Mid West is one of the nine regions of Western Australia, with a population of 52,000 in 2006, and with Geraldton as its only large town. Its people and facilities are concentrated on the coast, but it stretches a long, long way inland, to small mining towns and harsh desert. Mid West has boundaries with Gascoyne Region to the northwest, Pilbara to the north, Goldfields Region to the east and southeast, the Wheatbelt to the south and the Indian Ocean to the West.
- 1 Dongara and Port Denison is an old coastal town with heritage buildings and rock lobsters.
- 2 Greenough was depopulated in the late 19th century, so its historic settlement has been preserved. The incessant winds have bent the trees almost at right angles.
- 3 Geraldton the main town is a popular kitesurfing, windsurfing, fishing, sailing and surfing spot.
- 4 Kalbarri at the mouth of the Murchison River is the base for Kalbarri National Park.
- 5 Mullewa has a Spanish Mission-style church, a profusion of wild flowers in spring, and Urawa Nature Reserve.
- 6 Mount Magnet (aka Warramboo) is a historic gold-mining town, still active but with many remains. New national parks are being created near town but in 2022 these have not yet opened.
- 7 Meekatharra means "place of little water" but has even less gold. It's seen a few gold-rushes, only to relapse into ghost-town torpor - the latest was in 2007 / 08.
- Kalbarri National Park is in two sections: the 80 km gorge of the Murchison River carved through the deep orange bedrock, and the coast south of Kalbarri town where the bedrock ends in sculpted cliffs.
- 1 Hutt Lagoon is lurid pink - the colour is from its algae. It's used to farm prawns, which are pink enough to begin with, but you'd best cook thoroughly to make sure.
- 2 Hutt River Principality was a farm that claimed to be a micro-nation. In 1970 the landowner had a strop over wheat quotas and declared independence from Australia. The place became a cod-Ruritanian tourist attraction, with its own currency, stamps, constitutional flim-flam, and the "Prince" got up in the sort of fustian used in school productions of King Lear. His death, and an unpaid tax bill of $2 million, put an end to the pantomime in 2020.
- 3 Houtman Abrolhos Islands are a coral archipelago 60 km west of Geraldton. There are 122 islands in 3 groups: Wallabi (north), Easter, and Pelsaert (south). They have been quarried for phosphates but the area is now a national park, with excellent fishing, snorkelling and diving. There are historic remains (Batavia was wrecked here in 1629) and boat and air tours visit from Geraldton, but overnight stays are not permitted.
- 4 Wiluna is far east and north of anywhere else, yet still a long way to go to reach the region's boundary. You only come to this tiny isolated place to traverse the Gunbarrel Highway into the interior. The first section from Wiluna to Carnegie is unsealed but graded and suitable for 4WD. Further east is expedition territory on a rough track into the Gibson Desert, named for the fellow whose bones lie somewhere hereabouts.
The landscape along the coast is Mediterranean, with rolling terrain and enough rainfall for livestock farming. This attracted European settlement, but the arid interior was little exploited until the discovery of gold and other minerals. A string of mining towns then developed inland, though the workings were never on the scale of Pilbara to the north or Goldfields region to the south.
So to most visitors the Mid West means its coastal strip. It's a leisurely day's drive from Perth so it makes a good first night's stopover on a road trip north - anywhere between Dongara to Geraldton. After that, fuel, food and accommodation become sparse on the road up towards Carnarvon.
Geraldton (GET IATA) has daily flights from Perth, taking an hour. Skippers Aviation fly three times a week from Perth to Wiluna, Meekatharra and Mount Magnet then back to Perth.
By road from Perth follow either Brand Highway 1 inland or North West Coastal Highway 60, which meet up near Dongara. From the north, take NW Coastal Highway.
TransWA buses run two or three times a day between Perth and Geraldton, with one a day continuing to Kalbarri. One or two buses a week run inland from Geraldton to Mullewa, Mount Magnet and Meekatharra.
Integerity Coaches run three times a week along the coast from Perth to Geraldton, Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Exmouth, Karratha, Port Hedland and Broome. One bus a week runs far inland on the Great Northern Highway from Perth to Mount Magnet, Meekatharra, Newman and Port Hedland. From these northern towns the bus is quicker than your own car, as they travel all day and night with shifts of drivers.
You need a car. If you didn't drive from Perth, rent from Geraldton. They can also bring a car to the airport if pre-booked.
Fees for national parks are standard: a day pass in 2022 is $15 for a vehicle with up to 12 occupants, pay cash or by card. Passes are also available for 5, 14, 30 days and annually. There's no charge if you enter by bicycle or on foot, but the distances under a hot sun are formidable.
- Kalbarri National Park inland portion is the region's top sight - access it by the turnoff at Ajana. You need a day to explore the scenic river canyon. Use the turnoff at Northampton to access the coastal portion, a line of sea cliffs. Either way leads into town then you can continue through the other portion.
- Wildlife is everywhere but best seen in the park. At sea watch for whales, which migrate along this coast.
- Spanish Colonial Mission churches suit this climate better than Victorian Gothic, so Monsignor Hawes built beautiful examples at Geraldton and Mullewa.
- Local history is well-presented in Dongara, Greenough and Geraldton.
- Night skies are brilliant once you get away from the towns and busy main highway.
- Hiking: most areas have trails, Kalbarri has the best. They're scenic but hot, and at the height of summer the rangers close the trails.
- Surfing: the Mid West coast has roaring ocean breakers. Novices should seek more sheltered spots, for instance in Geraldton.
- Country food and pub grub is dominated by meat: steaks, lamb chops, beef and burgers. The coast towns offer fish and prawns.
- Non-meat diets were traditionally hard to come by hereabouts, but the purchasing power of metropolitans visiting and setting up their own outlets has wrought a change. Geraldton especially has choice for vegetarians and GF diets.
- Food is not cheap, as it may have travelled a long way to your plate.
- Few stand-alone pubs except in Geraldton, the hotel and restaurant bars are the usual drinking resorts.
- There are rum distilleries in Greenough and Port Denison.
- This is a low-risk region, the main things to need care are road use and water activities.
- All the standard road safety advice applies here: watch your speed, try to avoid driving at night, overtaking is best kept for designated overtaking lanes, remember Australia has a near-zero alcohol limit for drivers, and avoid dirt roads in bad weather.
- Water safety: it's seldom sharks, it's sometimes jellyfish or big waves, but the biggest risks to you and your family come from boat traffic. Check for designated swimming areas.
- North in Gascoyne Region is Shark Bay / Monkey Mia, Carnarvon town, the Ningaloo Reef resorts of Coral Bay and Exmouth and Mount Augustus.
- South is Wheatbelt Region. Along the coast are the small ports of Jurien Bay, Cervantes and Lancelin, with Pinnacles National Park inland.