We have visited Bowen on many occasions but usually we were going somewhere and just spent the night there before travelling on the next day. But with friends living there, this time we had the opportunity to explore Bowen and discover its hidden gems.
Where is it?
Bowen is just over 1000Km north of Brisbane the states capital city and about 500Km south of Cairns. About an hours drive south is Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. So it is between the two major Great Barrier reef gateways. That’s the major reason we have visited Bowen often but only for a night as we made our way to the reef. It’s a long drive to get there from anywhere unless you are planning something as well.
Bowen has a population of around 10,000 people and is claimed to be the oldest town in Queensland. It is at exactly twenty degrees south of the equator. It sits on a peninsula, with the Coral Sea to the north, east, and south. On the western side, the peninsula connects with the mainland, and the Don River’s alluvial plain provides fertile soil that supports the farming industry. Bowen of course, is the home of the Bowen mango and provides tomatoes, capsicums, rock melons and other vegetable to most Australian states in season.
Just off the coast is the area Captain James Cook named “Cape Gloucester” on his voyage of exploration up the Australian coast in 1770. This “cape” turned out to be an island, and Gloucester Island can be seen from all of Bowen’s eastern beaches. Wikipedia adds “The coral reefs around Bowen are the scene of shipwrecks, including the SS Gothenburg, which sank in 1875 with a loss of more than 100 lives. Numerous relics of Bowen’s history, from the Aboriginal past onwards, are on display at the Bowen Historical Society’s museum.”
Bowen provides sea access for Collinsville Coal to be shipped to the world through Abbot Point shipping facilities.
The Best Beaches in North Queensland?
The locals claim is that Bowen has the best beaches in North Queensland. With the exception of Whitehaven beach, accessed by boat from Airlie beach, I think there are right. The sand is – well – sandy and reasonably white for this part of the world. It is certainly better than the mud flats that are common around this area. The tides in Bowen are not huge but the slope on the beach is modest so at low tide there can be a long walk on the beach before you reach the Coral Sea.
The fishing in this part of the world is outstanding. The Great barrier reef is not too far away and if you wish you can go on a fishing charter to catch some great fish. If you didn’t bring your fishing line, or don’t have the time or inclination, the fish and chips from the shop are great. But do make sure you order your Coral Trout in batter to make sure it is moist.
Horseshoe Bay and Beyond.
There is a peninsular that juts out from the mainland and ends in Horseshoe Bay. You can swim here in winter but there are marine stingers in summer so you need a stinger suit. The locals also point out that crocodiles are always present somewhere along the coast and so you should also be wary of large black animals moving around in the water – especially if they look like they are moving in your direction. One local assured us they haven’t had any crocodile attacks here – YET.
About a 2Km walk from the shoreline there is a lookout above Horseshoe Bay. The track is steep but it is in good condition and there are lots of steps but if you take your time, the view is worth any difficulty in getting there. With the right light you can get some spectacular pictures back to the bay and overlooking the rocks to the south.
Just south of Horseshoe bay is another bay called Murrays Bay. Again it is picturesque and accessible via road or walking track from Horseshoe bay. There is another walking track that takes you to the next bay to the south – Rose Bay but s road will take you there if you don’t feel like walking the track. Again it is a pretty beach and bay enclosed by sandstone rocks on the northerly and southerly ends of the beach.
So a visit to Bowen is worth it and a stay of a few days will add to your understanding of this part of the world. So why are you freezing in other parts of the world when you could be in Bowen and wearing a tee shirt.