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Friday, December 7, 2007

The 'Sunshine City' of Geraldton

There are not many cities in the world that have pristine coastline on their one side and majestic mountains rising up on the other side. Geraldton in Western Australia not only has this, but can also boast sunny summer temperatures the whole year round, making it the perfect destination for anyone looking for some outdoor fun and adventure. Known as the 'Sunshine City', tourists are flocking to Geraldton for its perfect combination of location and climate. The friendly locals and the 'country town' feel of the city make it a warm and welcoming destination.

When Geraldton is mentioned its almost guaranteed that the Abrolhos Islands will be mentioned in the same breath. This collection of 122 small islands lies about 70 kilometres out to sea from the Geraldton coast, and is normally reached via boat or plane tours. It is a mecca for scuba divers and snorkelers, and anyone with an appreciation for marine life will be fascinated by the underwater riches around these islands. As you would expect of a place with such an abundance of life under the surface, the fishing here is world class. Lots of tour operators cater to the fishing needs of visitors, and on one of these tours you are likely to spot marine mammals such as sea lions, dolphins and migratory whales. One of the country's best sea bird breeding colonies is here on the Abrolhos Islands, and many visitors take a tour out primarily to see the birdlife. The beauty of the islands is the perfect backdrop to whatever pursuit you wish to undertake here.

Just twenty minutes drive north of Geraldton lies the green broad acres of the Chapman Valley. With seventeen kilometres of coast, this shire stretches inland eastwards and is characterised by rolling farmlands and the rugged Moresby Ranges which lie close to Geraldton. If you are visiting here its advisable to get a hire car, which will allow you to explore the countryside to its fullest potential. The stunning landscapes are criss crossed with fresh flowing rivers that wind in and out of the wineries, farms and meadows. The area attracts settlers looking for an alternative and relaxed lifestyle choice, and of course many visitors wanting to breathe the fresh air of the peaceful countryside. The settlers always stick around, and the visitors always come back the next year, thats the effect of the Chapman Valley. From July through to October many come here to see the wildflowers that bloom in those months. The whole Geraldton region is renowned for these, as the countryside literally explodes into a carpet of colour. Coalseam Conservation Park is especially renowned for its pink, white and yellow everlastings.

If water activities are your idea of fun, then while you are in the Chapman Valley head to Coronation Beach, which is a world renowned wind surfing location. Just twenty five kilometres from the centre of Geraldton, there is a basic camping ground here if you want that really early start on the water, or you could just head back into town. Surfing is also popular in Geraldton, and there are a variety of surf breaks up its coast that cater to all experience levels.

There are many heritage and architectural attractions in Geraldton to give visitors a break from the sea and the surf. Perhaps the most prominent building is the St Francis Xavier cathedral, designed by famed architect Monsignor Hawes. He started work on it in 1915 and it was completed in 1938, and the years of toil were clearly worth it as it is regarded as one of his finest works. There are guided tours running throughout the day that give you the opportunity to marvel at the pillars, arches and stained glass of this special building. Another monument popular amongst visitors is the HMAS Sydney memorial, which honours 645 Australian sailors lost during a World War 2 battle in 1941. The good ship Sydney and her men was lost without a trace after a fight with a German gunship. The monument is beautiful and modern, consisting of a silver dome with 645 seagulls on it. Nearby a statue of an anxious women stares questioningly out to sea.

There is also an element of class and sophistication to Geraldton, which is heightened by the recently built Batavia Marina. The arty boardwalk winds along the waters edge, passing the boat docks, the posh townhouses and the Western Australia Museum. It runs to the door of a swanky new restaurant that is fast gaining a solid reputation for its fine cuisine. There is a very designer-esque feel to the marina, with modern and old artworks positioned all around it. While you are here be sure to check out the Batavia longboat, which is a replica of one that came to shore from a ship that ran aground in the Abrolhos Islands in 1629. Whilst they were on shore a mutiny occurred on the damaged ship that resulted in 125 people being killed, and this longboat on display is a reminder of that tragedy.

With something for everyone, it is no wonder Geraldton is becoming more and more of a feature on the Australian tourism map. Adults and kids, thrill seekers and those keen for a bit of relaxation- everyone can have their perfect vacation in this sunny part of Western Australia. So what are you waiting for? Its time to get some information together and start organising your next holiday, and organise it for Geraldton!

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