The quintessential graceful Queensland port town, Bowen is located on the north-east coast of Australia, at exactly twenty degrees south of the equator. In fact, the twentieth parallel crosses the main street. Bowen is a major Queensland centre for the growing of mangoes.
Where is it?: Bowen is halfway between Townsville and Mackay, and 1,130 kilometres by road from Brisbane.
Around town you will find many murals painted on the side walls of buildings in the town centre. These murals depict the history of Bowen and the surrounding region.
Annual events to mark on your calendar include the Easter Sunday Family Funday, Bowen Cultural Festival (July) and Bowen Cultural and Seafood Festival (October)
Bowen is in the dry tropics; this means it has all the warm sunny weather of a tropical climate, but it is much dryer than one would expect for tropical beaches overlooking the Great Barrier Reef. At Bowen's latitude, the Trade Winds provide a pleasant breeze. The warmest month is January, with an average maximum temperature of 31 degrees Celsius. The coolest month is July, with an average maximum temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and an average overnight minimum of 14 degrees Celsius.
Bowen is a centre for aquatic recreational activities, including sailing, fishing and cruising Edgecumbe Bay, Middle Island, Cape Glouceseter and Gloucester Island.
Mt Nutt Lookout, Mt Nutt Road, has a viewing tower at the top of a reservoir providing visitors with views over the coastline, Bowen's farming areas and the coal loading port at Abbott Point.
Flagstaff Hill lookout, Margaret Reynolds Drive, has picnic tables, bins, a cafe and some panoramic views over Bowen, Edgecumbe Bay and the Coral Sea.
The Big MangoAustralians - and Queenslanders in particular - like their "big things", and there's one at Bowen - the Big Mango, which is appropriate since Bown prides itself in being the Mango Capital of Australia. It sits in front of the visitor Information Centre so it's a good place to stop and try a manho sorbet while catching up on things to see and do in Bowen. Astute visitors will note that the fibreglass tropical fruit has been mounted upside down from the perspective of fruit hanging on the tree. If you point this out to the Information Centre staff, they'll tell you it is not upside down at all, but has been positioned as if having been packed for market. We suspect it is because the green bottom looks better against the sky than the orange top. Either way, it makes for a fun though cheesy photo. There is another smaller mango in town along the harbour front in case you get there and think you arde seeing double.
Being on a peninsula, with ocean on three sides, Bowen has eight beaches surrounding the town, namely Kings Beach, Queens Beach, Horseshoe Bay, Murrays Bay, Greys Bay, Rose Bay, and the Front Beach. There is also the clothing-optional Coral Bay. Kings Beach offers views of nearby Gloucester Island. Horseshoe Bay is a tranquil beach to laze around on with calm water and good snorkelling on the western side of the bay. You can hire snorkelling gear from the Cafe where you can have lunch at after your swim. A walking track leads to some lookouts and plenty of beautiful scenery. Rotary Lookout, Horseshoe Bay Road, overlooks the beach at Horseshoe Bay.
Mother Beddock RockIf you climb up to the lookout at Horseshoe Bay you will see Mother Beddock balancing in the distance. Follow the hike trail to Murray Bay and on to Rose Bay and you will pass within metres of the rock. Bowen has a number of lookouts but Mother Beddock Rock has the best views. There is a 2.5 km climb up stairs and an easy track, but when you reach the top of a hill you'll be rewarded with a wonderful view of the whole coast line and over to Gloucester Island. The rock itself is pretty amazing too, being a big rock delicately balanced on top of another. According to local lore, the rock derived its name from a Bowen lady with a large pimple on her nose. The pimple may or may not have been removed from the nose but it was eventually lost to the name of the rock.
Like many places in this part of Queensland Bowen has a proud association with the Second World War. Authorities installed the first radar and anti-aircraft battery installed in North Queensland in the coastal hills near Bowen. The guns are gone but the mounting points are still there and the view remains superb.
Empty beaches, rainforest and reefs are just some of the attractions of the scenic Gloucester Islands to the east of Bowen. Camp sites close to the coast are popular with locals, while smaller more remote islands offer a secluded experience. Gloucester Island National Park is home to the largest colony of endangered Proserpine rock wallabies.
Flanked by sandy beaches, Cape Upstart (45km north west) is an imposing granite headland covered in a range of vegetation types from vine thicket to heath. Significant areas of beach scrub and coastal dunes are also protected in Cape Upstart National Park.
Holbourne Island National Park is the most northerly national park island in the Whitsundays. It is remote and has no facilities. Access to the park is by private boat only. Holbourne Island National Park is a major nesting site for green and flatback turtles and is an important breeding habitat for several bird species. The islands and surrounding waters are protected by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Getting to the park can present navigational challenges. Always take the weather and tidal influences into account when boating in the Whitsundays. Visitors must be self-sufficient and should have a marine radio. This continental island is completely surrounded by a Marine Conservation Park (yellow) zone and restrictions on some activities apply.
A town of over 7,500, Bowen sits on a square peninsula, with ocean to the north, east, and south. On the western side, where the peninsula connects with the mainland, the Don River's alluvial plain provides fertile soil that supports a prosperous farming industry. Bowen enjoys a diversified and prosperous economy based on agriculture, fishing, tourism, and mining.
Just north of Bowen is the Abbot Point coal loading port. The mining of Coal from the Bowen Basin is a growing operation. Abbott Point is Australia's most northerly coal shipping port, with its modern deepwater port complex and extensive facilities both onshore and offshore. It plays a vital role in the States $8 billion coal export industry. Forecasts suggest that over the next 5 to 10 years the volume of coal exported from the Abbot Point Coal terminal will triple to approximately 50 million tonnes.
Bowen featured prominently in the 2008 feature film, Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. In the film, Bowen represented Darwin during the war years.
Lieut. James Cook named Cape Gloucester on his voyage of exploration up the Australian coast in 1770. This "cape" turned out to be Gloucester Island which dominates the view from Bowen's eastern beaches. Behind the island is a bay that forms an excellent port, which the town came to be built around. This bay was eventually discovered in 1859 by Captain Henry Daniel Sinclair, in response to a reward offered by the colony of New South Wales for finding a port north of Rockhampton. Sinclair named Port Denison after the colonial governor of New South Wales.
Two years later, Sinclair led one group of settlers by sea, and George Elphinstone Dalrymple led another party overland from Rockhampton. They met on 11 April 1861 at Port Denison and founded the town of Bowen on the next day, 12 April 1861. By this time, the separate colony of Queensland had been established, and the town was named after Queensland's first colonial governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen. In 1863, the new settlers discovered a sailor, James Morril, who had been shipwrecked 17 years previously just to the north of Bowen. Morril made his home in the new town, and his grave is still to be seen in the Bowen cemetery.
The coral reefs around Bowen have several 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. During World War 2 Bowen hosted an air force base, flying PBY Catalina flying boats to search for enemy ships and submarines.