18.05.17 - History of Geraldton

Nestled on WA's Batavia Coast, Geraldton's pioneering history is represented in numerous heritage sites and museums.

The history of Geraldton began some 40,000 years ago when various Aboriginal tribes lived in the area. Geraldton is located on Champion Bay, 424km north of Perth, Western Australia and has become a popular seaside resort town for the wheat farmers of the Central-West region.

In 1839, George Grey became the first recorded European to explore the region. Grey, returning back on foot to Fremantle (from Shark Bay) after a disastrous expedition to the North-West Cape of Western Australia, made note of the fertile land. This stimulated other Swan River colonists to make brief journeys by ship to the area but many viewed the land as too dry.

In 1846 two exploration parties were sent out, one led by John Septimus Roe and the other led by explorer and surveyor, Augustus Gregory (and his brother). Gregory returned with glowing reports of good pastoral land and coal deposits in the mid-west coastal region.

The discovery of a coal seam in the Irwin River, lead and copper in the Murchison River and pastoral opportunities in the hinterland created a boom in the area. In 1848 Governor Fitzgerald travelled to the Murchison River to inspect the mineral deposits for himself. He got a little more than he bargained for on the journey when he was speared in the leg by local Aboriginals, at what is now known as Elephant Hill. Regardless of the attack, ore exports from the Murchison River mines began in 1849 from Champion Bay and soon after Gregory was instructed to survey a town site.

On the 21 November, 1849, a flagstaff was erected and the Union Jack flag hoisted up the mast, as a symbolic claim over the district. On the 3rd of June 1851, the town site of Geraldton was declared and the first sale of Geraldton lots were sold by public auction in Perth. Geraldton was originally called Gerald’s Town after Governor Charles Fitzgerald (1848-55) but later shortened to Geraldton.

In 1871, Geraldton was officially proclaimed a town. In 1879, the Western Australian Government began the construction of the first government railway in the State, which carried lead ore from Northampton to the port (55km). The port became a vital part of Geraldton’s economy and became one of the State’s major seaports. By the early 1900’s the fishing industry in Geraldton was established, attracting Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and later Italians. In 1988 the town of Geraldton was officially declared a city.

Today the port city is the centre of fishing, manufacturing, construction, agriculture and tourism industries of the Mid-West region of the State. Geraldton is also known as the ‘Lobster Capital of the World’.