In 1975, Denyse and I opened Queens Beach Medical Centre in Bowen. After selling the surgery in 1982, we operated our charter yacht Arabesque out of Bowen for seven years before going on another ‘round Oz caravanning trip, and finally settling in Mackay. So it was a real pleasure to go back to Bowen and see the changes that have occurred over the years.
The climate in Bowen is much drier than most other towns on the tropical coast, but there is good underground water, so it is a major agricultural area, with a variety of fruit and vegies grown throughout the year. Crops include melons, tomatoes, capsicums, and other vegetables, as well as the famous Bowen mangoes – Kensington Prides.
THINGS TO DO
Beaches, fishing, murals, history, walking tracks, lookouts, the climate, mangoes... the list of drawcards goes on. We timed our arrival for the Sunday beachfront markets on Horseshoe Bay Road where we found a variety of goodies for sale, plus live entertainment. The mango season was in full flight and we bought a whole bucket of mangoes for just five dollars.
Bowen has eight ‘named’ beaches and I think they would be among the best you will find north of the Sunshine Coast. This is partly due to the small tidal range and the sheltered harbour. You can always find one that is sheltered in any wind. Queens Beach is 5km-long, great for a stroll, and is usually littered with shells along the tide line. Grays Bay has a launching ramp and is very sheltered in the prevailing south-easterlies, as is Horseshoe Bay. Both beaches have coral just offshore, which can be easily viewed with a mask and fins straight from the beach. Coral Bay is a ‘clothes optional’ beach for those that way inclined, and Murray Bay is a pretty beach with coconut trees along the front and also has good snorkelling.
Kings Beach adjoins Rose Bay and is another good walking beach. A coral reef lies just offshore where I have caught reef fish and the famous painted crays. Front Beach is at the end of the main street in town and has undergone a major redevelopment. You will find picnic areas and barbecues, a sound shell, an amenities block, a water park for kids, a skate park and a playground.
The yacht club has organised yacht races and the public is welcome to join in on some afternoons. Also at the boat harbour, you will find a wholesale and retail seafood outlet selling local products fresh from the trawlers at reasonable prices.
Bowen Harbour is sheltered by Gloucester Island about 12 miles out, and there are several islands between Bowen and Gloucester Island. All are surrounded by coral reefs, so there is good fishing and you may even be lucky enough to find a painted cray.
There are a number of lookouts in the area, providing sweeping vistas. Adjacent to Queens Beach Tourist Village is Mt Nutt. You can climb to the top of the water tower for a great view over the tourist village, Queens Beach, Abbott Point and the mouth of the Don River.
QUEENS BEACH TOURIST VILLAGE
This trip, we stayed at Queens Beach Tourist Village at Queens Beach. Owners Craig and Donna Witts live onsite and have worked very hard over the 10 years they have owned this park, adding many more sites, a new amenities block, a swimming pool and camp kitchen, as well as new cabins.
There are now around 160 sites: many with concrete slabs, others just lush grass, some are drive through and there are larger sites for big rigs. Many sites have good privacy, with hedges and bird-attracting shrubs at the side and rear. They also have several types of cabins, some include barbecues and outdoor seating while others are poolside.
The pool has a spa and even though we were there in the off-season (summer), the pool and amenities blocks were kept sparkling clean. It had not rained for weeks but the sites are watered year-round, and the whole tourist park was green with shrubs and shade trees flourishing, and prolific bird life.
There are two barbecue areas as well as the large camp kitchen which is a magnet for happy hour groups. The park has three amenities blocks, TV and wireless broadband reception is excellent and the park is a wi-fi hotspot.
During the tourist season the park has live musical entertainment, fresh fish cook ups for a gold coin donation, a Christmas in July event and sausage sizzles. All money raised goes to charity and these events are very well attended.
Queens Beach Tourist Village is just back from Queens Beach, but while you can hear the ocean, you are far enough away to be protected from salt spray and strong winds. It is a short walk to the Queens Beach Motor Hotel, where meals are available. The golf club, tennis courts and bowling green are also close by.
Queens Beach Tourist Village caters mostly for grey nomads and does not have special facilities for children, although there is a large children’s playground on the beachfront nearby. The park is dog friendly, but it’s best to ask when you make your booking.
Bowen is halfway between Mackay and Townsville in northern Queensland, around 200km south of Townsville and around 200km north of Mackay.
Explore the historical buildings and the many murals depicting historical life in the town.
Do a spot of fishing either off the beach or by boat, or hunt for mud crabs in the creeks.
Explore the multitude of walking tracks around the coast.
Tourism Bowen is on the Bruce Highway at Mt Gordon, just south of Bowen: www.tourismbowen.com.au
Check out the Bowen Tourist Guide – available from the Tourism Bowen website and most tourism outlets – for information about fishing the local creeks as well as a wealth of other information on the area.
Accommodation can be found at Queens Beach Tourist Village, rated at four stars. The tourist park is pet friendly and the owners live onsite and can also help you out with information on the area: www.qbtvbowen.com.au
For information on yacht club race days, visit the North Queensland Cruising Yacht Club website: www.nqcyc.com.au
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #539 July 2015.