very least a whole weekend to experience the city and the surrounding area, given the distance. Many travellers though, will include Geraldton WA as a stop on a longer road trip itinerary around the state.
If you are travelling to the top end of Western Australia, there are plenty more stops too, from Shark Bay and Carnarvon along the north west coast to Port Hedland and Karratha, and it’s an epic drive across the state.
If you aren’t driving, then there are direct domestic flights from Perth to Geraldton, with several departures each day. Trans WA has several bus departures each day towards Geraldton, with services continuing onward to other destinations such as Kalbarri.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Geraldton
Geraldton has a glorious Mediterranean climate, and the weather is warm and dry through much of the year. Temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees during the day in winter, meaning that you can really visit Geraldton any time of the year. The evenings can be a little colder, and you might have the odd cloudy and rainy day, but for the most part, it can make for a great winter getaway, particularly if you are looking to avoid the worse weather further south in cities such as Albany.
In summer, particularly around December and January, things can get busy in Geraldton, as families head north from Perth during the school holidays. Summer can be scorching hot, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees, if not higher. It’s a great time to go snorkelling and enjoy the beaches, but you may want to wait until the shoulder season, to escape the crowds and the worst of the heat.
Things to do in Geraldton
There are some great things to do in Geraldton, from delving into the local history and Aboriginal culture to exploring the beaches and finding the best fish and chips in the city.
Here are the best things to do in Geraldton!
The Geraldton Waterfront, or Geraldton Foreshore, is one of the best features of the city. Stretching along the Indian Ocean, the waterfront takes in much of the city’s best sights and has in recent years been spectacularly redeveloped to turn it into a more attractive tourist attraction.
Along the waterfront, you can find museums and galleries, as well as benches, tables and barbecues. There are beaches, an Esplanade, the harbour and boardwalks and walking paths connecting everything.
You can find takeaway fish and chips along the waterfront, sit out in cafes or just enjoy the sunshine and the cool sea breeze. It’s a revitalised place and the waterfront is an excellent reason to visit Geraldton.
Geraldton West End
The Geraldton Waterfront is found on the edge of the historic West End district, which is really the centre of the city, particularly in terms of tourism. The West End, like the waterfront, has also been redeveloped recently, in an effort to both preserve the heritage and to revitalise Geraldton.
In the West End, you can find the Geraldton Visitor’s Centre, which is found in the old railway station which was restored and converted, to keep one of WA’s most historic rail terminals from demolition.
You can also find some of the pubs and historic hotels in the city in the West End, as well as quirky and charming cafes and restaurants tucked away amongst the elegant streets of Geraldton and steeped in local history.
Museum of Geraldton
If it’s the history you’re interested in though, then make your way to the excellent Museum of Geraldton, which is found along the waterfront.
Western Australia isn’t particularly renowned for its museums, and outside of Perth, it’s unusual to find too many in regional WA. The Museum of Geraldton is a branch of the Western Australian Museum, and surprisingly, it’s one of the best museums in the state.
Inside, you can find archaeological relics in the Shipwrecks Gallery which have been dredged up from the ocean floors along the coast, including from Dutch exploration and trading vessels which were lost on the reefs hundreds of years ago.
You can also learn about local history, including Aboriginal culture and European colonisation, in the other permanent galleries within the Museum of Geraldton.
Yamaji Art Centre
If you are intrigued by the local Aboriginal culture and would like to see more of the local heritage, then take a visit to the excellent Yamaji Art Centre in Geraldton.
The Yamaji are the indigenous owners of the land, and their ancestors have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. Although marginalised by the arrival of Europeans, Aboriginal culture in WA is slowly becoming popularised, as interest in it grows, and at the Yamaji Art Centre, you can see some of the best paintings and works of art in Geraldton.
As well as exhibitions of local talent, the centre also runs workshops and classes and gives talks and demonstrations too.
Geraldton Regional Art Gallery
Another great stop for culture lovers is the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery, which is home to excellent exhibitions featuring contemporary art as well as local historic works too.
The gallery is found in one of the city’s oldest buildings, and as well as the permanent and temporary displays that are found here, the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery also run workshops and put on demonstrations too.
HMAS Sydney Memorial
The most famous sight in Geraldton is the HMAS Sydney Memorial, a monument which attracts visitors, veterans and well-wishers from across not only Western Australia but from across the rest of the country too.
Located on a hilltop overlooking the city and the Indian Ocean, the memorial faces out to sea and was raised in memory of the sailors who were lost on the Australian ship HMAS Sydney and on the German cruiser Kormoran.
The impressive memorial displays the names of the hundreds of men who were lost at sea in 1941 when the two ships met off the coast of Western Australia and fought a deadly battle at sea. The two ships were lost, as both were destroyed in the naval battle, with their wrecks only being found decades later, in 2008.
Old Gaol Museum and Craft Centre
Another unique historical sight to visit in Geraldton is the Old Gaol Museum and Craft Centre, which is found close to the Museum of Geraldton.
The old gaol dates back to 1856 when Geraldton was first established as a town. The new settlers consisted of prisoners and convicts, who were moved here from Fremantle to help with construction. They built the prison that would then house them.
Today, it’s no longer used to jail convicts and has instead been restored as a museum and a craft centre.
Point Moore Lighthouse
Point Moore Lighthouse is found looking out over the Indian Ocean, from the waterfront by the West End. Dating back to the 1870s, the imposing lighthouse is one of the oldest in Western Australia.
There are fantastic views over the ocean from the lighthouse, as it was built in a prime position in Geraldton, and it’s an excellent point to visit for the sunset.
If you’re looking to get really remote, then the Abrolhos Islands are the place to visit. Located in the Indian Ocean, these islands have caused many a shipwreck over the years and were some of the first pieces of land to be charted on the Western Australian coast by Europeans.
They are also an incredibly unique marine ecosystem, surrounded by coral reefs and clear water. The beaches and rugged landscapes of the islands are home to unique mammals too, such as the Tammar Wallaby.
Unfortunately, the Abrolhos Islands are not cheap to get to. You either need to charter a boat or hire a helicopter or light aircraft to get here. The visitor’s centre in Geraldton organises scenic flights over the islands too, allowing you to see their spectacular nature from above.
The Hutt Lagoon
100 kilometres to the north of Geraldton – an hour’s drive – you can find the startling sight of the Hutt Lagoon. This is one of the most unusual attractions in the region, as the lagoon is tinged a vibrant shade of pink.
This is an enormous salt lake, that’s coloured pink by the minerals and bacteria found within the water. It makes for an interesting stop if you’re heading north along the coastal highway.
Principality of the Hutt River
Perhaps the most interesting place to visit though, either if you are heading north or are into the weird and wacky, is the Principality of the Hutt River.
Found in the middle of nowhere, this working farm covers a huge tract of the outback and for years they’ve been nominally independent of Australia. This micronation declared itself a principality, led for decades by Prince Leonard until his death in 2019.
It’s an intriguing look at nation-building and what it means to be independent. You can visit the micronation, speak with the family who mostly still live there, and even get yourself a passport stamp.
Map of Things to do in Geraldton