Geraldton. Our last stop in Australia before the home stretch. Never heard of it? No, neither had we. This was P&O UK’s maiden visit, which is always nice, because they make that little bit more of a fuss over us! There was a welcome tent on the quayside, a free shuttle bus service and free refreshments at the hotel next to the shuttle bus stop in town. All very nice. Trouble is, that was about it.
Don’t get me wrong, Geraldton is a pleasant little town, but it has very little of interest. It’s a beaches and watersports mecca, which is all very well and good if you’re into lying on beaches or giving yourself saltwater enemas behind speeding boats, but if you’re not that sort of person, you may struggle here. There were tours out into the countryside – which is apparently breathtaking with gorges and national parks and stuff – and the possibility of a passing visit to Hutt River Principality (a group of farms that declared independence when new Australian wheat quotas threatened to bankrupt them). They have their own stamps and money and are, for Australian tax purposes, non-doms. No, really! They had to declare war on the Commonwealth of Australia to get it, but they ended hostilities after four days, so no harm done. I would have loved to have gone there. This kind of thinking fascinates me. But it was too far out of town for such a brief visit.
HMAS Sydney II sank near here after a confrontation with a German ship in 1941. All 645 souls were lost. There is a beautiful memorial on the hill overlooking the town, which is a metal domed canopy made of flying birds. Beautiful. What the Germans were doing down here, I have no idea. The British tested their first nuclear device nearby and when Skylab crashed to Earth, it was near here. Donald Campbell got one of his water speed records nearby as well. For an isolated mining town, it’s had a lot of visitors!
They have some interesting thinking here, too. When a boat was recently seized in a criminal investigation, they stripped it of all the noxious chemical bits and then sank it to form an artificial reef for the marine flora and fauna. I LIKE that kind of thinking. That’s cool.
Nice place, though. Very pleasant little town. Highly recommended. But don’t eat at the Freemasons Hotel or the attached Gilroys Irish Bar. I’m told the Tides restaurant is nice. Try there instead.