Travel Story Geraldton Travel Guide: Art, history and sunshine in WA's Mid West

The coast off Point Moore, Geraldton.
Picture: Stephen Scourfield The West Australian
Photo of Stephen Scourfield

Forget your preconceptions: this authentic WA town is enjoying its days in the sun.

In this authentic country town by the sea, there is history, art and contemporary culture, and it unfolds, immediately, like this...

After an hour’s flight from Perth, at Geraldton Airport there are models of the ships Batavia, HMAS Sydney and Kormoran — enduring elements of the city’s maritime history. And there is a bronze cannon from the Batavia, which was wrecked off the coast at the Abrolhos Islands in 1629.

I jump in the hire car (all the big companies are here) and drive on into the city in clean, early morning sun, past St Francis Xavier Cathedral, the beautiful work of priest and architect Monsignor John Hawes, which is dapple-lit through trees. There is art in this architecture.

I pass the Gerald Hotel, still under construction, due to open later this year, and notice the way its is blending cleverly into the colour scheme of the town — modern, creative intent in architecture.

Beyond it, straight down the street, I can see the ocean.

And then, in Marine Terrace, Geraldton’s main street, there are the bollards. The City of Greater Geraldton asked for submissions of artwork for street bollards. 

Twenty designs were chosen in the Bollard Art Project. In announcing which had been selected, City of Greater Geraldton acting mayor Neil McIlwaine said: “We were blown away by the high calibre of art and we had over 60 submissions. Not only will this project brighten our CBD but it gives our local talented artists a prime location to showcase their work. 

“Our public art pieces have always had a very positive response from the community so we knew this would have a great response.”

This is story-art. A mythological woman, electricity firing off her. A cartoonesque lighthouse man, keeping watch through binoculars. Sea life. Abstract pattern.

And so, there is art.

And I’m rather intrigued as I drive past shops which have clear creative and themed attitude (You, Me and the Sea) and cafes with the same.

Welcome to Geraldton.

Some folk might have to take preconceptions about the place, put them in a box, shut the lid, and cast it adrift.

I was told there’d be history, art and contemporary culture, and here it is, in Geraldton, which won the 2016 GWN7 Top Tourism Town Awards.

And I haven’t even parked the car in one of the many free two-hour spaces throughout the town...

Celebrating sunshine

Geraldton earns its reputation as the Sunshine City ... drive for just a few hours north from Perth and see the blue sky. For Geraldton has a particular Mediterranean climate with a semi-arid influence. It truly is a sunny place, averaging more than 160 clear days a year. The average daily maximum in September is 22C. In October, it’s 24C. The sea is warm all year.

All of that is celebrated by the Geraldton Greenough Sunshine Festival on Sunday, October 1. The event dates back to 1958.

The theme for this year’s Sunshine Festival Float Parade is Rainbow Connection. The parade sets out from the Forrest Street Car Park at 2pm, turning on to Foreshore Drive, Marine Terrace and to the City Car Park behind the Midwest Port Authority.

It kicks off a week of activities for the whole family.

The festival began when the Geraldton Retail Traders’ Association decided to hold a tomato festival in Geraldton — spring festival parades were popular in the early and mid-1950s.

The Geraldton Guardian took up the idea and published a story on August 30, 1958, praising the group for the initiative. 

The name evolved to the Sunshine Festival, focusing attention on the region’s consistently sunny days.

On August 21, 1959, WA’s longest-running regional festival kicked off — and now it is celebrating its 59th festival.

The festival is still run mostly by volunteers, but with strong support from the City of Greater Geraldton, sponsors and businesses.

See sunshinefestival.com.au for more information.

More from our Geraldton Travel Guide

Fact File

Disclaimer

Stephen Scourfield was a guest of Australia’s Coral Coast.

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