Geraldton, Western Australia.
Let me preface this post with a few important thoughts:
When I first set out on this grand adventure, I never planned on going to Western Australia. I had nothing against WA, I just had a certain chunk of time to travel that I wanted to use wisely (joke’s on me there seeing as I bailed on my return trip to New York).
The majority of destinations that I wanted to see most were scattered along the east coast, from Sydney to Airlie Beach. (I’d still like to make it south to Melbourne one day, especially now that it’s not zero degrees there like it was in June).
Subnote: yes, now I use kilometers and degrees Celsius in day to day conversation. I also never expected that to happen. My American brain was programmed something like this…”What’s going on? Why bother using these weird, impractical units of measurement!? Why are they doing this!?” It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that America is the only country who insists on using inches/feet/miles, pounds and ounces, and degrees Farenheight. If you travel to any other country in the world, they ALL speak the same language as far as these measurements go, and it’s pretty much “use it or get the stink eye.”
To be clear, I am technically staying in Isseka. Isseka is a tiny 10-property region set among the beautiful rolling hills of farmland just outside of Northampton. Northampton is an adorable town (or “shire”) 30 kilometers (approx 20 miles) outside Geraldton, with a couple of thrift shops, a grocery, a few pubs, cafés, a craft gallery, etc. For the purposes of “where is Alex in the world?”, Geraldton is specific enough.
Just before I arrived in Geraldton, the only feedback I’d heard about the place was a passing comment from a woman who had once lived there. I told her I was staying near Geraldton for a week and then planned to move on toward Perth. She laughed, “yea, I lived in Geraldton for four years and I reckon it’s a place you won’t want to stay for more than a week!” Ok, noted. Geraldton = lame.
O contraire, mon amie!
I headed to the town center of Geraldton with no expectations and was surprised and delighted at what I found there. How had people raved about Broome and no one had ever mentioned this adorable place to me?!
(Broome is a vacation destination situated smack in the middle of a barren 4000 km stretch (2700 mile, 40+ hrs driving) between Darwin and Perth. It has a nice beach, but there are tons of jellyfish (at least there are in September), the weather is 30+ degrees Celsius (85+ Farenheight) with 99% humidity, and the town leaves a bit to be desired. There’s only so much ice cream, cheap beer and sarongs a person needs. Ok, I realize what I just said – ice cream, beer, sarongs. But trust me, it’s a snooze fest in a fly-infested, natural sauna).
The beach in Geraldton is a block away from the main strip. It isn’t quite as vast as the 7k stretch of beach in Broome, but otherwise boasts similar positives. The water is crystal clear, the sand is white and fine, the palette is a stunning mix of turquoise and deep blues. There is a running path along the water, a great park for kids and families, and various cafés overlooking the surf.
Sure, the main shopping street is relatively small, but compared to any town between Geraldton and Darwin (including Broome), Geraldton is a metropolis. Meaning there is a Target in the same zip code.
In building Geraldton, I think Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie got together with local Australian artists and made a colony of awesome meets adorable. . . (For anyone outside of the USA, hide your credit cards and then take a moment to google Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie).
There isn’t just one cool shop, there are at least 20 cool shops (notice I say “cool” to differentiate between other businesses such as banks, travel agencies, news stands, Target, etc.) All shops and cafés on the strip share the same artistic, hand crafted and intimate vibe, but each place has its own character. Come one come all! Hippies, snobs, fashionistas, surfers, beach babes, athletes, mommies, daddies, girlfriends, boyfriends, backpackers, gardeners, decorators, treasure hunters, Pinterest addicts, vegans, gourmands, sandwich lovers.
While I’m not a crusader, I certainly support “local.” Usually I am most aware of this when I’m back in The States, since in the USA local directly applies to my personal and geographical home base. This may sound ignorant, but the concept of supporting local business has rarely been a priority for me as a backpacker. Sure, if I like a place and the option is available of course I buy local. But generally, I buy what I need (okay okay! And a lot of crap that I don’t need. Though I stand by any decision to buy gourmet chocolate and/or
cheap decent wine). And I (try to) buy what is cheap most economically reasonable).
Bearing this in mind, my purchasing decisions show just how much I like Geraldton. I actually went out of my way to pay more and buy things from local shops that I could buy at a larger chain store. I am now the proud owner of:
- gold temporary tattoos
- a cute pair of brushed gold stud earrings
- organic ginger candy, dried papaya, goji berry dark chocolate, and salted butter chocolate. Or, at least I was the owner before the dormant fat kid in me temporarily woke up.
- new watercolor and pastel pencils (a necessary investment for future travel)
- organic cinnamon to spice up my water bottle
- A new black liquid eyeliner (yes, it’s organic and yes, I expect at least 50% of you to roll your eyes right now)
- A scroll of decorative Cavallini paper with a map of Australia on it
I bought these things from local stores to show my support for Geraldton. And I’m glad I did.
It’s the cutest town you’ve now never never heard of, and I recommend paying a visit if you ever find yourself on the west coast of Australia.