Today the city is an important centre for mining, fishing, wheat, sheep and tourism.
Though many European maritime explorers encountered or were even wrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos islands west of Geraldton in the 17th and 18th centuries, there seems to be no evidence that any made landfall near the site of the current town. The first European to explore the area was George Grey in 1839. A decade later the explorer Augustus Gregory travelled through the area. He discovered lead on the Murchison River and the mine which was subsequently established was named Geraldine after the Governor Charles Fitzgerald. The town of Geraldton was gazetted in 1850.
The Anglican Cathedral just a 2 minute walk south along Cathedral Ave has been known for having various pro-god messages on the sign embedded in the verge. A recent one stated "Wikipedia doesn't have all the answers". The Power of Humour - Vox
The lighthouse located on Point Moore was recently repainted and established as another cultural attraction of Geraldton.
Geraldton's public high school, John Willcock College is famous for having been attended by Ernie Dingo. Also recently the school became the first in Australia to have a laptop programme with all students being provided with Apple Notebook Computers for study purposes.
HMAS Sydney was lost off the coast north west of Geraldton and there is a memorial overlooking the city. After years of searching, the wreck of HMAS Sydney was discovered north of Geraldton, 150 kilometres (81 nmi) from Shark Bay on March 16, 2008.
A popular past time of Geraldton Locals is surfing. The Geraldton Boardriders Association runs surf events throughout the year and Surf2skool, Geraldton's only surf school offers developing surfers lessons, trips and coaching. Popular surf spots include Flat Rocks, Back Beach, Greenough, Glenfield, and Sunset Beach.
Geraldton is also an internationally renowned windsurfing location. The most popular spot is Coronation Beach, located just north of the town. "Coro" is a spectacular port tack jumping site, with flat water on the inside and unhindered Indian Ocean rolling swell offshore. In the late afternoon, the wind swings a little more offshore and starboard tack waveriding becomes possible.
Geraldton is also home to a flourishing horse racing industry, that since 1887 hosts the annual Geraldton Gold Cup. The 2007 Geraldton Gold Cup was won by the Clive Lauritzen trained 8yr old TapDog. The race was historically significant. Tapdog became the first horse to win the race three times, Clive Lauritsen became the first trainer to win the race 6 times, Roy McKay became the first jockey to win the race three times, and owners Peter Day, Jeannette Day, and Hans Hoiskar equalled the most wins by an owner in three. The race also passed the million dollar mark for the first time in tote turnover.
Geraldton is serviced by most mobile phone companies such as Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. These are on the 2G network, while Telstra's newer 3G network, NextG, is available. 3G coverage, apart from NextG, is not available. Coverage of Optus and Vodafone is quickly limited once leaving the CBD.
The Houtman Abrolhos islands are 60 km to the west of Geraldton. They are famous for the 1629 wreck of the Batavia. A stone portico recovered from the wreck has been reconstructed at the local museum, along with other artifacts.
Twenty-five kilometres south of Geraldton near Walkaway a windfarm was completed in August 2005. It consists of 54 turbines, each producing 1.8 MW and 80 metres high with 40 metre blades.
The original port has be dredged to a depth of 9.4m at the berths, which is suitable for ships of .
The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) is located at Kojarena, inland near Geraldton. The ADSCS is part of the US signals intelligence and analysis network ECHELON. The station has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites and international communications satellites (INTELSATs and COMSATs), throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian regions. Staff are drawn from the American National Security Agency and the Australian Defence Signals Directorate, and the site is operated under the UKUSA Agreement.
On 15 February 2007, it was announced that a new US military communications base would be built in Geraldton, after three years of secret negotiations between the US and the Australian Federal Government.
Geraldton's public transport is primarily buses, owned by Geraldton Bus Service. The company has a school bus run, which has around 15 route services for school services, and about 8 services during the day. School services are 50c each way if purchased in a group of 10. Tickets vary from age, with under 16's paying 90c per ticket.