· Lovely climate
· Good fishing, swimming and snorkelling
· Many walks
· Historic town with murals
· Local, cheap mangoes in season
Bowen lies halfway between Mackay and Townsville in north Queensland. It has some of the best boating in the country, which is why Denyse and I chose to settle there and open Queens Beach Medical Centre shortly after we were married.
After several years working in our surgery, where Denyse saw the patients and I looked after the books, we sold out to operate our charter yacht Arabesque out of Bowen, doing 10-14-day charters through the Whitsunday Islands.
It was only when we were preparing to leave Bowen to live in Mackay (and go back to our real jobs again) that we discovered two of Denyse’s Danish ancestors came to Bowen on one of the first immigrant ships and were married there. So Bowen still holds a magical charm for us.
Bowen is north Queensland’s oldest town, dating back to 1861. The very wide streets allowed horse-drawn drays to turn and they are an appealing aspect of the town. Many original buildings still exist and there is a historical walk past them that includes 25 large murals painted by several artists. The Bowen Historical Museum is one of the best small-town museums in Queensland.
Make sure you visit the Summergarden Theatre at Queens Beach. This historic building still shows movies and has a collection of artefacts from the filming of the movie Australia, which was partly filmed in Bowen.
There are a number of walking tracks in Bowen: one of my favourites starts at the Coral Coast Big4 Holiday Park, where we stayed. This paved track, which is wheelchair friendly, leads around Queens Bay to Grays Bay and on to Horseshoe Bay.
Muller’s Lagoon has a walking track around it and is a haven for birds, including many migrating species. It is a picturesque, quiet place with a playground for children, barbecues and toilets.
Others include Queens Beach walk, Front Beach and jetty, Kings Beach walk and Muller’s Lagoon to Queens Bay.
There are also walks to various lookouts including one above Horseshoe Bay.
Most people know of Bowen mangoes (‘Kensington Pride’), but other major crops are also grown here, including tomatoes, capsicums, sweet corn, watermelons and rockmelons, to mention just a few.
There are two supermarkets, Woolworths and IGA, plus Woolworths and Coles fuel, motor and tyre dealers, a hospital and private doctor’s surgeries and all the shops you would expect in a town of around 8000 people.
There are several bowling clubs and the very picturesque golf club runs alongside Queens Beach.
The yacht club at the end of the marina is a good place for a quiet drink, watching fishing trawlers and private boats coming and going, or maybe book in there for a meal.
There is also a valuable fishing industry, particularly prawns, mackerel and reef fish.
Bowen is blessed with eight beaches. Due to the small tides, these are all ideal for swimming, and most have coral viewing around the rocky shores. Horseshoe Bay is particularly good for snorkelling, swimming and fishing, while the best coral may be found at low tide between Dalrymple Point and Lighthouse (North Head) Island.
All beaches here have their own charm, and you will always find one that is perfectly sheltered. Coral Bay is a ‘clothing optional’ beach.
Front Beach lies at the end of the main street, and has been transformed into a delightful picnic area, with barbecues, toilets, a children’s play area, a skate park and other attractions.
There is a magnificent view from Flagstaff Hill, which also has a viewing platform and a cafe, open most days.
Another good view of beaches and farms may be had from Mount Nutt lookout, near Queens Beach. Neither of these lookouts is suitable for caravans.
The fishing in Bowen is good and the choices are many, from rock fishing to beaches, inlets, the harbour, off the rock wall near the yacht club or off the jetty. You can set pots for mud crabs, toss a net for prawns, or try squidding off the jetty at night.
If you have a tinnie, try Raywards Reef, just off Queens Beach, or Inaminka Rocks, off Grays Bay. There are other reefs off Kings Beach and Poole Island that also harbour crayfish.
But if you can’t catch your own fish there are two retail outlets at the harbour where you may purchase local fish, prawns, scallops and other seafood.
Bowen has small tides and a sheltered harbour, protected by Gloucester Island, making it a boating mecca. There is a passage via the southern corner of Gloucester, leading through to Montes Reef Resort, Cape Gloucester Eco Resort and the Whitsunday Islands.
Middle Island is only a few miles off shore and is surrounded by coral reefs with a pretty beach on the northern side. Stone Island also has a good beach and did have a small resort there some years ago.
Holbourne Island has great reef fishing and is a good place to spend a day snorkelling or fishing if you have a larger boat.
You can even fish in front of your caravan from the beachfront sites at the Coral Coast Holiday Park.
This 4.5-star tourist park has recently been purchased by the Woolman family and was previously known as the Discovery Park and Coral Coast Tourist Park before that.
The Woolmans has a policy of updating and improving any parks they purchase, and their plans include upgrading and renaming their Bowen park. The new name is a mouthful. It will become the Big4 Bowen Coral Coast Beachfront Holiday Park.
The park features several waterfront powered sites, with power, water and sullage close to the rear of your van. Most sites in the park are drive through. All have concrete awning slabs. Also on the waterfront are free barbecues and seats while waterfront cabins are also a feature.
Bowen is a great place for both families and the grey nomad brigade but, if you’re coming in the winter months, you will have to book ahead, as the secret is now out.
Weather here is particularly good in the shoulder season, April/May and September/October/November, so this may be a better time to enjoy what Bowen has to offer.
Originally published in Caravan World #509, December 2012.