Shore Leave – the ultimate celebration of the coastal lifestyle, superlative seafood and sense of adventure that defines Western Australia’s Midwest region – returns in 2022, with a heavily stacked program of unmissable events. Here’s our guide.
After a successful inaugural run in the spring of 2021, Shore Leave Festival is back again for a second consecutive year. The festival takes its name from the term naval workers use to define ‘time off’, and nods to the maritime heritage of the Batavia Coast, stretching along the Coral Coast Highway through the Pinnacles, Cervantes, Jurien Bay and Dongara-Port Denison.
At the end of April, Geraldton will come alive with an exciting array of events and activities that showcase the Midwest’s dazzling landscapes, top-quality produce, history and Indigenous culture. Food and drinks are set to be a pivotal focus once more, with some of the state’s finest chefs, growers, brewers, winemakers and distillers coming together for a series of unforgettable lunches, dinners, markets and demonstrations.
If last year’s edition is anything to go by, the Abrolhos Long Table Lunch is bound to be a truly memorable highlight. On Thursday 28 April, the remote and unspoilt shores of East Wallabi Island will play host to WAGFG’s 2021 Regional Chef of the Year, Brendan Pratt of Vasse Felix, who’ll be preparing a world-class spread, matched with the estate’s wines and Abrolhos Islands gin. Expect a ‘bucket list’ dining experience, starring Western Rock Lobster and other local treasures, cooked in the open air and served against a backdrop that needs to be seen to be believed.
Catch Pratt on the pans again the following evening, on Friday 29 April, when he joins forces with powerhouse culinary talents Melissa Palinkas (Ethos Deli + Dining Room), Jenny Lam (Bunn Mee) and Portia Bodycoat (The Gerald Apartment Hotel) at Midwest Paddock to Plate on the Geraldton Foreshore. Guests will be treated to four courses under the stars, spotlighting some of the region’s best produce, including Bookara Goat Dairy cheese and Abrolhos Island scallops. Plantagenet Wines and Vasse Felix will be taking care of wines, while beer comes courtesy of Finlays Kalbarri and cocktails from Stableviews Distillery.
Saturday 30 April finds the action in full swing, with Melissa Palinkas taking the reins yet again at the Foreshore Feast, a casual evening of locally inspired eating comprising tastings, small plates (think a Western Rock Lobster bocadillo) and WA drinks on the north end of the Geraldton Foreshore. Meanwhile, at Bob’s Boutique Bar in The Gerald Apartment Hotel, Bob’s Ginstronomy will offer ticket holders a masterclass in the art of pairing food and gin, with canapés prepared by Portia Bodycoat.
Be sure to save room for the Skeetas Long Table Lunch on Sunday afternoon, which is guaranteed to send Shore Leave out on a deliciously high note. The team at the Geraldton boardwalk stalwart will be pulling out all the stops in a multi-course affair featuring the likes of Leeuwin Coast Akoya Oysters, Abrolhos Octopus, Western Rock Lobster and locally reared beef and chicken, alongside carefully selected Leeuwin Estate wines.
All the action kicks off at 5pm on Wednesday 27 April, with an official Welcome to Country at the Iluka Welcome to Port opening event. Over the course of the next four days, The Helm will serve as the Festival’s official beating heart – home to free children’s workshops, live entertainment and a pop-up bar for picture-perfect sundowners. Offsite, there’s much more to enjoy, from art exhibitions, fishermen’s co-operative tours and back-of-boat lobster sales to stargazing at the WA Space Centre. This year also marks the debut of Star Dreaming in Geraldton, an immersive documentary experience set in a 180-degree dome that fuses one of Australian science’s greatest success stories and the culture of the Yamaji people.
Widely known as the gateway to wildflower country, Geraldton is only a four-and-a-half-hour drive north of Perth, or a short Qantas flight. It’s well worth clearing your calendar and making the most of what the dynamic Midwest region has to offer – whether that means exploring its rich history at the Museum of Geraldton and the HMAS II Sydney Memorial, or soaking up its natural wonders with a surfboard, snorkel or fishing rod in hand. The 210 islands that comprise the coral-fringed Houtman Abrolhos are just over 60 kilometres from Geraldton’s coast, and easily one of the world’s most breathtaking marine environments. Go the extra mile and book a scenic flight over the archipelago, and maximise the dreamy pink hues of the legendary Hutt Lagoon en route.
However you choose to play it, Shore Leave has all the makings of a great escape and promises to be a weekend you won’t soon forget.
Shore Leave Festival takes place from Wednesday 27 April to Sunday 1 May.
Visit shoreleavefestival.com.au to purchase tickets and plan your itinerary, including travel packages and accommodation.
The Government of Western Australia and WA Good Food Guide proudly supports Taste Great Southern.