Your Whitsundays experience starts here...
Bowen is a lovely little town at the “top of the Whitsundays” in the north of the region.
Unchanged for decades, the town offers ‘old world’ charm and hospitality that almost belongs in a different era.
With its super-wide streets (a reminder of days gone by when bullock carts were used, necessitating a wide turning circle) and 100-year-old buildings, a visit to Bowen really is like stepping back in time.
In fact, the town featured extensively in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia movie (2008), taking the place of war-ravaged Darwin in the film, a fact the locals are still very proud of today.
Bowen’s most well-known asset for holidaymakers is the eight beaches dotted along the coast, from the 5km-long Queen’s Beach, which is great for walking along, to the tiny curved cove of Horseshoe Bay, with its village-like atmosphere (there is a café and small resort fronting the beach).
Horseshoe Bay also offers fantastic fringing coral that draws snorkelers and divers, and there is a great lookout just a short hike up the hill from the beach.
The other Bowen beaches are:
- Grays Bay - recognised as one of the most beautiful bays in north Queensland with large shady trees, picnic facilities, a children's playground and boat ramp.
- Coral Bay - nestled between Horseshoe Bay and Grays Bay, it is the local nudist beach (clothes optional!).
- Murray Bay - secluded and protected from the wind, with calm beautiful waters that are ideal for snorkelling and fishing.
- Front Beach - at the bottom of the town's main street, it has a visitor centre, grassy play areas, a waterpark and the town's wharf (great for a stroll and some turtle spotting).
- Rose Bay - has a fringing reef and is ideal for families with its picnic facilities and children's play area.
- Kings Beach - this glorious arc of sand is often virtually uninhabited. It is quiet and peaceful and ideal for walking and beachcombing.
Bowen offers lots of other attractions, including Muller’s Lagoon, a 23-hectare botanical gardens and wetlands situated in the centre of town. It consists of 12 hectares of land, the 11-hectare lagoon, a playground, picnic area with toilets, barbecues and shade trees. A walking track around the lagoon features interpretative facilities, seating and bridges, with displays of dry-climate palms, native and exotic shrubs and perennials.
Another Bowen spot that really stands out is Flagstaff Hill, affording 360-degree views of the whole town, the hinterland, and out across the Coral Sea.
You really do feel as if you’re on top of the world when standing on Flagstaff Hill – you can see for literally miles – and when you’re done with taking in the views, you can have breakfast, lunch or coffee and cake at the ‘360 on Flagstaff’ Café. They also serve dinner from Thursday to Saturday.
Another institution in Bowen is the Grandview Hotel, situated at the bottom of the Main Street not far from Front Beach. A classic old Queensland pub, the Grandview featured prominently in the movie Australia and has the celebrity photos dotted around its walls to prove it!
A very popular place for locals to eat, the Grandview offers great “pub grub” but get in early as it does get very busy, especially on weekends.
And if you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, you can’t go past a visit to the Bowen Summergarden Theatre, on the corner of Murroona Road and Beach Avenue, Queens Beach.
The quaint ‘art deco’ cinema, which first opened in 1948, shows blockbusters, family films and Hollywood classics, and is one of the only cinemas in Australia that is still privately owned.
So take some time to discover the township of Bowen. Enjoy its beautiful beaches, excellent snorkelling and stunning views. Take a drive up Flagstaff Hill, a walk around Muller’s Lagoon and finish with lunch at the Grandview with the locals. You’ll be glad you did!