This month I thought I’d bring you a little bit about my hometown. I often jibe the team that I live in the outback. Well to some, you might consider Geraldton, Western Australia the outback, as it is nearly in the middle of the State, some 424 klm (263miles) north of the Capital City Perth, 4.5hrs driving time and there’s nothing much to see in between although if you take a look, you will be surprised by the many different wildflowers, native bushes and wildlife. And now we have a beautiful scenic drive that takes you along the Coral Coast road where the views of the ocean are such a joy to see. This road was only opened a couple of years ago and before that we would travel the hot and straight Brand Highway, which is further inland, passing huge road trains heading north or south, along the way. This area of coastline is known as the Turquoise Coast, so named because of the turquoise coloured water.
Whenever we have visitors, it gives us great pride to show off our wonderful city, now with over 37,000 people.
Geraldton is a mining, fishing, wheat and sheep centre. Many of the workers on the mines are FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) and it is well renowned internationally for its crayfish (lobster) and the wind surfers love us, calling us the wind surfing capital of the world. Some days the wind is so strong, it’s like a mini cyclone. Check out the picture below of one of the Greenough leaning trees.
The coast lends itself to many water activities. (Not that I partake in any of them!) Windsurfing, kite-surfing, surfing, fishing, diving and swimming. While walking along the white sandy beaches or wading in the turquoise shallows is probably one of my favourite activities, I don’t do enough of it these days. Although now I have my Day2Day photos to take, I just might need to walk that bit further and take my camera with me!
And of course we are well known for our spectacular wildflowers. Our very own Jan McCallum had the opportunity to see these first hand in the Spring of 2009. The display was one the best we had seen in a long time due to droughts and lack of good rainfall.
Geraldton experiences a Mediterranean-type climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Rain falls for an average of 80 days per year (less than 3 months) and the temperature averages around 30c (86f). During the summer we can experience days of 42c+ (107f +) while during winter the lowest would be around 10c (50f). Snow never lands here!!
Right in the centre of the city is the magnificent St Francis Xavier Cathedral, designed by architect Monsignor Hawes. Building was commenced in 1916 and not finished until 1938. Many of the workers went off to war, so work was stopped, then it took another 20 years before it was completed. Hawes was responsible for many other outstanding buildings throughout the Midwest region. In particular I love the stained glass windows inside the cathedral which light up when the afternoon sun streams through. Jan had an awesome digital SLR Camera when she was here and took some close-up photos of some of the windows. They had been signed by the designer with a little picture of a dog and all the tour guides could only see one of these dogs. From these photos, I was able to zoom right in and found the signature on all 4 windows. I was a tour guide myself for a couple of years, but for some reason I got too busy. I’ve no idea why!!!
In November of 1941, during WWII and just before the attack on Pearl Harbour, the bombing of Darwin and the Fall of Singapore, HMAS Sydney was lost off the coast of WA after a battle with the German raider, Kormoran. 645 sailors from the Sydney were lost without trace (yes, without trace) and a memorial was built in their memory in 2001. The dome of the memorial is made up of 645 seagulls to represent all those sailors. In March of 2008, both the Sydney and the Kormoran were found. The memorial stands proud on the tallest hill overlooking Geraldton and the sea. A statue of the Waiting Lady looking out to sea, is very moving.
The wreck of the Dutch ship the Batavia, off the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 has also put Geraldton on the map when it was discovered in the early 1960s. Parts of the wreck is being preserved in the Fremantle museum, while much of its contents are in our local museum. The Abrolhos Islands, where the wreck occurred, are surrounded by reef and is one of the major centres for the Western Rock Lobster fishermen. Each season, they pack up their families and live on the islands until the season is over. There are flights that take you over and there’s some great snorkelling to be done. My children bought us a ticket for my birthday a few years ago and it was truly amazing. The coral around the islands are just as magnificent as the coral on the Barrier Reef on the east coast of Australia, just not as well known. A tour of the crayfish factory was a real eye opener to us when we showed overseas relatives several years ago.
The lighthouse at Point Moore (pictured on my banners) stands tall and erect, guiding the ships through the dangerous reef off the coast. The same reef that the Batavia struck. The tower is marked with four red, and three white bands, to make it more visible during the day. The lighthouse is the oldest surviving Commonwealth lighthouse in Western Australia. It was also the first steel tower on the mainland of Australia.
We’re also a big farming community. As you have found from my previous blogs, I was born and raised on a farm in the region. My Dad grew prize winning crops and his merino sheep were his pride and joy. Although the farm no longer belongs to our family, I still like to take any visitors past there so they can see what farming life is like in Western Australia.
By the time my next blog is due, Jan, Mary and Shelley would have returned home from visiting Western Australia. Although they won’t be visiting Geraldton this time around, I hope to share with you some of what they did get to see around the capital city of Perth.